Friday, January 25, 2013


One of the great things about doing this blog through Google's Blogger are the up-to-date statistics provided that help me manage this effort. One bit of information I love shows my viewers' countries.  Nice to know! Another tells me what search words were used to access the blog posts so particular interests are obvious. Lately I've seen many hits around the subject of perspective and since I've not shown any pertinent pieces here in many months, here is one with some comments and explanations. I published the painting below more than a year ago when I wrote about color, light and reflections. I show it this time because it is a good example of a couple of basic perspective ideas.

The most basic idea in perspective is the concept of overlapping shapes. -  an object overlapping another is closer.  Picture two squares of cardboard, one overlapping the other.  Starting with the group of trees and bushes on the right edge of the painting below, you can see a series of overlapping planes, like stage scenery moving back toward the far sky. Trees, then bushes, next a house and another, a stand of dark trees, etc.  Simple, right?

Another important concept is aerial perspective, - the fact that atmosphere interferes with light transmission so that the further back in space, the less distinct are objects and their colors. You can see this most obviously on hazy or foggy days.  If you were making a painting or illustration, working in the studio rather than observing a scene, you'd plan stronger, brighter and/or warmer colors forward,  with cool hazy dull colors toward the rear.  Compare the far steeple and trees with colors closer in this view. 

When people speak of perspective they generally mean one or two-point linear perspective.  In this painting we can see that things like the retaining wall and the creek bed both recede in an orderly way, getting smaller as they move back from the picture plane (basically the painting's surface) toward a point on the horizon.  The basic rule says, lines parallel to each other and parallel to the ground run toward a common "vanishing point" on the horizon.

Think of the far horizon on the western plains or the ocean, not the place where sky meets a mountain.  In a picture like this that horizon is obscured by trees, houses and hills so think of the horizon as your eye level.  It is! The painter's eye level in this case would be a horizontal line across the picture just below the top rail of the bridge. In the painting you can see a white rectangular trash bin.  It sits parallel to the wall and creek. If you drew lines along the top and bottom of that box front, and the top and bottom of the wall and the sides of the creek -  and extended them back in space, all would run toward the same vanishing point.

BTW, the term "one-point perspective" refers to the common vanishing point for parallel lines, not that there is only one vanishing point in the picture!  Various objects  sitting at different angles would result in a variety of vanishing points.  We can address that topic another time when we talk about 2-point perspective.  In one-point perspective other parallel lines like those of the bridge and the walls of houses facing us are always drawn parallel to the picture plane.

So....  Colors fade with distance! The horizon line is your eye level!  Parallel lines run toward the same vanishing point!  Got it?

"Perspective should be learned - then forgotten!"   Nathan Goldstein

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