Part4, project 2, exercise 1: Perspective – linear (or scientific) perspective

Updated on 20 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

1 November 2016. In Renaissance Filippo Brunelleschi’s (1377-1446, Italy) linear perspective experiment from 1420 and reference to Leon Baptista Alberti’s (1404-1472, Italy) first-time instructions (1435, probably rediscovering the idea after it had been lost after the Greeks and Romans) on using linear perspective in painting (Harris and Zucker, n.d.) ). Here is a very interesting interactive view on one-point perspective from the same site (Fulks, n.d.).

An ideal contruction making the most of the basic type of one-point perspective is Leonardo da Vinci’s (1452-1519, Italy) “Last Supper” (da Vinci, 1490) (Fig. 1). By using the vanishing point not only as a way of constructing a believable three-dimensional space, but by creating a dialogue with the subject of the painting da Vinci draws the attention to the divine:

Figure 1. Leonardo da Vinci: “Last Supper”, 1490, mural (tempera on gesso, pitch and mastic), Milan. Source: Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
And, moving somewhat closer to the present, here a selection of Andrew Wyeth’s work and his own use of linear perspective (Kantrowitz, 2014).

I have always had the impression that my intuitive use of linear perspective is not bad, but from time to time there are views, which are quite tricky. From Drawing 1 I remember one particular sketch I was trying to make in our shower room. There I probably understood for the first time how the mind works to distort what you see in order to make up the impression of space around you. I never even came close to finding a solution for drawing how that small room “wrapped” itself around my body. Reminds me of gravitational waves and gives me a headache.
Thoroughly warned I decided to try and pay particular attention to this fact when choosing my subject for this exercise, and by referring to the really helpful introduction to perspective (Tang, n.d.).

There is a relatively new university building not far from where we live. It offers a great variety of good views for drawing perspective with paint and I hoped that this would be safe ground. Since is has quite an impressive open hall and staircase, I went for that and with the suggestion in the study guide to use a stick and fluid paint to draw. This is the result on 42 x 56 cm acrylic paper (Fig. 2):

Figure 2. Painting linear perspective with acrylic paint and a bamboo stick

Although this drawing is not without tonal variation, I tried to make line the primary indicator of perspective and I think that it did work well despite the very rough quality of the marks produced with my 1 cm diameter bamboo stick. At this stage I was not so sure whether the drawing needed more helping lines, but then left it as it was. I think that the horizontal and converging “vertical” criss-cross is sufficient to create a believable sense of space (Fig. 3):

Figure 3. Creating perspective using line

There are some points at the far back, to the left, where perspective is distorted somehow, because of the width of my stick, which would not allow continuous and/or narrow lines to be produced, but in combination with the rest of the hall there should be a harmonious whole.


da Vinci, L. (1490) Last Supper [mural, tempera on gesso, pitch and mastic]. Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan. Available at: [Accessed 1 November 2016]

Fulks, P. (n.d.) Linear Perspective Interactive [interactive animation] [online]. Khan Academy. Available at: [Accessed 1 November 2016]

Harris, B. and Zucker, S. (n.d.) How One-point Linear Perspective Works [online]. Khan Academy. Available at: [Accessed 1 November 2016]

Kantrowitz, J. (2014) Andrew Wyeth: Looking Out, Looking In [blog] [online]. Art History News, [n.k.], 17 April. Available at: [Accessed 1 November 2016]

Tang, I. (n.d.) Linear and Aerial Perspective: The Techniques of Linear and Aerial Perspective [online]. Inge Tang, [n.k.]. Available at: [Accessed 20 March 2017]


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