Research point: The basics of linear perspective

Updated on 3 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

9 June 2016. I have had to write about linear perspective on several occasions before and this time I decided will take the risk and not repeat the usual “receding lines – vanishing point – horizon” triad, but report my own very private discovery of the “secrets” of 3D drawing when I was a kid.

I come from a family of artists and when I was very little, kindergarten age at the most, I received my first practical drawing lessons by my dad, who is a sculptor. These included drawing fiercely into my own work (causing many tears) and merciless comments on the artistic abilities of our preschool teacher, who doubtlessly did mean well. Being so small, I decided I did not want any more judgmental lessons on perspective (and wet-in-wet technique, and the respective virtues of the master builders of the churches in Salzburg, and countless others), and obstinate as I used to be, I decided to teach myself my own way.

It did not take me long to discover that there is no secret behind perspective whatsoever. You just pretend that the three-dimensional space unrolling before your eyes is there already in two dimensions and then you do nothing but follow the outlines of objects, or whatever method you choose to catch them on paper, as you see them. You do not need any construction lines and vanishing points, because it all falls into place by itself, effortlessly and beautifully. The only thing you do have to think about is choosing an interesting view.

It is so incredibly simple that I cannot understand why so much technical fuss is made over the subject. I admit that changing one’s method so radically means some mental effort and, what is probably the most important aspect of them all, you MUST draw what you see. There is no “But I know that the roof of a house slopes in identical ways to the left and right, so both the roof gutters must be in the same position heightwise, on the paper”. This does not work. It is so much easier: do not switch on your analytical brain, but let your eyes guide your pencil along the outlines, or if you prefer that, tonally different shapes.

I hope that this does not get me into trouble with OCA, but I wanted to share my technique, so that maybe fellow students can try it out and see whether it works for them as well as it does for me. By the way, our older son, now 23, made the same discovery completely on his own, when he was about six years old. Maybe there is a natural inclination for seeing the world in particular ways.