Perspective Drawing

Perspective Drawing

by Joseph William Hull

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This richly illustrated guide to perspective drawing features 17 reproductions of ancient and modern art, plus more than 200 instructive figures. The first half encourages freehand drawing, cultivating practical exposure to the principles of perspective. The second part addresses the laws and theories that constitute the science of perspective.
Encouraging students


This richly illustrated guide to perspective drawing features 17 reproductions of ancient and modern art, plus more than 200 instructive figures. The first half encourages freehand drawing, cultivating practical exposure to the principles of perspective. The second part addresses the laws and theories that constitute the science of perspective.
Encouraging students to begin immediately with pencil drawings, the first part examines the application of perspective to depicting light and shade, textured objects, and imaginary as well as existing forms. The second part deals exclusively with rules of perspective, covering a wide scope and explaining the mechanics of perspective thoroughly and yet simply. Intended as an auxiliary to the first half's drawing instructions, part two is organized for ready reference as students progress through part one.

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perspective DRAWING

By Joseph William Hull

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2010 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-14208-1



To achieve an intelligent, enterprising synthesis in drawing, the student must thoroughly understand perspective. Nevertheless, it is not enough merely to grasp the science of perspective intellectually; practical experience in the freehand aspects of perspective drawing is essential to a satisfying expression in this area of artistic endeavor.

The present manual deals only with the solid effect of objects in space. Less concrete, or abstract, drawing has been treated by many competent writers elsewhere, and the student of drawing who has a special interest in that type of creative work is counseled to investigate its possibilities.

It is a well-known but unfortunate truth that most people are pitifully unobserving. Indifference to the value of critical observation, coupled with the tendency to represent objects in terms of what is known about them rather than in terms of what is actually observed, forms one of the prime barriers to good representational drawing.

1. Definition of Representational Forms

The word "representational," for our purpose, means the truthful, graphic recording of the three-dimensional aspects of an object as it appears in light to an observer who is interested in developing his power of observation.

In order to draw well, one must possess a definite understanding of what he is about to state graphically, and also a well-developed skill in the use of the tools involved, a skill that will enable him to express what he wishes to say vigorously, delicately or elegantly, or with brevity—in any case, eloquently. Remember, then, that a good drawing, of the kind in which we are interested, requires more than skill in using certain equipment; it becomes, vitally, a matter of learning really to see, to observe. Educators tell us that, in all probability, more may be learned through the eyes than through the ears.

2. The Potential of the Pencil

The pencil, simple as it is, is one of the most responsive and most versatile of the artist's tools. In the hands of a competent artist it can produce the finished drawing, whether that be a sketch of the utmost brevity or a rendered drawing in full-scale dark and light modeling. Let us begin to understand this potentiality by learning forms of pencil expression.

The pencil maybe trimmed in many ways; and, according to the special way in which it is trimmed, its point can produce a certain variety of lines. Thus, at will, the artist may have thin or thick lines, hard or soft and broken ones, firm, or semitransparent, or opaque, or textured lines—all of which are valid expressions of the pencil (see p. 15).

Use your ingenuity and imagination; discover for yourself the numerous other means of preparing pencil points.

Again, there are many ways of holding the pencil. One is likely to think of the pencil as nothing more than a writing instrument; on the contrary, the pencil held in different ways can produce lines, two-dimensional forms, or masses of varying natures. To explore the possibilities of the pencil is an absorbing experience.

a. Limbering-up Exercises

Before the student begins an actual drawing he should practice limbering-up exercises. Learn to draw long, straight lines not less than fifteen inches in various directions: left to right, right to left, vertical, horizontal, and oblique. Relax the wrist, and, holding your pencil almost parallel to the paper, place the side of the point on a starting place. Then look at another point relatively far from it, one with which you wish to connect it, and gently but firmly direct your pencil toward the more distant point. Do not look at the pencil or the mark; look at the point of arrival.

Next, try a similar exercise with long, curved lines, guiding the line through points marked off on the way. Always let your eye be a jump ahead of your pencil. Try using your intuitive processes, changing the direction part way along; after moving the pencil for some distance in one direction, reverse the curve, sometimes with a sharp, pointed break, sometimes with a curved change. Then repeat the whole series of exercises, practicing lines strictly parallel with one another—entirely freehand, of course.

Now develop the curved line into an ellipse of, say, three inches in length along its major axis (see discussion, p. 111). Shadow-draw first, that is, go through the motions without drawing; then, at an intuitive urge to draw, lower the pencil while moving, until it touches the paper lightly. Try again and again to complete the ellipse with an invisible join.

b. Examples of Eloquence of Pencil Lines by Some of the Masters

You will find plenty of illustrative material for comparative study in this field in your local library, museum, or art galleries; frequent and regular visits to these sources will bring rewards. Compare the styles of line by artists from various geographical areas.

The nude sketch below (Fig. 5), by S. Macdonald Wright, affords observation of an appropriate line for expressing a powerful figure, the tensions in which are psychologically felt by the observer. Compare this kind of line with the relaxed line of Ingres (see p. 16).



1. Determination of View

As an aid to the beginner in his preparation for making a freehand sketch, the following procedure is suggested. You will find less and less necessity for some of the preliminaries as you progress; eventually you should be able to begin directly with the drawing itself.

a. Obtain a definite mental image of the object's contours and proportions.

b. Determine the size of the proposed sketch.

c. Decide upon what you consider to be the best view of the object, perhaps aesthetically, or perhaps purely descriptively, according to your purpose. The device known as the view finder, illustrated in the accompanying drawing (Fig. 6), will aid you in the selection of a desirable view. It is about the size of a post card over all,with a small, rectangular hole cut in the center. The relationship between the width and the height of the rectangular opening is to be the same as the relationship between the corresponding dimensions of the proposed sketch. The possible shapes range from a square to an extremely elongated rectangle, either vertical or horizontal. For an example of the horizontal elongated rectangle, see the sketch in the Makimono style on page 67. Hold the card parallel to your face at varying distances. Look through the hole with one eye, and turn the head or walk around to get various views of the object. Try the opening both upright and as an oblong. Regard what you see as being the picture you wish to draw; relate it to the frame formed by the four sides of the aperture. Have confidence in your judgment, for the long record of the history of art—approximately eight thousand years—reveals the interesting fact that mankind has always had an innate sense of design and balance; he still has. In this particular, let your own intuitive sense for balance help you to select your viewpoint, or station point (see definition, p. 75).

d. Locate the center of vision, the main vanishing points, and, consequently, the eye level (see explanation of terms, pp. 72–79, and list, p. 82). Notice where the eye level intersects the two vertical sides of the frame formed by your view finder. Transfer this information to your drawing paper. You should have made a very good start.

2. Relative Positions of Drawing Board and Student

The drawing surface should be placed in a position a little less than arm's length away, and should be tilted at an angle slightly away from you. Give yourself plenty of freedom of movement of both arm and torso. At frequent intervals step back from your drawing, observing it from a distance: you will quickly detect your own errors.

3. The Three Phases of Freehand Drawing

Freehand drawing may be learned in three phases:

First, after the view has been determined, establish, by drawing very lightly, the main contours of the object, found either by sight or by using the thumb-and-pencil measurement method demonstrated in Figure 7. For example: Contour edge A on the object corresponds to A marked off on the pencil in Figure 7. Note the difference in the apparent size of the object at this distance from the eye or from the object itself (see the illustration and the discussion of the picture plane, p. 72). Having marked off on your pencil the unit of measurement, turn your pencil to a horizontal position, keeping it parallel to your face (or to the picture plane) at all times. A true comparative measurement of one contour as related to that of any other, horizontal, vertical, or oblique, is thereby facilitated. Check the regular proportions of the object, the parts of an object or of separate objects, noting their spatial relationship to one another within the environment limited by the range of vision (see p. 76), as created and fixed by a single station point.

Secondly, sketch in most of the major details and some important minor ones. Your drawing is still in an understructure stage.

In the third or final stage you will find it expedient to use pencils with variously shaped points, described on page 15. Proceed by drawing all other major details and then completing the minor details, beginning with the more important ones and adding accents here and there where needed. All the while, concentrate on a center of interest, where your lines will be a little heavier, more distinct, more arresting. Be careful not to add too much dark too early. Remember, you can always add to a value or shade or an accent, but it may require an eraser to reduce that value, and the erasing will cause smudging and a "patched-up" look. Become aware of the background and of the relative importance of the several objects in the environment, or range of vision. You will often find that the contour or line direction of one object helps to bring out the contours of another (see p. 39). In this final stage, you may begin with the blocking of the darkest darks on lightest lights; this is optional.

Remember that, although expression in line drawing is a basic necessity, there are no lines in nature. Therefore, while you are experiencing the coordinated processes involved in creating a freehand line drawing, you should begin to think in terms of plane surfaces and of magnitudes and their contours, rather than in terms of lines alone.

Your drawing, if representational or naturalistic, must look right and feel right, in order to be accepted by the eye. Your understanding of perspective principles, gained from a study of the second part of this book, should enable you to draw convincingly an object or objects in your line of sight, and even an object which exists only in your mind. This understanding, when fully in your consciousness, will automatically direct your pencil point in the formation of a convincing, graphic statement of visual experience.



1. Calligraphy and the Drawn Line

a. Examples from Manuscripts and Woodcuts

The sublime eloquence of line used in writings throughout the world, particularly in the writing of countries in the Near and Far East, is amply mirrored in the record of graphic achievement. This relationship cannot be ignored by the drawing student who seeks success. Some examples of these writings are presented below, for observation in the study of this aspect of drawing.

b. Calligraphy in Modern Abstract Drawing

The character of the drawing of an Oriental theme (Fig. 8), by Professor S. Macdonald Wright, internationally known painter and art historian, demonstrates the way in which one artist effectively combines the related art of calligraphy with that of picturemaking.

2. Type Soloids and Simple Objects

In line drawing, line is your only vocabulary, your only means of saying something graphically. You may augment your vocabulary of line only by constantly acquiring a greater eloquence of line. Consider the virtues of good verbal expression: brevity with meaningfulness—saying what you wish to say simply, pointedly, and forthrightly. The camera, of necessity, records all details available to the lens; the artist, however, has a choice: according to his specific objective, he may select and emphasize the major characteristics of an object or group of objects and the environment, or he, too, may include all the details.

Learn to observe things more in the large, and at the same time more acutely, than you ever have before; in other words, try to perfect your sense of perception. Your constant striving to see things more fully will provide the experience necessary to determine more readily what the major attributes of a subject are, and to weigh the relative value of its parts and details.

Draw straight-line objects first, then curved objects, and finally, objects having both straight lines and curved lines. Also, on occasion, try completing your drawing in a self-specified time limit. A well-executed drawing of a simple, prosaic object is more gratifying to observer and artist alike than an unconvincing drawing of a more complex object, for the latter usually betrays the effort to achieve a goal beyond the capacity of the artist. Begin by drawing something relatively simple, in order that your effort may bring success, not failure. For example, go back to the six principal geometric soloids, the cube, the prism, the pyramid, the cylinder, the cone, and the sphere, for it is from these forms that all others derive, in more or less complexity (see Fig. 9, below). (For line depicting surface texture, see pp. 40, 42, 43.)

a. Box Construction; Axis of Rotation

In Figures 10 and 11, vertical prisms have been sketched in first; they become dependable scaffolding on which to draw chairs or other objects having a rectangular prism as the primary form. For the beginner, if the prism is drawn convincingly as an object in space, its derivative may be enclosed and the object in the drawing will appear more true to actuality than it will if sketched directly. Experience in drawing will bring about less and less need for such beginners' "props" (see also box construction, p. 93).

b. Proportions and Plane Direction; Composite Use of Type Soloids

The architectural sketch above (Fig. 12) exemplifies an interest in measuring depths, both in level planes and in inclined planes—in this instance, the steps. The result, obtained only through practice and understanding: the proportions and plane direction are acceptable to the eye.

The student drawing at the right (Fig. 13), made for exercise purposes, is an example of the good use of composite form—cylinder, cone, prism, and pyramid, plus the inclined plane of the lid.

These type soloids constitute the irreducible and clearest terms expressing the facts of mass. Study as great a variety as you can. The concept of mass will help you to become conscious of structure, internal and external, and also of the fact that in most of the regular forms there is a central axis of revolution. This axis is important, for upon it one builds the mass.

The object presented in Figure 14 is a simple example of a combination of type soloids: rectangular and curved forms. Look about you for other objects of this kind.

You will see faint evidence of perspective guide lines in this drawing; they may not vanish precisely at a vanishing point, or precisely on the eye level, but they are reasonable enough for visual acceptance. In a drawing of the representational kind we must bear in mind the "sovereignty of the eye."

The forms of architectural and utilitarian objects all afford excellent subject matter for freehand perspective drawing. Practice sketching industrial and domestic buildings, churches, and billboards, and also the more familiar indoor objects, such as furniture and household utensils.


Excerpted from perspective DRAWING by Joseph William Hull. Copyright © 2010 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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