Finding the depth in art
We function in a multidimensional universe and have to funnel our creativity into only two or three of those dimensions. In sculpture and related fields of art we are concerned with three dimensions. In drawing and painting however, we have to convert our 3 dimensional (3D) visual experience into 2 dimensional (2D) symbols.
Perspective, in it's various forms, aids us in taking a 3D view and evoking the same visual sensation within the limits of two dimensions. The basic rules are simple and based on the visual reality we view through our stereoscopic vision.
The mechanics of perspective have been learned and lost a few times throughout history. Plato and his contemporaries wrote of 5th Century Greek painters who used optical perspective to create realistic backdrop scenes for plays. In the
murals revealed in the ruins of Pompeii (79 A.D.)
an intuitive understanding of linear perspective is revealed in their colorful efforts of rendering art in a realistic manner.
With the fall of civilizations, knowledge is often lost. In the 15th century when Renaissance artists were striving to recreate three dimensional space the rules of perspective were discovered anew by sculptor and architect Filippo Brunelleschi (1377–1446).
In the Renaissance there was an outbreak of
checkerboard style tiled floors rendered in
linear perspective. (Above:
Art of Painting
, c. 1666-73)
Brunelleschi rediscovered the concepts of vanishing point and the Orthogonal lines that we use in mathematical/linear/geometrical perspective. Linear perspective was thereafter embraced by various branches of the visual arts.
The lines of perspective: Orthogonal Lines
Orthogonal lines are the "visual rays" that emanate from (or converge to) the vanishing points on the horizon line. They are also known as the "Lines of Convergence." We use these lines to aid us in accurately rendering 3-dimensional objects and scenes.
"Dead Christ" by Mantegna (c. 1500)
When an object is angled toward the viewer its length appears shorter than it actually is. Foreshortening objects such as tree branches, arms or hands, etc. requires your careful observation to recreate the effect accurately in your drawing. Andrea Mategna (1431-1506)
displayed his mastery of rendering the figure in the foreshortened repose of the Christ figure in "Dead Christ"
Scene with lens warped perspective.
Altered Perspectives and Warping
M.C. Escher warped perspective.
Be careful when drawing directly from photographs. Camera lenses often distort the true perspective in the photographs they make. You can avoid this problem by sketching directly from nature.
Of course, M.C. Escher took perspective and twisted it inside-out (right) without the aid of a camera.
How deep is YOUR art?
Take time to learn to use perspective before you start breaking the rules. Paul Cezanne was one of the first to flatten the space in a picture. The Cubists took this to the extreme and abandoned 3- dimensional perspective altogether. But first they all learned the rules by training themselves to draw what they see accurately. Look around you. Look up. Look down.
Now Go Explore!
*some illustrations in this unit are computer generated in homage to the underlying math that gives us perceived dimensionality. That, and I happened to have them laying around from some previous project.