Look at this drawing. There is a lot going on.
Notice how horizontal edges that fall on the horizon are flat?
Also notice how any horizontal edges above the horizon converge down?
And how horizontal edges below the horizon converge up?
“Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.” – Pablo Picasso, 1923
“Point of view is worth 80 points of IQ.” – Alan Kay, Computer Scientist
These concepts are part of the perspective paradox. We know alls sides of a square have equal length sides, yet if we want to draw one with perspective, that ‘rule’ needs to be broken.
Art has concepts that helps artists deal with perspective. One of them is vanishing points.
The vanishing point is that level on the horizon the artists eventually sees all lines of perspective converging. It’s that classic road fading off into the horizon.
When we do this a couple of things happen.
- Horizontal edges that are below the horizon converge up.
- Horizontal edge below converge down.
- And those on the horizon are flat.
Get this wrong in your drawing and things are going to look weird. So it’s a maxim artists use to maintain perspective.
Here’s a building I happen to be sitting inside.
Can you see the vanishing point? Here is me trying to capture it.
If an artist were doing this for real, they would be way more careful than I am (I just eyeballed it). But you can see it. It’s there in every picture with depth.
The trick is identifying the vanishing points in your drawings, respecting them, and then drawing everything else in a way that respects them.
Easier said than done. Here is me trying to fill in some detail.
It’s OK (in that I picked a vanishing point). But you can see how bad it looks if you get the horizontal edges wrong.
Here’s a beautiful drawing (with lots of challenging perspective lines) by Alex Eben Meyer.
Anyways, as a software programmer learning to draw, what I take away from all this is there are rules of thumb, design patterns, and maxims in art, just like there are in software and anything else.
I enjoy learning about these because it helps me see the world differently, in ways I couldn’t before.
Vanishing lines are neat. You need to respect them, else your drawing will come out all funny and the human eye will reject.
More drawing posts:
How Artists Draw the Hard Parts – Negative Spaces
Modified Contour Drawing Exercise
Drawing on the right side of the brain
Three exercises to get you going
Vases and faces
Drawing upside down
Use contour drawing to see things differently
Betty’s excellent book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.