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Figures in Perspective

Grab a straight-sided mug. Look at it from above: a circle. Now gradually tilt the mug. Notice how it forms a narrower ellipse as you turn it sideways. Likewise, if you look at a flat book, you see a rectangle. Tilt it away from you and you see a trapezoid. Try sketching some simple objects from different angles to show how their shape changes. Drawing this effect is called foreshortening, the creation of an illusion of depth, and must be carried out with confidence to effectively trick the eye.

Foreshortening is closely linked with perspective, although it usually comes into play when drawing the figure (or animals) when we must rely on the eye rather than constructed perspective. When you are drawing a more complex shape, the effect of foreshortening can be very difficult to achieve convincingly - you can end up with what looks like a very misshapen object. Practice, and trust your eyes, and practice - its not easy! The Old Masters loved using foreshortening to show how great they really were!

A few tips:

  • Sit still and straight! A gradual slouch of only an inch can drastically affect the drawing of a foreshortened limb. Make a mental note of the relationship of a near and distant static object to reference your head position.
  • Draw what you see, not what you think it should look like. Yes it looks odd at first, but properly finished off it should all make sense.
  • Observe how further elements (such as the horses' hindquarters or the person's shoulders) seem to disappear in behind closer elements (the horse's head, or the person's hand). Allow your lines to reflect this.
  • Note that elements closer to you will seem proportionately larger than further away.
  • Use lineweight - something drawn boldly and using contrast will 'jump' from the page.

Related Resources:

Draw Boxes in One Point Perspective

Draw Boxes in Two Point Perspective

Learn Figure Drawing

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