Exercise 40: Angular perspective
Make a line drawing of a building or several buildings seen corner-on. Use every possible vertical or horizontal reference to ensure that receding lines are drawn at correct angles. Then, draw in your eye level and extend receding lines to it.
It wasn’t until I came to do this exercise that I realised how few ‘straight’ corners there are in my town. The main part of it is Elizabethan, and curves, slopes, and chamfered edges abound. Plus, the whole place is built on a series of hills. This lends it great charm, but makes it very confusing to draw with perspective in mind!
The picture above is my finished drawing. It took far too long (three hours), and involved much frustration (and a fair amount of swearing). The scene I chose is on an incline, with a curved road that narrows at one end, and all the buildings jut out at different angles… yet it was the most straightforward location I could find without going further afield. I did my best, but found the whole exercise confusing, due to the factors mentioned above. I understand the basic principles of both parallel and angular perspective, but run into problems when I have to apply them to anything other than level and parallel circumstances (e.g. straight roads running along parallel lines). How does one adapt the principles for tapering roads and curves? I looked in books on perspective and also online, but couldn’t find any clear information to answer the questions I had. Consequently, I did the best I could by eye, adhering to the principles where I felt confident they applied.
I drew all the lines freehand, but used a ruler as a guide for the main ones (keeping it near the line I wanted to draw, as a visual aid rather than to lean against). It was hard to know which lines were truly vertical, as the street was too narrow to stand back far enough to be certain. So, again, I approximated as best I could.
As requested, I inserted corrected receding lines once I’d finished (well, some of them… I got the point without needing to draw in every one), and was shocked at just how far out I’d been in places. However, I believe the main problem was an inaccurate identification of the eye level – I had seen it as much lower, originally. I’m surprised I didn’t spot the inaccuracies as I was working on the drawing, but was too distracted by all the complicating factors (scale of irregular buildings, bends, hills, etc). I was struck by the fact that the lower receding lines were significantly more accurate than the higher ones. Once I moved towards the tapering and sloping section of the street (towards the right hand side of the picture), I was unsure how to apply the perspective rules. There seems to be a dearth of information on perspective in such situations, so I will have to rely on practise (painful though it is to realise that!). Establishing eye level seems to be one of the hardest aspects of working with perspective. It’s easier at home, or on level ground, but once one moves some distance from the subject or is on a slope, it becomes less clear.
Interestingly, I do actually like the drawing, despite its inaccuracies. More interestingly, I’ve had very good feedback on it from other people, most of whom were dismissive of talk of perspective. That’s not to say that I consider perspective unimportant (I don’t), but I find it interesting that a picture can work on some level and hold a degree of appeal for viewers, even when it doesn’t meet the ‘technical’ criteria.
Similarly, in the drawing above (by the rather splendidly named Sir Muirhead Bone), the parallel perspective seems to have gone distinctly awry, with receding lines meeting at a variety of vanishing points – and yet the drawing works in describing a sense of place. As useful as it is, then, perhaps it isn’t always necessary to be a slave to perspective.