Drawing from a New Perspective
I think it was Edgar Degas who said that he could draw perfectly well with boot polish and his fingers….. which is true; we can make marks with so many tools that it makes the simple pencil almost boring. Drawing is only one of its many uses. As I have said many times before, if you hold your pencil out in front of you and squint through one eye, everyone will think you know what you are doing. This, surely, is its most important function of all!
I have also talked about how pretending that the world is flat when we are trying to draw it makes perspective so much easier. Shifting your perception to really accept that idea can be difficult though. If my suggestion to use a plumbline didn’t help you, and your pencil still points ‘into’ your flat space, try using a viewfinder to look at the subject through. It’s just a simple piece of card with a window of about 2 x 3 ins cut in it.
Looking through it helps you to not only see that the world is flat, but it also puts a little frame around your subject and helps you decide what to include or ignore in your picture. If you hold your pencil along any difficult perspective line you can relate it to the edges of the card and therefore to the edges of your paper. Sophisticated versions of viewfinders have plastic stuck over them and then grid lines drawn onto them, but they are just icing on the cake.
This can get a little tricky, holding things still, squinting and then transferring the angle to your paper without your sneaky left brain jumping in to distort everything, so I give my students a ‘gadget’ to help…..
You hold the longer edge either horizontally or vertically, which corresponds to your paper’s edges, and then move the shorter arm until it matches the angle you want to draw.
This doesn’t look quite as mystical and professional as squinting and waving your pencil around of course, but it works.
After practising with the pencil, viewfinder and the gadget for some time, you will find that you can estimate perspective lines quite accurately and just use these techniques as back up. Perspective is an optical illusion. We really don’t need to go into the mechanical workings of why and how it works. It is much simpler to just draw what we see in front of us, exactly as it appears to be. Don’t process it, don’t ask questions, don’t say ‘well it CAN’T look like that!’ – it does, so draw it.