The Importance of Perspective in Art


You can get lost in perspective. I see so many drawing tutorials devoted to teaching perspective and yet in my own teaching I usually only teach basic perspective as a lesson on its own.

This is because I want my students to be aware of perspective and what it is, but I feel that much perspective teaching is lost or simply not needed. The common approach is to teach one point then two point perspective. This is taught in Art and/or Design Technology. I appreciate its importance but really only comes into its own in advanced drawing and it is a difficult and quite advanced process that should be revealed to students on a need to know basis. (In my opinion)

Perspective is best taught as part of a bigger, more holistic process such as drawing buildings or still life. I am not a fan of separate, perspective lessons in the classroom when teaching beginners.

Simple Perspective

As objects get further away from us they appear smaller. Sometimes they appear to vanish to a single point on the horizon.

As objects get further away from us they appear smaller. Sometimes they appear to vanish to a single point on the horizon.

In the game below you think you are driving down a road because of the optical illusion of perspective. It is really flat!

The rules of perspective are:

> Things get smaller and smaller the further they are away from you.
> Vertical lines are always vertical
> Horizontal lines disappear into the centre vanishing point.

Download the one point grid above and create a picture from your imagination.

Vanishing Point Grid PDF


Students learn to hold a ruler or pencil at arms length while making measurements.

> It is important to stand in the same place
> Keep your head as still as possible when measuring
> Extend the arm fully with elbow straight

Proportion – Human Form

When drawing the Human Body we use a lot of mathematics! People are nearly always proportioned (or sized) in exactly the same way

Task: Use a piece of string to find the relationship between the size of a human head and the rest of the body. Record these results in your sketch books.

Task: Devise a simple measuring method to try to find out what the basic proportions of the human form are. For example; how big is a head in relation to the body etc? Record these results in your sketch books.

Can you investigate further to find out what the proportions of the human face are too?

Artists have drawn the human figure as long as man has been on earth!


Task for Teachers: A pupil/model is to pose for the class whilst the rest of the class draw him/her. Use your knowledge of proportion to help you. You can change this lesson by adjusting the amount of time you have to complete it.


Reference Points

A reference point is a key part of a drawing that helps you to measure points and angles. Artists pick out reference points to help them to see where things begin and end. Artists will identify the key areas where measurements can be taken from

Task: Set up a simple still life group on a table and look at it. Try to identify where the reference points might be. Use these reference points to help you do a quick sketch.


Memory Drawing Task

Study an object for 5 minutes and commit it to memory. Trace the object with your fingers, feel the textures, study the proportions and sizes, look at the details.

Take the object away from view then draw the object again, from memory. NO PEEPING!

Many famous artists drew in this way. It helps you to make more creative, expressive drawings, not just copying. You should draw like this regularly.

Blind Drawing

By placing a piece of paper over your hand, you will stop looking at the drawing and look at the object.

The purpose of this exercise is to shut off the left brain that has a negative impact on our drawing. You will draw much more freely and naturally.


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Tutorials and Lessons

Shading Exercise for a drawing tutorial