A perspective creates an illusion of depth, height and width on a flat surface.

The word perspective originates from Medieval Latin, per- 'through' and spectere, 'to look'. The Florentine architect Brunelleschi was the first known to use perspective in painting in the 14th century. It quickly became popular in drawings of proposed municipal buildings, churches and cathedrals. Amongst the artists of that time, Raphael is considered a genius in the illusion of space on a two dimensional plane.

When you are drawing perspective, you should always stay in one place to depict your unique point of view. You can be standing or sitting down, as long as you remain where you are while you are drawing. You can turn your head to have a look at the objects you want to include in your drawing, just don’t move your feet or chair, or it will alter the perspective you are drawing from.

Using a pencil to help draw accurate angles:

Choose something in front of you to draw - for example, a chair.

Hold a pencil out in front of you with a straight arm and line the pencil's long edge up with the angle of the front of the chair at its base, as shown in the image. Hold that angle and move the pencil up so that it lines up with the front of the seat. You will see that the difference between this angle and the lower one is slightly different.

To transfer these angles to your paper, hold the pencil at arm's length, aligning it with the first angle, then keeping the angle in the pencil, bring the pencil down to your paper and use it as a template to draw the line. You might wish to have a spare pencil - one for drawing and one for measuring, if you'd prefer.

Now, draw in the remaining angles of the chair. You've done the base of the chair, so now adjust your pencil to the angle of the front of the seat of the chair - you'll see the angle is different. Then move it to the line between the seat and the back, then the angle of the top of the chair - again, the angle is different each time.

Remember to keep your arm straight.

Identifying vanishing points and the eye level:

As you can see in the illustration, all the angles of the walls and furniture join at a particular point. This point is called the vanishing point and it is situated on what is called the eye level, which is always a horizontal level or line. This drawing of an office interior has a single vanishing point, where all the perspective lines of walls and furniture cross. The blue lines are the construction lines that demonstrate this, crossing at the Vanishing Point.

For tips on how to draw using vanishing points and construction lines, check out our Perspective for Beginners blog.

The vanishing point is situated on what is called the eye level, which is always a horizontal level or line. The eye level indicates where the eyes of the viewer or the artist are, and is shown in the drawing with a pink line.

That is how you can work out from a drawing, painting or photograph where the person who originated the picture was standing. Some artists choose to manipulate their vanishing points or eye levels to create a more distorted experience for the viewer.

Using perspective to signify depth in your artwork:

The majority of adults will more or less share a similar eye level. If someone's eye level is above yours, they are likely taller than you - or standing on higher ground. Below this level, they are likely smaller, perhaps a child, or standing on lower ground.

Using perspective correctly can provide a great deal of depth to an artwork. To further exaggerate this depth, you could make the objects in the foreground clearer, sharper and stronger in colour or shading, as shown in the image. The more the objects recede into the background, the softer and more indistinct the outline and lighter the colouring.

Browse the artworks from our permanent collection, The Ingram Collection and see if you can find some that use perspective. See if you can find the eye level and vanishing points the artists have used. How have the artists used perspective? Is the perspective realistic or abstract? How does it make you feel?

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