Perspective vs drawing what you see and working spontaneously

February 16, 2016 | 2 Comments


As you all know, I love thinking about my art. Not so much thinking about how ‘good’ each sketch is, but trying to dig deeper into concepts. On Saturday I did a sketch of the MCA at Circular Quay using my pointless perspective approach and starting with a few loose shapes of colour. I then continued my sketch across the double-page spread.

Afterwards when I looked at it, I was thinking about the rules of perspective, and how this sketch doesn’t really comply with them. I am always conscious of the overall principles of perspective but allow myself to sketch what I see with freedom. I suppose you could say that rather than breaking the rules of perspective, I often bend them a bit.

This post is more a collection of musings and questions, rather than a how-to with perspective… and I am hoping that a few of the true perspective gurus out there might chip in with some ideas. For more details about my Pointless Perspective approach click here.

Basically when I started I was sketching within a very wide angle static point of view, using perspective principles without worrying too much about establishing vanishing points. My post-sketch analysis proves that my lines were more or less evenly converging and would have met up at one of two vanishing points on the eyeline. Success!

But then the fun part started when I extended my sketch on either side of the main entrance to the building. On the left side, I moved my head a little and drew what I saw, not what the rules of perspective would have told me to draw. As a result, the angle of the top of beige brick part is ‘wrong’ – or is it? What I drew interestingly enough conforms to a curved perspective line. Aside: I am wanting to get into curvilinear perspective sketching more, as I really haven’t done much of it to date.

When I extended my sketch to the right, I moved my head again and just continued sketching the shapes/ edges in relation to each other.

I got thinking… if I had wanted to sketch this view according to a static perspective view, I would have had to move my position significantly back (sitting in middle of the lawn) and sketched something like this sketch above – the MCA would have been more skewed at the edges. Although my sketch isn’t a model example of perspective, I am pleased with the way its distortions capture the view and experience I had sitting up close to it… in fact, if I did it again, I would distort more!

Anyway… the big punch line of these musings is that there is so much more to sketching than achieving perfect perspective. Yes, learn as much as you can about it and make sure you understand its principles, but don’t feel constrained by it! Make sure you always combine perspective with what you can actually see.

And to finish with the best quote I know of that described my approach to  perspective

“perspective should be felt not diagrammed”

Walt Stanchfield – Walt Disney Animation Studio
(he was talking about the human figure, but I believe the same applies to the built environment)

So… all you perspective nutters out there – what do you think? 
How do you approach perspective in a wide panorama? 
Is curvilinear perspective a better way to approach it?



  • Donald says:

    Hi Liz,

    I tend to agree with you. The only thing I might add is that if you use whatever you are drawing with (pen, pencil, etc) and simply compare the angles of the object (s) you are drawing, tthe vanishing points will take care of themselves.

    Thanks for the Blog.

  • Veronica green says:

    Very interesting, love to read your blog, always very helpful,,,thanks for sharing ,learning so much true your blog…

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