Construction and Perspective

Developed by the artists op the Italian Renaissance in the fifteenth century, perspective was created i'o enable artists to introduce scale and order into their pictures. liut do not be tempted to become a slave to its technical rules, even for a subject as demanding as buildings. spontaneity and freshness are, 1 believe, of more value to the watercolour artist.

While I always promote developing an 'eye' for the lines of buildings through sketching, rather than laboriously and technically constructing perspective, it is important to understand the principles that underpin our ways of translating three dimensions onto a flat sheet of paper.

Perspective is a method of creating a sense of visual order from the complexity of the world we see around us. It is based upon a system of converiiinti lines. In the main illustration on the opposite page. I have left all the perspective lines showing. If those converging lines were to be continued to the left, they would eventually meet at a single point on a line that corresponds with your eye level and the horizon (see the small annotated illustration). The reality is. however, that you will hardly ever see a horizon line, except at sea or in vast open countryside (where few buildings are to be found). It is best, therefore, to practise sketching with the knowledge that all the lines that you draw on either side of your buildings will appear to converge. It is also important to ensure that all vertical lines are drawn parallel and upright to prevent your buildings from looking as if they are leaning.

Most buildings can be constructed on a 'box' system, involving little more than basing your drawing on a three-dimensional box and adding assorted features such as a root, chimneys or extensions. The pencil illustrations opposite show how .1 simple building shape can be constructed. You w ill usually only be able to see tw o sides of any one buildin g at any time, althoug h of course you will see various sides of other buildings.

You may find this box construction system useful, particularly with domestic buildings, and with simple sheds and huts, which are the best type of buildings with which to start w hen you first begin to paint.

Perspective enables us to translate the three-dimensional world onto a flat sheet of paper-

Perspective lines on the same plane will appear to converge to one single point on an invisible horizon

One handy rule to remember is that lines of windows and other features that are above your head will converge downwards, while those below your line of vision will converge upwards

This diagram illustrates the points to which the perspective lines will converge in this picture

This diagram illustrates the points to which the perspective lines will converge in this picture


Many buildings can be constructed around a basic box shape. The pencil drawing below illustrates the first stage of construction that this painting went through. A simple three-dimensional cube with a roof added was all that was required to get started. The next stage was to construct the perspective grid


Freehand Sketching An Introduction

Freehand Sketching An Introduction

Learn to sketch by working through these quick, simple lessons. This Learn to Sketch course will help you learn to draw what you see and develop your skills.

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