Historical Uses of Drawing Devices

From the High Renaissance's Albrecht Dürer to the Impressionist's Vincent van Gogh, the old masters made good use of various drawing aids and devices. Mind you, they were still great draftsmen, but they had their tools, not unlike what we are using.

In reality, the picture plane is a visual concept, an imaginary, clear surface that is there in front of your face, turning with you wherever you look. What you see, you see on that surface, but in reality the view extends backwards, from there into the distance.

When you "see" on the picture plane, you visually flatten the distance between you and what you see. Quite a trick? Not really. It's like a photograph, a 3-D view on a 2-D surface. You see the 3-D image (in space) as you look into the distance, but you see the 2-D (flat) image of it on the picture plane. You can draw what you see directly on the plastic picture plane, then eventually on paper.

Easy, huh?

Artist's Sketchbook

Foreshortening is the illusion of spatial depth. It is a way to portray a three-dimensional object on a two-dimensional plane (like piece of paper). The object appears to project beyond or recede behind the picture plane by visual distortion.

The Art of Drawing

The development of photography grew out of early experiments with the picture plane and lenses which were used to project an image down on to a piece of paper, something like a projector does today. It is now thought that the old masters used projector-like devices to help capture likeness, complicated perspective, or elaborate detail in their very realistic paintings. After the development of the camera, artist interest began to move away from perfectly represented realism to more expressive ways of seeing and painting.

Try Your Hand

If you want to keep one of your picture plane drawings as a record, you can try putting it on a copy machine or a scanner. Or, you can place a piece of tracing paper on the plastic and make a careful tracing of your drawing.

Artist's Sketchbook

2-D is an abbreviation for two-dimensional, having the dimensions of height and width, such as a flat surface like a piece of paper. 3-D is an abbreviation for three-dimensional, having the dimensions of height, width, and depth, an object in space.

What you see on the picture plane is magically "flattened." This is because the distance between you and what you see and the distances or space within the subject are foreshortened.

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