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Perspective is what gives the illusion of depth to a picture. It affects almost everything we see, if only in subtle ways, which is why it is important to have an understanding of how perspective works. Artists employ two types of perspective: linear and atmospheric (also called aerial). Linear perspective involves the use of converging lines and the manipulation of the size and placement of elements within a composition to create the illusion of depth and distance. Atmospheric perspective, which will be explained in more detail on page 41, relies not on lines but on variations in value and detail to achieve similar effects.

Horizon Line

The first step in using linear perspective is to establish a horizon line where the land or water meets the sky. The placement of the horizon influences the viewer's perception of a scene and determines where its sight lines should converge. Even when the horizon line is not actually visible, its location must be clear or the perspective of the scene may not be correct (see page 39).

Vanishing Points

Vanishing points occur where parallel lines appear to converge, usually on the horizon. For example, when you look down a train track, the rails seem to converge in the distance. The place where the rails appear to meet is the vanishing point. A single drawing may contain several vanishing points—or none at all-depending on the location of elements within a scene and the vantage point of the viewer.

Vantage Point

The best way to describe the vantage point is to say that it is the point from which the viewer observes a scene. In a drawing, the relationship between the location of subject elements (such as trees and buildings) and the horizon line will determine the eye level of the vantage point. In addition, the vantage point can influence the mood of a scene (see page 33).

Vanishing point

Vanishing Points

A vanishing point occurs where parallel lines appear to meet in the distance. For instance, when you look down train tracks, the parallel lines of the rails seem to converge at a point on the horizon.

Vanishing Points

A vanishing point occurs where parallel lines appear to meet in the distance. For instance, when you look down train tracks, the parallel lines of the rails seem to converge at a point on the horizon.

Dog's Eye Level

Placing the horizon low makes the vantage point seem low. In this example, the vantage point is at the dog's eye level. Notice that the horizon line goes through the eye of the dog.

Man's Eye Level

Placing the horizon at the same level as the eyes of the man in the scene puts the vantage point also at the man's eye level. In this example, the horizon line runs through the man's eyes.

Overhead View

With the horizon placed well above the man and dog, the vantage point is also very high. This creates the feeling that the viewer is looking down on both of them.

Low Horizon, Low Vantage Point

With the horizon placed low, the subject may look taller and more massive than normal.

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High Horizon, High Vantage Point

A high horizon can give an unnatural feel to a subject that is normally viewed from eye level. Instead, bring the horizon line down to a more natural vantage point.

Vantage Point Can Influence Mood

The placement of the horizon can influence the mood of a scene by creating a variety of sensations in the viewer. Placing the horizon unnaturally low will make the viewer feel as if he were looking up at the subject from a very low vantage point. Placing the horizon unnaturally high will make the viewer feel as if he were looking down on the subject from a great height.

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