# Picture Composition

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If you are a man of average height, your eyes will be about 1.7m (5ft 8in) above the ground, so your eye-level line will be roughly where it is shown in this first picture when you are standing upright on the street. The position of this eye-level line governs the position of everything in the picture. Everything taller than your 1.7m will be above this line; anything lower than 1.7m will be below it, wherever in the picture it is.

If someone of the same height as you stands directly in front of you, his or her eyes will be on the same level as yours, so they, too, will be on your eye-level line (A). If the person is taller than you, then your eye level may be only as high as his or her chin (B); if shorter, your eye level may be over the top of the person's head (c).

Aerial Perspective

If these people now stand farther away from you, and the ground is flat, they will appear smaller (because they are more distant) but their height will be exactly the same in relation to your eye level, so your eye-level line will cut across them in the same place. Indeed, wherever they stand on flat level ground in your picture, they will retain this same relationship with your eye-level line.

However many people you have in your picture, they can be established at exactly the right size by the position they bear relative to your eye-level line. If the person you draw is taller than you, then his or her eyes will be at the same height above your eye-level line. If you draw a child, the top of his or her head will always be the same apparent distance below your eye-level line. The top of a door will be above the line, the top of a car below it. So every door and every car roof in your picture, no matter where they are, must be above and below your eye-level line accordingly.

If you decide to take a viewpoint that is higher than the average standing height - for example, you might consider yourself to be standing on a box 1m (3ft) high - your eye-level line will be 1m above that of all the people of your height in the picture. Likewise, if you kneel down, your horizon will be correspondingly low - at about everyone's waist level - so the waist of every standing figure in your picture will be on or near your eye-level line, however near or far from you they are.

Another useful technique in tackling the problem of recession and depth in pictures is to make use of the way in which distant objects appear to be paler and somewhat less distinct to the eye than objects that are close by. In drawings using only line, this less-distinct quality can be represented by the use of finer lines. In painting, less strongly contrasting colours are used to show distant objects. This practice is known as aerial perspective.

Below: Use of aerial perspective in two frames from Harry Black, Private Eye, written by Ron Tiner.

Below: Use of aerial perspective in two frames from Harry Black, Private Eye, written by Ron Tiner.

Foreshortening

Perspective also involves the concept of foreshortening. It enables you to represent a figure so that it will look solid and three-dimensional rather than flat like the surface on which it is drawn.

If you look carefully at the drawing of the soccer-player at the top of this page you will notice that, in order for his right arm to make sense, it must be understood to be coming out of the picture plane towards us: his right hand must seem to be nearer to us than is his right shoulder. Of course, it is not really nearer to us, because the page he was drawn on is flat; but, if it is convincingly rendered, the arm will be accepted unquestioningly by the eye to be receding away towards his shoulder.

The three drawings to the left show the arm apparently reaching progressively more directly towards us. As it does so, it appears to get shorter, which is why this method of making something appear to be reaching out towards us is called foreshortening. The effect is achieved using two techniques. One is to emphasize

Top: Illustration from Canon, written by Melvyn Bagnall. Left: Illustration from Powerman. [Copyright© Pikin Publications.]

or even exaggerate the perspective: the soccer-player's hand i drawn larger to indicate that it is nearer to us than the rest of his body. The other is known as 'barrelling': emphasizing the roundness of his arm, by shading, and the round shape of the cuff of his shirt. Both of these help to establish that we are looking along the arm rather than at the side of it.

In the illustration of the superhero at the bottom of the opposite page, the whole body appears to be receding away from us. The solid muscular shape of his torso is accentuated by the belt around his waist. The same applies to his legs, the roundness of which is emphasized by the loop decoration around his calf muscles and by the line showing the leg of his shorts. The viewer subconsciously picks up these clues and naturally comprehends the figure as a three-dimensional form receding in space.

Drawing in line demands the use of hatching in order to show form or shadow. Any hatching lines which are drawn as though on the surface of the figure help to reveal its form and thereby convey the impression of depth.