I wrote about a brief history of perspective drawing in my blog a few months ago. In this article I would like to talk about how important it is to practice perspective drawing for people who are interested in developing their observational sketching skills as well as a Plein Air painting. Using perspective is the closest way to capture what we see in front of us. Of course there are other types of drawings that you can use in sketching and painting, but using perspective is the most relevant to our actual perception. To make good observational sketches and paintings, knowing and using perspective well is one important element of your success; good sketching and good painting start with good perspective. Perspective is a core structure of observational sketching.

After seven years of my career teaching in architectural schools, I realized it is easier said than done when it comes to implementation and practice of drawing perspective sketches. Most architecture students learn principles of perspective in the early years of their architectural education. They are all familiar with horizontal line, vanishing point, foreshortening, and various types of perspective. When it comes to actual practice, they often ask, “Where should I begin?” or “How do I know that my perspective will be at the human eye level?”  With the computer aided tools, a lot of them pay little attention on how this type of drawing is constructed and fully depend on the help of digital tools. There are copious benefits of learning to draw perspective in the conventional way and learning to sketch, particularly in situations when a computer is not available or when a quick freehand sketch seems to be the most useful tool.

Based on my experience, students tend to create a perspective that is a bit higher than normal human eye view but not entirely as an aerial eye view perspective. When it comes to observational sketching, it is appropriate to create human eye level observation if the observer point is at the regular eye level. I have been creating video tutorials to teach students how to draw perspective in the hopes that these videos will help students to practice making a perspective at eye level.

To create a perspective drawing at eye level, knowing where and how to establish a horizontal line is the gateway to a good perspective. Please refer to the graphite sketch of my watercolor painting. In this sketch,

1. I first established the horizontal line.

2. Next, I defined the vanishing point on the horizontal line. This is one point perspective.

3. Finally, I drew a few human figures as a scale reference object before I began to establish the building scale based on the human scale figures. It is important to know that all the human figure heads will need to be located on the horizontal line. Please also visit the video tutorial on how to establish building scale based on human scale figures.

If you follow these guidelines as an initial start of your perspective drawing practice, you should at least have a good structure to further develop your sketch into more detail.