Eskleigh - watercolour by Elizabeth Barsham
This would take you to a better perspective on this picture if you had the CD

Chapter contents:

bridges, jetties and boats

false attachments

horizon - what it is

horizon - where it is

picture plane - definition

size and scale

sloping surfaces

simple (one vanishing point) perspective

two point perspective

three vanishing points

vanishing point - what it is and how to find it

vanishing point outside the picture area

vanishing trace

Perspective is an artificial means of creating an illusion of three dimensions. You can manage well enough without any knowledge of perspective, but if you want to draw man-made objects convincingly you must at least remember that lines above the horizon will slope downwards; lines below it will slope upwards.

Linear perspective is only a tool; often a picture is more effective if the rules are not followed strictly. Look particularly at the salons in which Degas’ ballerinas perform. What difference does it make if you “correct” his perspective?

Linear perspective will break down very easily if you try to draw too wide an angle, and you can encounter paradoxes. As an exercise, try drawing a checkerboard surface using simple perspective with the vanishing point in the centre of the horizon. You will find that your squares become distorted as they approach the sides of the picture. Do not try to draw more than about 60 degrees of arc unless you want to explore ways of overcoming distortion problems.

When drawing a tiled floor the old masters usually placed furniture or groups of figures in the corner of the picture to conceal this. Another way to overcome it is to draw the horizontal lines as downward curves.

To get a good result in perspective drawing use a ruler for everything. You must use a sharp pencil, at least HB or even 2H, and rule your construction lines as accurately as possible. It is a good idea to work out your perspective on a separate sheet of paper. When satisfied, trace it onto your painting or final drawing surface.

Notice the sleepers are closer together the further they are from the picture plane. There is no simple method to calculate the distance between them; it is generally sufficient to place them by eye.
Lines representing a vertical plane are put into perspective in the same manner as those representing a horizontal plane. The diagonal AB can be put into perspective by simply joining the corners of the rectangle.


picture plane - imagine your page as a window and the picture on it as the world outside. The picture plane is the window pane. To describe their apparent positions in the optical three-dimensional space you are creating, objects in the picture may be spoken of as being parallel to or at various distances from the picture plane.

horizon - represents the eye-level of the viewer (or artist); is the actual horizon in seascapes.

vanishing point- represents a focal point, which may be in any position, but must be on the horizon to give the illusion of horizontal lines receding in space. Well, it doesn't always have to be on the horizon, but keep it there until you find out under what circumstances it isn't.


  • Any pair of parallel lines converges at a point on the horizon, known as the vanishing point.
  • Only lines which are parallel with each other converge at any one vanishing point.
  • Lines parallel to the picture plane are not foreshortened or otherwise affected by perspective. Only lines defining planes at an angle to the picture plane are put into perspective.

Locating the Vanishing Point

That's the last sample; the link on the bottom right takes you back to the first page of Miss Barsham's Painting Book.
Don't forget to look at the Index before you go. Hope to hear from you soon!

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