Our SAQA Pod took on the challenge of understanding perspective through a fairly simple landscape/seascape image.

Here is lesson should you like to give it a go:

Perspective 101

Instructions by Greta Hildebrand, September 2020

Don’t let the idea of perspective prevent you from going in this direction.  Perspective is not difficult once you know what to look for and what to do!

I have Googled the word and find that there are several definitions, but basically, if you can understand just 2, you’re well on your way. 

a/ Perspective can be, LINEAR meaning the lines in your image diminish into the background.

b/ Perspective can be ATMOSPHERIC, meaning that the objects close up are generally brighter and more in focus than those in the distance.  This is caused by the amount of water in the atmosphere, impairing our vision of objects far away.  It’s also because our eyes don’t focus that well on distant objects.

Combine a. and b. and you have something that gives the illusion of space.

Here is a photo that I took last week on Lake Erie from Windmill Point, looking West along Lake Erie. It’s one of my favourite walks since moving to Ridgeway this summer. 

Looking West from Windmill Point, Fort Erie

We are going to create a pattern, then, using our preferred materials/medium, create our own version of the scene.

Next time, we can work on an architectural image, but for now, this is a much easier way to understand the concepts.

I would like you to take a piece of unused paper – letter size is good for this exercise.  Also, a nice pointy pencil.

  1. Orient the paper vertically and divide in half, widthwise. You have just created your HORIZON LINE – where water and land meet the sky in this case.
  2. Now, in the centre of your horizon line, make a tiny dot – this is your VANISHING POINT. If you look at the picture, you have just made 2 markers:  one to divide the skyline from the water, and the other, the end of the beach, as we can see it.

If you look carefully, you’ll see that the lines are not straight and that’s because our subject is found in nature.  We call these lines “organic”.  There are lovely curves/arcs in this image.

  • First bring your horizon line to the right, horizontally, in a nice curve about 2 inches down from the horizon. This line is now the base of the tree line.
  • From your vanishing point, create the waterline in a curve to the left, just a little lower than the treeline – notice that the line is not perfect and goes in and out – the result of waves.  The curves are closer together in the distance than in foreground.

Look at the way the debris on the beach forms a line on either side of the vanishing point, forward.  It’s really wide in the FOREGROUND and diminishes towards the VANISHING POINT in the BACKGROUND. 

  • Now, create a line for the top of the trees – note how high the trees in the MID-GROUND look compared to those that extend the coastline right to the left edge of the HORIZON LINE.

See below for the 5 steps as diagrams.

Diagrams leading to a pattern for your own creation.

Congratulations.  You now have a grasp of perspective and a vocabulary to go with it:

Linear perspective, atmospheric perspective, horizon line, vanishing point, organic lines, foreground, mid-ground and background – and, I bet you knew all of this before.

There’s still the other form of perspective, ATMOSPHERIC, that gives further dimension to the image:  bright and sharp in the foreground and less so in the background.  Colour is affected as well, as objects close up are brighter than those further away. This concept also applies to the sky – lighter on the horizon and much more intense in colour directly above.  The size of clouds overhead are much larger than those further towards the horizon.  Check this out next time you’re outdoors on a clear day.

Let’s take what we have done to be our pattern.  From here, you use your own fabrics and other media, using this one as a starting point.  Create your version of the beach scene.

Today was our regular meeting date; replaced by a combined email in-Facebook record of how people were working through the perspective exercise.

This is how my own efforts progressed:

I worked on a tiny piece measuring approx. 5 x 7 inches that I would like to insert into a deep frame to give a rounded 3-D effect.

Starting out I lay the wool fibres on the loose Merino felted wool base. This provides me with a foundation composition – note that I am following the horizon line, the vanishing point, the base of the treeline, the water line and the top of the treeline. I’m not too concerned about shading at this point.

Next I lay carded/blended silk fibre over the top tor the sky, then white wisps of white silk for clouds. Next I work on the waterline trying to achieve somewhat of a wavy line, but this will be enhanced later.

I am next going on to the trees which have more texture and detail. There is a little of early autumn showing in some of the trees; however this has to be very subtle. As the treeline diminishes into the background, the colours become more faded as atmospheric perspective.

A little rough green silk is added to the beach to give the impression of the seagrass – larger in the foreground and very subtle hints into the background. I add a little more white silk to the beach in the foreground to bring it forward.

Clouds become more obscure as they fade into the horizon. I turn the edges of the felting under and felt to the back to create a “turned” edge. I back the piece with 3 consecutively smaller layers of backing to give the piece some rigidity, then stitch through the layers to anchor and further enhance the treeline. I have bent the piece into the deep frame so that it curves towards the centre. I think I’m done!

Hope you enjoyed this exercise in perspective. Next time we can do an architectural piece. Let me know through my website or email if you’d like to join in.

Here are some of our group’s results, including mine above. Some are still works in progress.

Can you find and correct these challenges?

How could you improve the shape of these deciduous trees?

What happens when the horizon line is not horizontal?

What direction do waves normally roll into shore?

What happens to the foreground when a wave is as long as the beach-line?

Where is the sky most intense in colour?

Where is the darkest part of a cloud, usually?

These are not meant as criticisms, but observations that allow perspective to be seen for what it is. Creativity, however, can trump realism, and in so doing, allows for our own creative interpretation of reality.

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