Key concepts from 101

Linear perspective, atmospheric perspective, horizon line, vanishing point, organic lines, foreground, mid-ground and background.

This time we are going to apply these ideas/concepts to this architectural form of a modest country church. This is not my own photo.

You will need a regular sheet of letter size paper and a legal sheet (or 2 sheets of letter paper taped vertically) and soft, sharp pencil.

Please do not use a ruler and avoid an eraser until the end.  You could spend the entire exercise erasing and becoming frustrated.  Practice with your pencil until your lines are soft and easily corrected—without an eraser.  Curl your hand so that you can use the outer/baby finger side to slide across the paper as a guide.

In this exercise we are going to use 2 point perspective where previously we used just a single vanishing point.

1.To create markers:  Fold your larger sheet in half horizontally.  Make a visible dot on each end of the horizontal line.  These indicate the horizon and are your vanishing points.  In the picture, the trees obscure the horizon.

2. Take your smaller sheet and fold in half horizontally, then again horizontally to divide the sheet in quarters.  Do the same vertically to create a second set of quarter lines.  There should be 16 rectangles dividing your sheet.

3. Place the smaller sheet vertically on top of the horizontally oriented, larger sheet.  Centre vertically but align the bottom edges.  Tape to hold in place if you like.

4. To create the first pencil line indicating the line of the church where front and side walls align:

Step 1: From the right bottom edge count one and a half spaces in and mark with a dot in the centre of the space.  Step 2: Count 2  half spaces up and make a second mark. 

Step 3. Make a line to create the vertical wall abutment which is closest to the eye (between the window and door).

5. Getting the perspective of the walls:  Without using a ruler, draw a line from the bottom dot to the right hand vanishing point ( on the bottom layer of paper).  Again, the top dot to the same vanishing point—you should have a long, narrow triangle.  Do the same from the top and bottom dots to the left vanishing point. 

6. Create your outside verticals:  The left is about one and a half rectangles in and the right about 3/4 of that rectangle in.  You should now have a box with slightly diagonal lines top and bottom but should have true vertical walls.

7. Roof:  Make a dot in the centre of your page.  From this point join with a line to the left outer wall and a second line to the centre wall. You should have a triangle.  From the centre dot, extend your line to the right hand side vanishing point to determine the slope.  For the top of the roof, count one and a quarter squares in and make a mark to join the roof to the top of the right hand wall.  Join the 2 lower points to form the bottom edge of the roof.

Window and door:  determine the height with small dots .  Although they are actually centred on the building, the near wall portion should be slightly wider than the distant portion to allow for perspective. When adding any detail that requires perspective lines e.g. sills and lintels, use your vanishing points to determine the slope.  Guessing could give you a line that looks askew.

8. Bell tower:  Start with the vertical join which is slightly to the right of your centre line.  The top is slightly higher than your first fold at the top of the page.  Mark and joint with a vertical line.  Extend upwards for the cross.  The top of the cross should be on the same slope as the walls—use your left vanishing point.

9. Roof line slopes:  From the ball, make a diagonal about 1/2 inch out on either side and about half way down.  Notice that the tower is joined into the roof about 1/2 inch down and the top structure sits on a small “foundation.”  Use the vanishing point on the right to determine the angle.  Create the inner framework of the window openings and extend the roof seams  of the tower from the window peek to the tower peek at the ball.

At this point you can take out a ruler and eraser to neaten things up—but you may like the way it looks drawn freehand.  Be sure that all vertical lines are TRUE verticals and all lines that would be “horizontal” on the actual structure, go back to the vanishing points on a diagonal, even if they are just tiny window sill lines.  This drawing will serve as your pattern.

Now that you have your church drawn (congratulations, this was not an easy exercise), continue to add the background and any details that you would like to add in, although that can happen as you work on your textile or fibre piece.  Just remember the perspective rules:  Objects and details are larger in the foreground than in the distance and atmospherics can create more depth to your work. 

Steps outlined visually.

This is a significant date for Southern Ontario, for the SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) organization and for me personally. It represents the beginning of an unexpected change in our lives: Ontario was on the brink of closing down many non-essential businesses and events and its citizens going into self-isolation, and SAQA’s first international conference was on the brink of opening in Toronto that coming week. All was rapidly changing.

As I made my way down the Niagara escarpment to work at the Jordan Art Gallery , I saw before me a compelling site:

It was an image that would not leave me and permeated until early October. (Meantime, SAQA held its global conference in virtual time – one of the first organizations to do so via the Zoom platform. It was an amazing success offering its prearranged conference speakers and chat rooms for registered participants. So, although there was much disappointment that our organizing efforts had to be rearranged and travel plans cancelled, we still “met” and shared each other’s experiences, knowledge and talents. The Jordan Art Gallery closed its doors until May, but continued to “open” to the public via its website. As an aside, we sold our Fenwick home that weekend and bought a new townhouse in Ridgeway. The start of another chapter in our personal lives.)

The image was “larger than life” which in my mind commanded a scale beyond my usual. I had saved an old “throw” that had enough porosity to allow for needled felting. It measured just enough for SAQA’s call for entry themed/titled “Light the World”, which I had thought about as well over the summer. Now was the time to begin with a deadline of November 30. I had not entered a needle felted piece, so this would be the first, and it would incorporate stitching through layers. There was also a scurry of improvising as my 12 inch square sponge was not going to offer enough underlay for working up the piece. Hastily, I peeled away the covers of my 4 flat outdoor sponge cushions and laid them out, side by side. They nicely fit my fold out table width-wise and the 60 inch width of the work.

As with all my other needle felted works, the ground composition is laid out with wool, then the detailing layers comprise various silk fibres and other plant and animal fibres to add texture, colour and light – lots of it in this case to work with the image which I put through Adobe Photoshop to enhance the blues and contrast of the original photograph. The composition nicely fit the “x 3” rule.

The above images show the work progressing in its early stages from something flat in both colour and dimension. As contrasting colours and materials are added, the image and impact should, with some luck (for I believe it is only a select few works that have a magical property), begin to “appear.”

As the work progresses, it is both exciting and disappointing. As with any artwork, there is continual problem solving and a switch between observing, rendering and tedious work. There is endless needle punching involved, first securing with a single needle, then using my spring loaded, 5-in-one punch to work with the texture and against it. By the time all is completed, I will have worked over the surface more than a dozen times. With the smaller works, I also flip the work over and needle felt through the back layer as well to secure in both directions. I am not sure if I will with this piece.

After many hours working on the sky formations, it’s time to return to the foreground. My handspun is invaluable for outlining the tree formations and beginning work on the vineyard. I have run into a roadblock with the mid-ground skyline. As the tree formations extend into the sky background, I will have to stop to work on the Toronto and surrounding area skyline. But just how to go about this work is foremost in my problem solving mind.

Using my Publisher program together with some mathematical calculations, I am able to generate an exact skyline. The remainder of the work is my own rendition; however, I feel it important that the skyline be recognizable as what it is. Colour and eventually light will be important, as well as the profile. The skydome is really prominent. See below the steps from felting the long blue skyline to cutting then felting in place. I can now go back to built the tree tops that overlap into the skyline.

My next posting will cover the foreground as I build up texture, colour and light. It is amazing how much the eye begins to see as the work progresses.

Several weeks have gone by, but I have been busy. With the November 30 deadline for this submission looming, my focus was on completing the project. Days of adding detail and texture, working on the composition itself and stabilising to a quilted backing (repurposed, bed protector quilt). Below you can see the dramatic cloud formations taking on more dimension and contrast. The top layer of felting is now being stitched through to the backing to stabilise and to add a 3-dimensional effect.

The foreground was an especially detailed portion of the piece requiring both the application of fibre variations for texture and colour, but also the overlay of handspun yarns which required invisible stitching to anchor securely. Here you can see the sewing pins anchoring the top layer to the backing ready for stitching. The reverse is just a recycled, quilted cotton bed protector.

The quilt is nearing completion with just edges to finish before photographing. I set up my new photography studio for this large needle felted work. Using the tip from SAQA to use insulation panels, I took 3 side by side, covered them with stretched canvas. This method allows you to use sewing pins to hold the work in place. Below is the final work, 45 inches high x 58 inches wide.

It was submitted to The Grand National call for entry “Crossroads” with the following statement and biography. I have a price of $3,500 on it.

Corona Premonition, March 13, 2020

For Southern Ontario, March 13, 2020 signifies the end to large gatherings, closure of non-essential services and isolation.  My needle-felted artwork is based on a photograph which I took on that symbolic day.  This premonitory view of a “corona” cloud formation above 17th Street descending the Niagara escarpment, over Lake Ontario and distant Toronto also captures a physical crossroad leading into an unawakened vineyard.  17th Street itself leads to old Lakeshore Road which runs the circumference of Lake Ontario.  The work is a metaphorical crossroad intersecting the “normal” and the “pandemic” landscape.

My fibre and textile artwork explores nature and its ecological fragility.  Educated in fine arts and interdisciplinary Canadian Studies provides me with a rooted knowledge; my lived experience in the Fiji Islands, New Zealand and Canada, my career as an educator, and my travels, prompt me to create and share these perspectives. 

Needle felted and quilted image Corona-Premonition, March 13, 2020

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.