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Breaking down a complex scene



[Conversation started by Erin by email March 8, 2018]

Hi Tutors,

I’ve redone this eye level perspective graph to show the step by step process. They sketch No 4 by doing 1, 2, 3, to get there. We start with 2 point perspective when looking at a corner.

This is definitely enough to start with.


[Reply from Toni]

Personally I think that perspective is our weak link in the 10 week term. It shouldn’t stress and confuse our students but often it does.
I think we could approach perspective in the same way as we approach EHS Travel Sketching, a quick impression, and on location.
Here are some ideas:
1. Invite students to work in pairs. Grab some newspaper or magazine real estate pages with property photos and look for shapes and edges that inform perspective lines, corners, rooflines, windows, doors, people. Is the line going up or down? Is it longer or shorter? Is it vertical? What angle is that? Is it steeper than the other angle?
2. Invite students to trace the key perspective lines onto a photocopy of a photo of the corner of a room (one point perspective) and later for a familiar building outside near your studio/cafe space (simple two point perspective). Use a ruler and pen to trace the lines into the photocopy.
Identify eye level. Sketch a person-like figure into the photocopy page to make it feel real. Can the person fit through the door? Look through the window?
3. Sketch the corner of the room and the building outside using contour lines (main shapes) in your sketchbook. Add helpful details and notes that relate to perspective.
Show how to check angles using straight arm, pen and closing one eye
4. Impress upon students that like learning to read, not everyone will ‘get’ perspective straight away or at the same time. It takes practise and checking skills.
5. Never let perspective get in the way of a fun sketch!

[Reply from Anna]

My experience with it has been that the grid engages the left side of the brain when we are busy engaging the right side in all the other classes. Once they lock into that grid they want more, and the whole class can feel intense and overwhelming.
What I do is take the shape out of the grid and get them to draw it alongside the grid. 7 lines create  the basic shape and thats it. A cute person and a window and keeping it fun and light and loose is key for my classes. No rulers, wobbly lines are totally ok, as its not important if you draw and you miss that VP. Its the shape that is important. I relate it to the shape of the flower, the shape of the lake (we do a lake for the water class), the shape of the vase etc. Though I do agree with Toni, its something Ive had to tweak to help it fit better with the rest of the course structure.


[Reply from Tony]

Kia ora Toni and fellow tutors,

I don’t know that perspective is necessarily the weak link but it is the one lesson students seem most apprehensive about and can be the most challenging for them to understand.

How do you teach in a 2 hours what architecture school can take a whole term if not more to teach –  I think our way is on the whole pretty damn good but tweaking and improving it all the time will make this the best  course – anywhere in the world!

Yes  some get it, most do not straight away.  the keen ones want more guidance and are hungry for what ever we can give.

But isn’t it cool when a student comes back in week 7 and says  “wow  everywhere I go I’m looking at buildings and their angles in a way I never did before!”

The real estate mags are good though its getting harder in NZ to find one that does not have extra obtrusive angles going off in all directions

I tell them ‘the brain always cheats ‘ with the angle they think they are seeing and transferring to the page, make that angle more extreme than the brain is telling you it is. This seems to produce better results

Love  your comment  “don’t let perspective get in the way of a good sketch”  but once we have let the (perspective) cat out of the bag there is no turning back.

  Yes– its about bringing out the personality and style of every sketcher, perspective understood or otherwise – we are just opening their eyes to a new way of seeing  eh.