There is only one way to learn to draw. First, you must want to do it. Then you must understand the fundamentals of perspective and the psychology of point of view, work diligently through the exercise of drawing and maintain a determination to succeed. Let’s start with:
THE FUNDAMENTALS OF PERSPECTIVE
In viewing an image of a box, there exists three fundamental vanishing points, left, right, and top or bottom. Both top and bottom can exist together in some instances. However, you will probably never have to be concerned with more than three in any drawing. These vanishing points are always consistent with every object in the scene. The two points for each subject on the eye level, horizon or view point, is your primary concern, (These three definitions mean the same thing), and with a central horizon, often your only concern. The larger the object or the closer your view, the more extreme the perspective.
How much or how little perspective is involved in a drawing will effectively describe the size of the subject. A child’s building block would contain relatively flat perspective, while a twenty story building would be considerably more acute. Shortening the vanishing points will always make the object look bigger and more dramatic. In these two extreme examples, you still have to realize a consistent horizon.
In the case of the block, the horizon line would probably be high in the drawing, if contained by the drawing at all. Then the bottom vanishing point comes into concern. If there are many blocks in the picture, all on the same plane, then they must all perceptibly go to the same bottom vanishing point and no matter the angle, Right or left, maintain a constant distance. Floating blocks in space would have to be individually done, consistent with the others.
With the twenty story building, the horizon would probably be low on the image because of our eye level, which of course, is much lower than the mass of the building. Therefore, the upper vanishing point must be of concern and every parallel, vertical line in every building in our image must perceptibly end at the same vanishing point.
I don’t mean to be simplistic or insulting, but I have witnessed the work of many very accomplished painters who have destroyed their work by a lack of the understanding of basic perspective. I cannot stress the importance of this fundamental knowledge too much. To paint objectively, you MUST understand it. Once you do, it will become less of concern to you as you progress, and at the same time become more inherent in your work. You have to practice scales to perform on any instrument. No matter how proficient the performer, to maintain and improve, he still practices his scales. Think of perspective drawing exercises as your musical scales.
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF VIEW POINT
As I mentioned in the last section, the relative size of an object is mostly determined by how acutely the perspective is described. If you wish to make something more imposing, more dramatic or just plain bigger, lower the horizon, (your view point), and increase the perspective by shortening the vanishing points. By the same token, to diminish an object, simply do the reverse, raise the horizon and flatten the perspective. Such a simple prospect, but so often ignored, especially when it comes to portraiture.
I work to a simple premise. If I’m doing the portrait of a standing child, I will bring my point of view down in his or her direction to give some stature, some importance. However, I will never go below the child’s eye level. This would present a disturbing sense of scale and the viewer of the painting wouldn’t quite understand why.
In doing a portrait of a standing woman, I usually try to keep my point of view the same as hers, eye to eye. However, don’t make it an absolute, develop a sense of comfort with it, to describe a tall woman, move a little below her eye level and with a short woman, slightly above. Just remember, to give stature and importance to your subject, you must look up to her. These are my rules of thumb. Notwithstanding, rigidity should always be avoided. To understand how the psychology of point of view works, is very important. However, the kinetics, personality and stature of each subject has to also be taken into consideration. Understand all the rules and reasons, but FEEL what you’re doing and when you break a rule, know why.