Archive for category Subject: Perspective

Perspective In Action || David Chelsea

Books on perspective come in at fairly regular intervals. They vary from the practical ones that try to leave all the technical stuff out (it doesn’t work) to the entirely technical manuals that blind you with science and diagrams (it doesn’t work). Somewhere in between lie the successful ones that explain the theory while at the same time showing how it works in practice. This falls broadly into that final category.

David Chelsea is a graphic novelist and this book is unique in adopting that approach. Whether it works for you, and whether you will love this or want to throw it hard through the nearest (closed) window will depend entirely on whether you like the frame-by-frame approach the genre prescribes. You will also either love or hate the rather cartoon style of the illustrations. What I think is indisputable, however, is that delivering pill-sized doses does break things up. You can read each frame on its own and only move on when you’re sure you’re fully up to speed. The range of media is impressive, too, from pen & ink to woodwork, collage and digital.

It’s an interesting, maybe intriguing, and valid approach. Whether it’s valuable is entirely up to you. We haven’t met, so I can’t say.

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Painting Perspective, Depth & Distance in Watercolour || Geoff Kersey

This is a welcome reissue of a book I was surprised to discover was first published as long ago as 2004. As well as a thorough design revamp, two new projects and several example paintings have been added. The technical section has been expanded, improving coverage of this always-difficult area.

There’s almost no end of books on perspective and they all have their own particular slant and emphasis. It’s difficult, perhaps impossible, to recommend any one simply because the subject presents problems to each of us individually. The scientific approach, with its welter of lines leading to different vanishing points, may appeal to some. For others, simplicity is the order of the day while, for yet more, that leaves too many questions unanswered. There is no sweet spot, no perfect balance of detail and simplicity: you just have to sample them all and find the one that works for you.

Geoff is an excellent explainer and has a good track record in the art instruction book field. This is a guide written for the painter rather than the technician or designer and it works almost exclusively by example. What was already a good book has been subtly but thoroughly improved. I’s have been dotted, T’s crossed and blanks filled in. The emphasis throughout is on painting and you’ll learn about single point, multipoint and aerial perspective by working with them.

This can be all very well but, just as with languages, you eventually have to get to grips with grammar, so, with perspective, you need to understand the theory. To use another analogy, it’s a bit like colour mixing. Once someone who’s really understood it explains it to you, you’ve got it. Until then, you’ll flounder. The theory section here is concise, but to the point – I said Geoff’s a good explainer – and only some half a dozen pages have the dreaded vanishing lines. Much of the rest involves painted examples as well as colour and brushwork. If it was a language, it would be Painting, not Science. It’s a bit of a masterpiece.

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Perspective (Drawing Masterclass) || Tim Fisher

I’ve lost count of how many books on perspective I’ve seen in a long career. It’s a simple enough idea – you have a viewpoint, a subject and a vanishing point – but notoriously difficult to explain. All these books have made valiant and worthy attempts to keep things simple and some, using blocks and cones or different colours for the lines, have come close to success. The problem, though, is that almost everything you overlay only serves to complicate the image. What could be expressed in probably no more than a dozen or so words suddenly becomes so unmanageable that the poor reader just gives up and decides they’ll never get it right. This is a shame, as your eyes will tell you instantly when it is.

So it’s with great delight that I give an enormous Hurrah to this new contribution to the literature. Tim Fisher doesn’t forego diagrams, shapes or lines. What he does do, though, and it’s so simple it’s a forehead-slapper, is not to try to do everything at once. There are drawings here that have only four or five lines in them, and you can see what’s going on as a result. Yes, some parts don’t have their vanishing points delineated (get over it), but they’re not the bit he’s explaining. He also manages to keep the whole thing simple without over-simplifying and therefore missing the point entirely. Although this is billed as a Masterclass, the truth is that it’s by far the best primer I’ve ever seen. If you have other books, throw them away and buy this. You won’t regret it.

Oh, and Search press seem to have solved the problems of muddy half-tones that have bedevilled previous volumes in the series. Double Hurrah.

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How to See It, How to Draw It – the perspective workbook || Matthew Brehm

If ever a book died on its feet without its subtitle, this is the one!

As a guide to perspective for the artist, rather than the technical illustrator, it’s pretty much pitch perfect. Any book which tells you that it’ll take away the mystique of the subject is lying, because it’s a technical one and you can’t avoid an explanation of vanishing points or the lines that lead to them. Matthew Brehm does, however, minimise a lot of the complexity, and the bulk of the illustrations are attractive drawings and paintings, mostly of buildings, that show the results in practice. Where theory is necessary, it’s mainly confined to block diagrams which, while not pretty, do make the matter easier to understand.

The book is also extremely well structured, starting with one-point perspective and progressing to two and three point before going on to multi-point and curvilinear. Each section works in the same way: seeing it, understanding it, applying it and how to sequence. Keeping the approach constant means that, once you’ve got the hang of one topic, you’ve got the hang of them all. There’s also an excellent introduction to the basics: visual depth clues, lines of convergence, the horizon line and so on.

If you’ve ever struggled to get to grips with perspective, and any book is going to open your eyes, this is the one to do it. I won’t say I couldn’t put it down, but I do keep picking it up.

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Understanding Perspective || Giovanni Civardi

Perspective is that thing that tends to make your brain freeze over. It’s either something you can just do, like colour mixing, or a subject so technical it brings you out in a cold sweat, a bit like dreaming you’re doing an A level maths exam with only a set of times-tables for help.

And that’s the trouble, there’s no way round the fact that perspective can only be explained with the use of lines and diagrams and a fundamental understanding of the vanishing point. Yes, it is a form of geometry.

Giovanni doesn’t shirk the task of getting to grips with the technicalities, but at least you know you’re in good hands and I hope that this will be enough to encourage you to persevere. The technical stuff is kept to a minimum and is concisely, but clearly, explained and there are plenty of his sensitive pencil drawings to show you how things work out in practice.

If this is something you’ve been putting off for longer than you care to admit, this might finally be your chance to nail it.


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The Art of Perspective || Yves LeBlanc

Books on perspective always suffer from the fact that they look incredibly technical. There’s no real way round this because it’s necessary to know how lines and planes project towards a putative vanishing point.

Over the years, various books have attempted to get round this. Occasionally, someone tries omitting the diagrams altogether and the result leaves you knowing less that when you started. Others, like Gwen White’s excellent manual, aim themselves at the technical drawing market and just go for it. Overall, the middle way, with as many example drawings as possible and simplified line-work, generally works as well as it can.

This book falls somewhere between the middle and let-it-all-hang-out ways. The diagrams are all there, but so are the drawings. I think that you have to want to take perspective pretty seriously (and there’s a convincing argument that says you should) to be both prepared and able to get to grips with this. However, it’s all broken down into relatively digestible bite-size chunks and, as long as you proceed at a fairly steady pace, you should find yourself getting somewhere.

One of the most user-friendly books on perspective is the same publisher’s The Art of Perspective by Janet Shearer. This uses specially taken photographs to illustrate what is going on and is probably the best place to start a study of the subject. The book under review here, though, picks the baton up and takes it a lot further.

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Drawing Perspective || Gilles Ronin

Books on perspective are notoriously difficult to sell. On the one hand, artists tend to think they’ve got it sussed and, on the other, they tend to shy away from what they regard as a frighteningly technical subject. The fact of the matter is that you can’t really expect to get drawing right if you don’t understand both how perspective works and how to make it work for you; a bit like trying to learn a language while ignoring the grammar. Sooner or later, it’s going to get up and bite you.

One of the best books on the subject is Gwen White’s Perspective for Artists, Architects and Designers, which includes a lot of vanishing lines, but really shows you how to get mostly buildings upright and in line. It’s still a good book, despite having first appeared as long ago as 1968.

The time, surely, has come for a new standard work and I think we might finally have it. Although Gilles Ronin doesn’t neglect the technical approach and the diagram, he provides plenty of examples of freehand drawing that leaven the necessarily methodical way of coming at the subject. As you’d expect, there’s a fair amount about shapes and these naturally lead into buildings, but not before we’ve had a look at simple objects. Gilles is also nicely clear on isometric and atmospheric perspective as well as handy things like shadows, different viewpoints and landscapes, which will be of particular interest to the fine artist.

The simple fact of the matter is that every artist should have this book and it’s a sad fact that very few will. This is a pity, not just because it’s about a subject you really can’t ignore, but also because Gilles manages to make its study something you can actually enjoy. I think that’s a first.

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