By: Walt Stanchfield                Categories: AnimationGeneral

You may recall me mentioning a tendency to straighten everything up in a drawing. You know, the crooked-picture-on-the-wall phobia. This tendency goes beyond straightening things up horizontally and vertically, but also depth-wise. That would be like taking the lines in Plate 1a and straightening them up like Plate 1b, which you can see, destroys all illusion of depth.

I am relentless in my crusade against this kind of seeing and drawing. You all have at least some knowledge of perspective, but sometimes the mind wanders and you fail to make use of what you do know. To further complicate matters — beyond just knowing the rules, you have to carefully observe (and feel) the pose so that you can fi t the two together. So much depends on perspective — not just what is called linear perspective (see Plate 3), which is a system for linear depiction of three dimensions, but also what I will call Spatial Perspective. (There may be a more specific term, but I am not aware of one.) In drawing human or animal figures, which are loaded with complicated planes, there would be so many vanishing points you would need a computer to keep track of them. But take heart, there is a simpler method, thanks to Bruce McIntyre, former Disney Studios artist and subsequent drawing instructor. This method involves a few very simple rules which, once understood, are easy to apply, effective, and fun to use. I refer to one or more of them often in the evening gesture class critiques. (If you’d like a more in-depth analysis of these rules, let me know — I’ll make an effort to work something up.) Here in Plate 2 are the six principles perspective.

Three of those rules are illustrated in Plate 4.

Take the hands first. They illustrate the second rule (see Plate 2), Diminishing Size. The hand farthest away being the smallest. Next, the left hand overlapping the forearm, the forearm overlapping the upper arm, the shoulder overlapping the chest area, the front of the neck overlapping the far shoulder — all illustrate the fourth rule, Overlap. The way the forearm delineates the contour of the arm as it overlaps the upper arm, and the left shoulder follows the contour as it overlaps at the trapezius muscle, illustrates the fifth rule, Surface Lines . Plate 4b further explains the Surface Lines rule.

The last rule, Foreshortening, is present everywhere in every third dimensional drawing. It should be felt rather than diagrammed, although at times, a few perspective lines may help. Here Donald demonstrates how that particular perspective rule has been pushed to great extremes. This is called forced perspective , and is universally accepted as normal.

Okay, now for the drawing that instigated all this. In Plate 6a is a student’s drawing which is about 98% two-dimensional. Next to it in Plate 6b, I show how the artist must have envisioned himself on a crane which lifted him up and down so he could get a straight-on view of everything.

This approach to drawing either displays an ignorance of the rules of perspective, or a lazy approach to drawing. The thing is, perspective is so much a part of drawing that an artist cannot neglect mastering it. Putting off learning it only prolongs the agony. Then of course, once you have it, you will joyfully exclaim, “Oh, how sweet it is. ”

Here is my correction sketch of that drawing (Plate 7a). Next to it is a chart which shows how the eye saw it from a waist high vantage point — no cranes (Plate 7b). Then in Plate 7c, I have translated what the eye sees into the rule of perspective, Foreshortening.

So many things to think about! (Pity poor me who has so few brain cells left.) Anyway, we wouldn’t have half as much fun if we could just sit back and draw by the numbers, as my cartoon, Plate 8 postulates.

It’s Mr. Stanchfield at the Disney Studios. He wants to know if you will pose for his gesture class…

Excerpt from Drawn to Life, Vol II by Walt Stanchfield © 2013 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.

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