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You Can Tilt Your Head, Wink, Blink or Rub Your Eyes — It Won’t Change a Thing
It’s nice to have a few things in our changing world that stay constant. Once you discover what is behind this aspect of linear perspective, you will be able to paint, draw, and sketch anything–from landscapes to the human body to still lifes–to look real and like it actually occupies the space you situate it.
One-point perspective is a special example of linear perspective in which all receding parallel lines meet at a single point, called the vanishing point. An example often used is the illusion that a stretch of parallel railroad tracks seem to meet off in the distance though we know that isn’t true–but it is how the eye perceives distance. Artists can use this trick of the eye to create spatial depth in their paintings.
All the Parts
We’re all pretty familiar with what the horizon is. When you picture that set of railroad tracks, you can see where the ﬂat land meets the sky; that imaginary line where sky meets land is the horizon. If we were at sea, the horizon would be the line where the sky meets the sea.
In one-point perspective the vanishing points lie on the horizon, so it’s important that we know where the horizon is. If your scene includes ﬂat land or the ocean, you’re set. Finding the horizon is a snap; you can clearly see it. But suppose there are objects in the way, such as hills, and you can’t see the horizon, so you can’t tell where to place a vanishing point?
Scrap the term horizon and substitute eye level. They are the same thing, but while you can’t always tell where the horizon is, you do know where your eye level is: it’s an imaginary horizontal plane passing through your eyes. If you stand up, your eye level rises with you; if you sit down, your eye level lowers.
What If You Tilt Your Head?
When it comes to defining eye level, it doesn’t matter if you tilt your head up, down or sideways. You can wink, blink, close your eyes, rub them—no matter what you do, eye level always stays the same. It’s still a horizontal plane passing through your eyes, and that plane is parallel to the ground (which, after all, is what horizontal means). OK, so if you tilt your head to one side so one eye is lower than the other, then what? We’ll just split the difference and say eye level is a horizontal plane across the bridge of your nose, halfway between your eyes!
Keep to Your Eye Level
Eye level is crucial to stay aware of because if you change it midway through a painting or drawing, the space you are creating is thrown completely off. You’ll know it, and your viewer will too. If you want to know more about the strategies for creating believable paintings and drawings, get the Perspective Guide for Artists, a kit that includes video resources, an eMag, and an entire book devoted to the subject written by and for artists. That means the information you get will be relevant to your next artwork and put you on the path to success with ease and without stress. Enjoy!