The two-dimensional surface of a painting is called the picture plane. When figure artists attempt to represent 3-D on this 2-D picture plane, a basic knowledge of perspective is necessary in order to make the painting believable and realistic. Here’s an overview of the basics of one-point perspective to give your drawings depth and dimension.
“Representation of cubes in a one-point perspective” by Oliver Harrison via Wikimedia
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What is one-point perspective?
One-point perspective is a perspective with only one vanishing point; the vanishing point being the place where all the convergent lines in the drawing are meeting. If you are looking at a rectangular object, like a building, the front plane of the object is directly in front of you. If the drawing used a two-points perspective, the angle of the object would be in front of you.
“Two-points perspective” by Mmroberts via Wikimedia
In a two-points perspective, the object corner is facing the viewer.
In a landscape, the vanishing point will usually be situated at the horizon line. In an interior scene, it is usually situated at the center of the painting.
Notice that on the following examples of one-point perspectives:
- All lines parallel to the picture plane are drawn parallel to each other.
- All lines perpendicular to the picture plane are drawn converging to one point, which, in this case, is the center of the room.
In this interior scene of a theater, the lines parallel to the picture plane are all parallel, and the lines perpendicular to the picture plane are converging to the center of the stage.
Artist’s note: The artist of this painting, Masanobu Okumura (1686–1764), is thought to be the first Japanese artist to use a one-point linear perspective in an interior scene.
“Trinity” by Masaccio via Wikimedia
In Western art, Renaissance painters were the first to use a one-point perceptive, often using architectural elements such as tiles on the floor and columns to create depth. Or, like in Masaccio painting above, the coffers on the vault (decorative squares on the arched ceiling) were used to emphasize the perspective effect in the picture plane.
Artist’s note: The above painting, entitled “Trinity,” was completed in 1428 and was one of the first paintings in Western art to show a greater understanding of one-point perspective in an interior space.
Claude Monet’s “L’hôtel Les Roches Noires” via Wikimedia
Artist’s note: You can tell there is clearly a use of one-point perspective construction in this painting by looking at the hotel on the right, which is balanced by the very eye-catching and roughly painted flag.
Since the Renaissance, perspective has been widely used by painters to depict depth, and it can be seen in the work of the Impressionists, as in the Claude Monet painting above. After the Impressionists came the post-Impressionists, causing paintings to become more abstract and experimental. At this time, most artists chose to ignore the “rules” of classical perspective.
“Still life, drapery, jug and fruit bowl” by Cezanne via Wikimedia
In this painting, the artist, Cezanne, seems less interested in classical realism and depiction of perspective as the painting becomes more abstracted: Shapes are simplified and look flat with an emphasis placed on the edges.
How to draw a simple shape in one-point perspective
Draw a horizontal line.
Now, draw your vanishing point.
Add a single shape by drawing a square or a rectangle either below or above your vanishing point.
Draw lines to connect each of the corners of your rectangle to the vanishing point.
Draw lines parallel to the sides of your rectangle that match up with the connecting lines.
Now, erase all unnecessary lines to finish the drawing.