I recently began teaching a six week Perspective course. It’s a topic I find fascinating and I especially enjoy discovering it fresh through the eyes of my students. There are always wonderful questions that come up that help me see perspective anew. For veteran sketchers, this next series will be review; for those newer to drawing I hope to cover some helpful ideas. And if you have questions, please let me know!
Today I’d like to talk about parallel lines. Parallel lines are always equidistant to each other, right? They can be straight, zig-zag or wavy – as long as they’re equidistant we know that they’re parallel, even when drawn free hand, like this:
BUT, when we’re talking perspective, parallel lines will come together and actually meet, or vanish, at a point on the horizon line called, appropriately enough, the vanishing point. As this fence moves away from me, it appears to reduce in size. The horizontal boards that we know to be parallel appear to get closer and closer together as it recedes in the distance. (The green line is the horizon line and the dot is the vanishing point.)
While this is a good example of parallel lines converging, I discovered after photographing the drawing, it has a problem. The distant posts and fence boards seem really dark, don’t they? To be accurate, the more distant an object, the lighter it should be. I used a very fine pen for the entire drawing, but because the lines need to be really fine in the distance, they now appear bold. A way around that might be to use a very light touch with the pen, or a bolder pen with near objects and a finer pen with distant ones.
Here’s another example:
This is a freehand drawing of a short hallway where the hallway walls are parallel to each other. The distant walls have two different angles and can be ignored in this example. What I want you to notice is the parallel walls of the hall and the green dot which indicates the vanishing point for all things that are parallel to each other. The pictures on the wall, the door frames, the old sewing machine table are all parallel and if we drew lines from all of them, those lines would all converge at the vanishing point.
While this is basic perspective, I know it’s a challenge for many to put into practice. The take away here is: Draw parallel lines the way you see them – not the way you know them.