Building Perspective in Your Composition

Before you can put the fifth—or perverse—perspective into practice, you must understand the traditional perspectives, namely isometric perspective and one-, two-, three- and four-point perspectives.

Symbol Summary
x: the horizon line; indicates width and is associated with the x-axis
y: a line indicating the vertical or height, associated with the y-axis
VP: vanishing point

Building Perspective with Rudolf Stussi, image A

A Isometric perspective was the first one to be used in many cultures (India, China, Japan and Arabia), but it isn’t a true perspective because nothing gets smaller with distance. Elements can, however, be measured, which makes this approach useful for architects.

Building Perspective with Rudolf Stussi, image B

B In one-point perspective the horizontal lines are all parallel to the horizon (x). Vertical lines are parallel to each other. Lines indicating depth converge toward a vanishing point (VP). Flash animation and simple children’s book illustrations use this perspective.

Building Perspective with Rudolf Stussi, image C

C Two-point perspective has two vanishing points (VP) on the horizon line (x), toward which lines indicating depth converge. The vertical lines remain parallel.

Building Perspective with Rudolf Stussi, image D

D Three-point perspective has three vanishing points (VP), two on the horizon line (x) and one on the vertical or y-axis (y). The y-axis’s vanishing point can be either above or below the horizon but not in both places. The vertical lines of the tower can now converge toward the vanishing point.

Building Perspective with Rudolf Stussi, image E

E Four-point perspective (also called curvilinear, curved or fish-eye perspective) goes curvy—the only reasonable response to the phenomenon of things getting smaller both from side to side and above and below the horizon line. This perspective, favored by comic and graphic novel artists, corresponds well to the curve of the earth and of our eyeballs.

Building Perspective with Rudolf Stussi, image F

F In the fifth (perverse) perspective both the horizon line (x) and the y-axis (y) are curved to create the illusion of movement. Four vanishing points (VP) still create diminution and believability, but the effect is poetic, not photographic or geometric. Individual lines may stray from the general movement, and objects may expand away from the horizon line or the y-axis—or even have their separate sets of vanishing points.

Read the entire article, “The Fifth Perspective” by Rudolf Stussi
by downloading a digital copy of the June 2010 issue of The Artist’s Magazine.


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