Freehand or mechanical perspective?
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Thread: Freehand or mechanical perspective?

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    Freehand or mechanical perspective?

    I have been learning and reading up on perspective and it can get pretty in depth with the concepts of determining scale, station points and so on. It seems there are 2 levels of perspective freehand and mechanical. While both include knowledge of eye levels, vanishing points etc. Freehand stops there and relies on estimates to get an image looking right while mechanical perspective uses measurements such as station points and the ground line.

    It's seems like such a complex process to establish all off these measurements just to make an image with the correct perspective. I can understand it needs to be done for architectural drawing but for making images for illustration is it really needed? Is this what professional illustrators do when they create an image or do they rely on their own judgment to whether it looks right?

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    Well,

    Norman Rockwell took professional grade photographs, stuck them in his "Balloptican" projector and traced them (with various refinements that only a real artists could make).*

    That's one way to avoid that whole messy perspective thing!

    D'Amelio's Perspective Drawing Handbook probably gives the best account of using "triangle and T-square" perspective in a manner that doesn't get too bogged down and technical.

    But, my pet bitch on the common perspective books out there: they're heavy on THEORY, short on APPLICATION.

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    *yeah, I know, the Rockwell comment's a little oversimplified. . .

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    I'm not a professional illustrator [yet] but it seems like it would be pretty important for an illustrator. If there isn't as much going on, you could do either but I've seen alot of illustrators get pretty complex with backgrounds/foregrounds/camera angles and I'm also interested to know how people approach this.

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    The best way is to learn both approaches. Mechanical perspective is necessary for understanding the principles, double checking and refining, freehand is necessary for ingraining into your brain what the real world looks like. You need both in order to have it be such second nature to you.

    Your goal is to ingrain perspective into your thought process (and by consequence your images). When you first draw a thumbnail you should ideally be already thinking in terms of where the viewpoint is going to be and where the eye level is. There should be this virtual theater or camera inside your head, where you can rotate objects and the camera around in it as you're thumbnailing. That's why it's important to not just learn theory but to constantly create images and apply those principles.

    Also, for me the thing that really broke the 'damn, I gotta learn perspective' barrier was the fact that everything you learn about linear perspective is technically wrong. Learning about 5/6 point/fisheye perspective really changed my understanding of 1, 2, and 3 point. Once I understood that and how many professionals purposefully break those rules it became a lot easier for me and also sort of bridged the gap between freehand and mechanical, since when you draw freehand you are basically having to compensate for fisheye distortions as you observe.

    Last edited by Cadaure; August 17th, 2010 at 04:25 AM.
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    If you want a perspective book that's not overly technical, "Perspective for Artists" by Rex Vicat Cole is pretty decent (it should be available from Dover.) It's geared towards landscape painters, so there's a lot of practical application and examples of using perspective when eyeballing things from life.

    Though it is good to learn the more technical approach as well so you understand the principles behind it all. (And then learn how to tweak the technical perspective so it "looks right", because strictly mathematical perspective so often looks distorted...) (As mentioned before.)

    This site has a very handy guide to all kinds of perspective issues: http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/tech10.html#index

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    An understanding of perspective theory can be used to benefit field sketching. But, you have to be able to relate to your SB as a picture plane, rough in a horizon line, and visualize where the drawn horizon line extends off into space.

    Finally, you need to be able to visualize the vanishing points on this visualized horizon and "shoot" your lines at them-- kind of like hitting a golf ball at a distant point. And, some of the space division tricks can be used directly on the page, e.g. finding midpoints through use of diagonals.

    D'Amelio seems to envision a quick rough form of layout. But, I think he would still have you using, at least, a ruler, and a standard set of triangles wouldn't hurt. What D'Amelio does is fluff off creating a plan view and/or use of scaled measuring points. Rather, he has you eyeball an area, say perhaps a floor, then divide it up by use of "special vanishing points" along with other standard measuring and dividing tricks.

    The problem with this eyeballing?

    If you don't use a "plan view" or use "measuring points" and you draw a chessboard by eyeballing and divide it by "special vanishing points" you can't guarantee that you're not drawing a slightly rectangular chessboard with slightly rectangular "squares!"

    But, if you're an architect or a cartoonist working out a rough idea, it's quicker than working out everything rigidly to scale.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RedHawk View Post
    The best way is to learn both approaches. Mechanical perspective is necessary for understanding the principles, double checking and refining, freehand is necessary for ingraining into your brain what the real world looks like. You need both in order to have it be such second nature to you.

    Your goal is to ingrain perspective into your thought process (and by consequence your images). When you first draw a thumbnail you should ideally be already thinking in terms of where the viewpoint is going to be and where the eye level is. There should be this virtual theater or camera inside your head, where you can rotate objects and the camera around in it as you're thumbnailing. That's why it's important to not just learn theory but to constantly create images and apply those principles.
    This...

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    Interesting perspectives seems difficult to me in the sense that, we only see things from where we stand, sit or lay - a limited "life drawing" perspective. No intricate movie like perspectives in real life when you walk the city. Have to imagine them I suppose. But then where's the reference to practice those interesting perspectives aside from other art in comic books and illustrations?

    Surely, I'm not going to lay down on a side walk and look up at a building beneath someone above me looking up at the building trying to draw the scene, haha.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Phight View Post
    Interesting perspectives seems difficult to me in the sense that, we only see things from where we stand, sit or lay - a limited "life drawing" perspective. No intricate movie like perspectives in real life when you walk the city. Have to imagine them I suppose. But then where's the reference to practice those interesting perspectives aside from other art in comic books and illustrations?
    Well, that's where knowing enough perspective to construct scenes from imagination is extremely useful.

    But for inspiration, actually, movies are a great source of ideas for dramatic viewpoints. Any time you watch a well-made movie, try paying attention to all the different camera angles and framing, it can be illuminating... (Pausing bits of it can be educational, too.) (Pausing movies is also good for gawking at especially cool matte paintings... )

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    Before reading this thread, I've this lingering doubt on whether to learn mechanical perspective, because to create enviros, it really does seem necessary to learn that.

    After reading this thread, I've decided to learn mech perspective once I've time.

    DAMN!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Xeon_OND View Post
    Before reading this thread, I've this lingering doubt on whether to learn mechanical perspective, because to create enviros, it really does seem necessary to learn that.

    After reading this thread, I've decided to learn mech perspective once I've time.
    Here's a good tutorial to get you started, then!

    One thing I was taught early on is that for exteriors you don't really need more than simple one-point perspective most of the time. It's when you get into regular shapes and more man-made straight lines that two point, three point, etc. really comes into its own. It's actually pretty fun when you really get into it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nezumi Works View Post
    Here's a good tutorial to get you started, then!

    One thing I was taught early on is that for exteriors you don't really need more than simple one-point perspective most of the time. It's when you get into regular shapes and more man-made straight lines that two point, three point, etc. really comes into its own. It's actually pretty fun when you really get into it.
    Thanks Nezumi, but I've read and follow-through most parts of Seedling's tutorial some time ago...like somewhere last year? LOL

    The kind of mechanical perspective I'm refering to is more like those where they make use of a ground plane, vantage point and all those architectural stuff, with all those right angles etc....it was mentioned briefly in Ernest Norling's "Perspective Made Easy" book but it was beyond my understanding at this point in time.

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    There is really not so much of a distinction between freehand and constructive perspective (don't like the term 'mechanical'). Constructive perspective gives you a solid theoretical basis, but because it is a little impractical to construct each and every detail, one usually moves from formal construction to informal freehanding.

    The situation is not much different from anatomy, or grammar. I don't think there are a lot of people who build a complete anatomical reconstruction of their models, or who build their sentences word by word according to the rules of grammar. Figure drawings and sentences are usually freehanded around a somewhat formal core, and anatomy and grammar are only consulted when needed; this takes a lot of experience...

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