Saturday, September 24, 2011

Overcoming Fear of Perspective

Since I was in school, I was afraid of perspective. I said it. Perspective freaked me out. I could never seem to get it right.

 In more recent years, for more complicated perspective scenes, I've been using 3D models from the program Google Sketchup. I felt a little guilty about this. It seemed like a crutch. A few times I've shared the 3D models I used on my blog, to demonstrate the difference between the models and the final product, as if to say, See? The models are just a tool. And it's true. They were. But it still didn't feel right. This was despite the fact that my knowledge of perspective is pretty solid. But using 3D models was less because of lack of knowledge than fear of getting it wrong. I hated perspective. I couldn't wrap my head around it.

 One of my principal problems was that when I did perspective, I got so hung up on grids and vanishing points, I forgot to draw. This used to happen when I used photo reference for figures--I would get so hung up on duplicating the image in the photo, that I wasn't paying attention to what the photo was communicating. I wasn't paying attention to the forms, or using what I knew about the figure to reinvent the figures on the page. Before, when using perspective, I wouldn't spend enough time on the structure. I wouldn't gesture out the structure as I would a figure, but would instead right away get too worried about these technical issues. And this was how I started to use the 3D models--I would come up with my primitives and grids first, then move the 3d camera around until I got the composition I wanted. I was getting the result I wanted, but going about it all backwards.

 There are some great books on perspective. One of my favorites is David Chelsea's Perspective for Comic Book Artists. It's one of the best books I know about the subject, and you don't need to be a comic book artist to learn from it. Books like these will teach you the fundamentals about perspective. They'll teach you the rules. Unfortunately they won't teach you how to draw.

Not too long ago I did something that I thought was impossible for me: curvilinear perspective. This is when you have a sort of fish-eye effect. I put together a basic curvilinear grid, which I mostly eyeballed. If you're curious what piece this was, it's the Christmas image in my portfolio. Once again I did a grid first, then started putting in the buildings. Since the whole point was to draw a neighborhood, a grid, it didn't really matter as much. But I was still missing the point.

More recently I started to simply rough in the kind of perspective I want, eyeballing buildings and other structures with what I already essentially know. Then I pop that rough idea, with all my compositional elements, under the lightbox, and then I start worrying about vanishing points and grids. But then sometimes I don't worry about this stuff at all. I just draw. If you draw enough, a lot of this will come intuitively. The illustrator Robert Fawcett claimed to have never learned perspective and that he completely did it by eye, but his perspective looked flawless. I doubt I'll ever abandon my grids and vanishing points completely, but then sometimes, they're not as necessary as I think.

The trucks in the previous post were done freehand, perspective by eye, no vanishing points, no grids. It's something I would have never thought I would  be able to do not too long ago. Is the perspective perfect? I highly doubt it. But using CGI as an underpinning for my perspective sometimes has made the perspective just a little too dead-on. It looks too perfect, and not quite organic. So for the foreseeable future, I don't think I'll be using CGI for my perspective solutions. After all these years, I've finally overcome my fear of perspective.

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