Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Eye Level, Part 2

If architecture appears in your scene, all the major vanishing points (things like eaves and sidewalks) are pegged on the eye level line. Each vanishing point should be marked with a little “X” surrounded by a circle.

In the line drawing of the archway, the vanishing point is marked on the EL just beneath the circular window of the domed building. All the lines in the ceiling inside the arch and along the waterline inside the arch vanish to this point.

If you look again at the same scene, the arch is flanked by two circular columns. At the EL, the circular cross section of the columns is seen edge-on, so the bases of the columns don’t appear as ellipses. But as you go up the columns, the ellipses become slightly fuller.

So in a sense, every part of the scene is drawn with a consciousness of the eye level, even though in this scene you don’t really see a horizon.

13 comments:

Adam Paquette said...

there is one situation that confuses me - perhaps you had intended to address this in a 3rd post, but just in case...

Lets say in a hypothetical situation, we are in your dinotopia painting presented here, but you are on a chery picker/crane. You are raised perpendicularly directly upwards, but you maintain your gaze directly ahead. In this case, wouldnt the horizon line lower, and the eye level remain where it is? I guess this sort of hypothetical situation applies especially to imagined paintings where we are viewing scenes from a crazy, and perhaps somewhat impossible under normal circumstances, angle.

thank you for your perennial dilligence and contribution through this blog :)

James Gurney said...

Adam, good question. Imagine yourself going up on that cherry picker holding a viewfinder directly in front of your gaze, and not moving the viewfinder up or down. Even though your viewing position (AKA "station point") is being raised off the ground, the eye level line and the horizon (which are really the same thing) remain at the same exact place in your composition. The position of the eye level line in your composition would only change if you directed the angle of your gaze more downward or upward.

Adam Paquette said...

in which case, all buildings etc at ground level would conform to vanishing points on the new 'floating' horizon... which means that the actual physical global horizon itself has no bearing whatsoever - only the eye level does? Is there any circumstance where the flat plane of the ground level has an effect on perspective (if that makes sense?) thanks for such a fast reply!

Drew said...

Actually, I think the horizon line never moves. Whether you're eye level is 6 feet off the ground or 60 feet off the ground, your eye level is always maintained at the horizon if you stare out into the distance. Depending on where you live, you could try this pretty easily. Say you lived in a city that's relatively flat, like NY (San Francisco brings some interesting complications into the problem since it has hills that rise and dip below the horizon.) If you were on street level, you should be able to mark out where the horizon is. Go up to the top of a building or, better yet, a skyscraper, and look out to see where the horizon is. You shouldn't have to tilt your head any higher or lower than if you were looking at the horizon on the street.

Now, I couldn't tell you exactly why this is. I just know it works if the lay of the land is consistent. Hills or any elevation changes obviously climb above or below the horizon (which is why if you're in New Orleans, you can actually have the horizon line above you and not have it also be the eye-level, because a portion of the city is below sea-level.)

Maybe it has something to do with the curve of the Earth?

Paolo Rivera said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paolo Rivera said...

Andrew Loomis' Successful Drawing has the best explanations I've seen for the fundamental concepts behind perspective. It's not in print, but several sites have the complete book in pdf form. It shows all the usual tricks, but shows why they work.

As for the horizon line, it is synonymous with your eye level, even in New Orleans. Let's say, for instance, that you're standing six feet below sea level (which I'm not entirely sure happens there, but let's go with it). At 5'8", that puts my eyes just below sea level. If I'm looking towards the coast, then the horizon line will be hidden from me as I will see levee before I see water (although if I do see water, I had better get to higher ground).

The main thing to keep in mind is that the horizon just happens to match up with our eye level. In fact, you can make another eye level line that is perpendicular to the horizon line. The intersection of these two lines is essentially your point of view. You will see the right side of all objects to the left of the line and vice versa.

If you took Jim's drawing and rotated it 90 degrees, then the columns would agree, showing elliptical cross-sections only when one moves away from our new "vertical horizon."

DavidStill said...

So, when drawing a landscape where you can't see the actual horizon, from the imagination, is finding where to put the EL just a matter of trial and error, or do you calculate it somehow? I understand that I can just draw a horizon where ever and start drawing lines from a vanishing point and end up with a correct geometry, however, this geometry might not be seen from the angle I imagined it would. How do you get it right the first time? Plain old experience?

Josephine said...

I hope you do more of these post, they are very helpful! And I love to see the preliminary drawings for you paintings.

James Gurney said...

Thanks, Josephine,

David, you're asking great questions, but I can see that I need a couple of diagrams to really explain them. But let me take a stab without them.

In observational work (like plein air or figure painting), I first decide which parts of the scene I want to paint. Once that's roughed in, then I locate the eye level by sighting on a horizontal line to the actual scene to see where it intersects the forms. That's the eye level. Then you can start nailing down vanishing points.

With imaginary work, you're right: you can draw the eye level anywhere you want in the composition to suit your pictorial goals, and then tie the perspective to that chosen eye level.

I hope that's not confusing. Maybe someone else can explain it further.

Paolo Rivera said...

David, another rule of thumb (and I think the most helpful) is to remember that the eye level/horizon line crosses objects at the same height, no matter where they are.

For instance, if you are walking down the sidewalk in a flat part of Manhattan, then everyone that is your height will cross the line at their eyes, whether or not you can see the horizon. The line will hit buildings very near their base, somewhere below 6'.

If you crouch down, the line will hit everyone at the pelvis, and hit buildings at roughly 3'.

If you go up to the 20th floor of a building and look out the window, your line will intersect all other buildings at their 20th floors (assuming equal floor heights).

The next time you see an aerial shot of the city, see if you can gauge the photographers altitude by paying attention to the horizon. Does it cross the buildings? If so, what floor? Is it above the buildings? If so, how far?

Also, just another tool that I find extremely helpful when drawing is Google Earth. You can download it for free and the new edition has simplified 3D buildings that you can easily navigate through. I use this all the time when drawing Spider-Man swinging through the city.

James Gurney said...

Great explanation, Paolo——and you have anticipated tomorrow's post.

Dorian said...

love the painting!
keep rockin'!

Super Wu-Man said...

the sketch and the painting are wonderful, by the way is that a photocopy of the drawing? do you do a small scale picture then blow it up for canvas?

also i think its important to point out to people just trying this technique, the vanishing points may not always be on your paper or on your canvas, they will sometimes extend beyond the paper your working on, sometimes up to a few feet....depending on what angle you want...

keep up the great blog, we are so lucky to have you interact and post your artistic knowledge everyday...i dont think any of us take this time you post for granted, i know it wont last forever and i enjoy it everyday as i'm sure all who read do...