Monday, September 26, 2011
Last May, the US Postal Service released a stamp honoring the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500.
The stamp shows the Marmon “Wasp” in an Art Deco style. The car is lifting off the ground, with the wheels leaning forward.
The “leaning wheels” look was probably influenced by the illustrator Peter Helck, who was renowned for his pictures of early race cars. In both of these pictures, the artists made deliberate artistic choices to make an aesthetic point, which is completely OK.
But I wouldn’t want to ride in either of those cars, though, whatever the speed. Why? In real life, the axles on that poor car would have to be broken -- or those wheels would have to be out of round.
According to Dora Norton's Freehand Perspective and Sketching, the rule is: “The long diameter of a wheel seen in perspective is always perpendicular to the axle.” Or, put another way, a “the long axis of an ellipse on the end of a cylinder is always perpendicular to the long axis of that cylinder.”
Similarly, a round window seen in perspective above the eye level follows the same rule. The long axis (AB) is perpendicular to the short axis (CD), which vanishes along with the other lines to the horizon at left.
Addendum: In the comments, several people pointed out that early action photography often used a slit shutter, which traveled upward vertically, capturing the subject at slightly different instants in time. This photographic technology resulted in images which actually did have this "leaning forward" quality. Above is an example. Thanks, Mike, PeteJoe, The Jalopy Journal, and those who commented.
More about the stamp at Indianapolis 500's site.
The diagram is by Dora Norton from her classic book Freehand Perspective and Sketching.
The book is available as a free download
or as a book: