Thursday, October 30, 2008

Eye Level, Part 3

In a scene that takes place on flat ground, the eye level (EL) usually intersects everything at about five feet above the ground. That’s because most of us of average standing height look out at the world from that elevation, and most photos are taken from that height as well. You can imply that the viewer is seated or that the viewer is a child by placing your eye level at a lower height.

Since the eye level line cuts through every figure at the same relative point, you can sort of “hang” the figures on the eye level line, just making sure the line runs through everyone at the same height. In the throne room scene here, for instance, the EL is exactly at the height of the top of the dais, or platform. If you carry that line across the scene, it will intersect every standing figure just below the shoulder.

I could have chosen to place the EL at ankle height, but then it would have intersected every figure at the ankle.

On this drawing, by the way, the vanishing point for the edges of all the carpets is just visible on the shoulder of the figure standing just to the left of the leftmost lion.

The drawing above was not drawn as a separate charcoal comprehensive. It is a pencil drawing made directly on the illustration board prior to painting. What you're looking at is a photocopy of that early stage of the painting, with the EL accentuated.


Andrew said...

This is one of my favorite tricks to quickly lay people into the composition without figuring out vanishing lines to see where another person would be. It just feels like a more natural method of placing people into perspective.

I just remembered another trick long after I read yesterday's post concerning vanishing points that are a few feet off in one direction or the other. While you could plot them, it's a real hassle, so there's a workaround. Figure out your EL/HL first. Then, draw a line that would be going off to one of the vanishing points. How severe of a grade it is depends on your preference, and it may take one or two tries to get right. Once that line is laid down, the measure the space from the line to the EL on both sides. Use those measurements, and set out little ticks on both sides of the composition that represent the intervals. After that, it's a matter of connecting the ticks together to form the perspective lines! You can repeat the process for lines going to the other vanishing point as well. Immensely helpful if your points happen to go off the page a couple of feet.

Hopefully that's explained well enough. Pictures always explain things better.

Super Villain said...
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James Gurney said...

Drew, that's a great explanation of one of the most useful methods in perspective. Subdividing slopes means you never have to go searching for remote VPs again.

David Still said...

I didn't really understand that method, drew, maybe pictures are needed after all?

Erik Bongers said...

Yes, I also use the trick of 'hanging' the whole crowd like laundry on a line. It's so simple, yet effective. But I never read it in any book (or chapter) on perspective drawing.
The second tip here (by Drew) on subdividing is also one I use often, and I think I did read about it somewhere.

In any case, it seems that a little bible of PRACTICAL perspective would be nice.
After all, a typical drawing isn't made of cubes on chessboards and cylinders like you see in most introductions to perspective. Usefull as an introduction, sure, but the tutorials generally stop there where you are desperate for more practical applications.

I'm also thinking of the perspective of a body or face. E.g. the shoulder line that should point to the horizon, or the line of the eyes and mouth...

Typically an artist has to figure this out for her/him-self.

Paolo Rivera said...

Successful Drawing is the most practical one I've seen. I use perspective almost every day and I still learned something new (and extremely useful) yesterday when I took another look.

Unknown said...

E.T. is filmed mostly from a child's (or E.T.'s height) to gain that sense of smallness and wonder.

James Gurney said...

Thanks for your comments, Munchanka. If I'm not mistaken, Wallee was also shot from a low eye level to give it that sense of wonder, right?

Paolo, I really appreciate that link on Loomis's book. I've downloaded it and will print it out. Great stuff. It's hard to find perspective taught so clearly.

Ken Tiessen said...

I enjoyed reading the posts on eye level, as perspective is close to my heart. In looking back to my Art Center class, Ted Youngkin did not use the term 'horizon' if at all, perhaps because of it's ability to confuse the process of constructing an accurate drawing.

Let me offer my thoughts understand the concepts of 'horizon' and 'eye level'- they are two distinct entities, although in many situations they might happen to be in the same place. The use of 'horizon' I more commonly used for a actual place seen, such as the line of the ocean where the sun disappears. Eye level should be thought of more, however, as a horizontal reference to the height of view in relation to objects and other planes.

Before writing this, I also looked closer through the perspective pages of Andrew Loomis' "Successful Drawing" which deal with horizon, inclines/declines, and eye levels. Loomis was a fabulous artist and teacher that I respect a great deal. Knowing that his books and ideas are in high demand today would please him very much, but one bit of terminology I do disagree with.

Loomis uses the term 'horizon' for many and multiple things- base planes, inclines, roofs, and even introduces a 'false horizon'. Perhaps it's a matter of semantics, but if the 'horizon' in views is hidden, why include it? Any horizontal used in construction of slopes or inclines/declines large and small is just that- a construction reference- and needs no separate label to complicate matters.


James Gurney said...

Thanks, Ken, that's a really thoughtful explanation of the terms.

Anonymous said...

Thanks again for your helpful blog.

2 questions--do you use a ruler when you do perspective lines and/or the lines of buildings etc, in these precise drawings?

Also, any hints on drawing the steeples or towers on buildings. I cannot seem to find any simple tricks for these to use quickly.

Andre Loftis said...

Mr. Gurney, sorry for spamming you with questions on your blog and email, but I'm really trying to learn this perspective stuff so I can get to drawing like a master!
In the Andrew Loomis book Successful Drawing, when drawing a cube, Andrew Loomis makes a guess to determine the depth. Carl Dobsky has a great linear perspective tutorial on explaining how to find the depth of the cube without guessing by using measuring points. I was wondering if you had a different procedure than either of those artists. Because using Loomis' method, I feel like I am guessing too much, and using Dobsky's method, my brain feels like it is going to burst open. Are there any books or resources that helped you learn perspective. Thanks for your time.