Hi Claire! Thanks so much for helping out! I’ve attached the sketch.
So, for some clarification on what’s going on in the scene. It’s very slightly inspired by an old fairy tale about broken porcelain dolls. In the picture I wanted the story to be this girl is holding one of the dolls from the hutch behind her, but the man who owns them has just entered the room, and she looks up at him. Want him to be casting a shadow on about half the comp. (Which you can faintly see in the sketch.)
The thing is. I wanted this picture to be a super drastic angle and really push three point perspective. But I’m having trouble doing so and without it looking too weird. haha! Especially the girl. I keep trying to bring the horizon line down to about her knees. But somehow it just keeps going back to where it was everytime I redraw it. And last but not least, I even tried taking some reference photos and I still can’t quite capture the the angle and perspective I want.
That was a mouthful. My apologies for the novel! So my questions to you would be, do you have any advice in exaggerating an angle that we can’t quite get in real life? Any ideas as to how I can better capture this correctly. And for composition. i still feel it’s a bit weak since I made it a head-on shot. I thought of making the corner of the room visible and so her back is not against the hutch, if that makes sense. But then i worry it might take away from the story I want it to tell? And if i can even pull that off. haha. okay! I’m done now! So sorry for being so wordy!
You can feel free to make a post about it on tumblr, as others can always benefit from a critique! But if you just reply here, I don’t mind either. :) Thanks so much love!
So you found me out, I’m actually a total perspective junkie! I don’t use it a ton in my own work, weirdly enough, but drawing things in perspective is one of my secret artsy happy places. This stuff is like candy. :)
So first things first, composition aside, you do have a nice handle on perspective- while the composition can definitely use some tweaking, there’s definitely nothing innately wrong about your sketch! It’s just a matter of shaking up the camera angle a little bit and being less tied to that idea of “placing the horizon line.”
If you look at your current composition, it’s actually (almost!) a vertical 2-point perspective- if you rotate the image 90 degrees you’ll notice that one of the perspective planes is straight-on! Totally valid composition, but it also lacks the dynamism/imbalance that’s usually associated with full-on three-point perspective:
(Quick aside- props to you for taking the time to design/draw an actual clutch! I feel like a lot of people phone it in when they’re drawing environments, so the specificity and details you’re hinting at are really compelling. Makes the clutch a character in its own right.)
Let’s talk about designing three-point perspective in a small space.
So I find it immensely weird that a lot of perspective surveys stop at three-point perspective, or at least don’t touch on the fact that, once you bring the horizon into play, you have to take into account the fourth perspective point as objects start to diminish in the other direction. If you don’t, things look less like proper perspective and more like actual shape distortion:
…I’m not gonna go too deep into this right now but, suffice to say for our immediate purposes, forget the horizon line. Throw it out the window. INTO THE HORIZON you might say, hohohohoho.
In a (confined) indoor space, it takes tilting your head/camera pretty damn dramatically to get the vertical lines of a room to diminish á la three-point perspective. Because of this, you probably aren’t going to be able to see the horizon line from that camera angle- you’re either staring at the floor or the ceiling, so the horizon line becomes less of a tool and more of a crutch that’s limiting your options. That dude’s such an asshole.
So to make your life easier, worry less about horizon lines, and more about your individual vanishing points. When you’re thumbnailing, a great way to solidify your perspective (or come up with new ideas, honestly), is to do this:
If you want to push a vanishing point even further away you can just enlarge the pinwheel! pretty cut and dry.
Using compositional hierarchy to reflect narrative.
So now that we’ve covered the actual mechanics of three-point perspective, let’s talk about how to make it work for the story you’re trying to tell.
Option no. 1: (see above) My first instinct would be to consider shifting the camera angle so it’s looking down on her, as opposed to the other way around. It puts us, the viewer, in (or near) the position of the figure in the doorway, and has the added benefit of making her smaller and more vulnerable in the composition- it visually traps her in the space of the room by showing the surrounding walls.
Option no. 1b: never overestimate the value of tilting/canting a composition for a quick Dutch angle! Kinda cheating if you use it too much, but WHAM POW instant drama.
Option no. 2: There are an infinite number of variations on this idea- a sharper angle, cropping in closer on her, etc.- so my solution is by no means the PERFECT BEST COMPOSITION EVER, but it gives you some idea of a different direction you could take with this piece while maintaining your sense of drama/tension.
Option no. 3: Aaaaand of course, as I defiantly drew the previous angles, I started thinking about how it could work from her perspective, kinda closer to your original piece. I do agree with your concerns about a straightforward, “head-on” composition, so I’d imagine at that point you’d have to show the figure silhouetted in the door- your main character would be reacting either to his shadow, or turning to face him.
This methodology for finding narrative compositions is by no means an absolute rule of illustration, by the by- visually “choosing a side” is a great way to immediately interject some drama into an image, but it’s also entirely up to you! You want to end up with something you’re happy with.
Being a “fly in the room.”
One of the best pieces of advice I got from one of my professors, Mary Jane-Begin, was to be a fly in the room. We all tend to settle on certain camera angles, either out of convenience of experience, so letting your mind wander and just sketching out some absurd alternatives can help you stumble across something unexpectedly cool. :)
So tl;dr, it feels like you know what you want out of this piece- these might not be the exact solutions for your tastes, but they might be enough of a push in the right direction that you don’t feel like you’re stalling anymore. I hope all of this is helpful/relevant!
Best of luck, and I can’t wait to see the finished piece! CLAIRE OUT <3
Much like my leaf tutorial this is another crazy simple guide but it might help a few of you! I love to get a lot of thumbnail type ideas down first before I settle on something final so I like to use this quick method as a way of exploration, basic research into what I’m trying to achieve and a means of creating variety in my work (I hope!) On the flip-side I know a lot of people struggle with creating environments in general, this could be a good way to ease yourself into drawing them without getting too bogged down in details and technicalities, just blasting your ideas down onto a canvas!
i needed this
Hey kids! If you’re a filmmaker, animator, or storyboard artist and you don’t know what screen direction is, you might want to read this.
For the record, there are always exceptions to the rule in filmmaking, which is why I pointed out 3 examples here.
I’ve also found that comic books tend to NOT take screen direction as seriously as film does, but I’m still on the fence if this is wise or not. My favorite comics pay close attention to screen direction so as to not confuse the reader.
Phil Straub Composition Tutorial (go to the original page for much more information, pictures, and different types of composition)
The Golden Rule — “The golden rule can and usually is applied to a paintings canvas proportions. As you read through the following text you’ll notice that most of the imagery presented utilizes similar dimensions and almost all of them fall into the golden rectangle. Today you can find the Golden Rectangle almost everywhere: from credit cards to phone cards to book covers, all are shaped with its proportions.
The imagery below represents the division of space when the “golden rule” is applied to a blank canvas. Basically it is the division of a line in two sections, where the ratio between the smallest section and the largest section is identical to the ratio between the largest section and the entire length of the line. In other words A/B = B/(A+B). The ratio is about 1/1.618. Honestly, I’m still not exactly sure what that all means? but, I do know that I used this grid layout a-lot when I first started painting and found it helpful. I still do.”
Rule of Thirds— “From the golden rule came the “rule of thirds” which is virtually the same concept but slightly altered to fit photographic proportions. I find it a bit easier to follow since it’s very simple in its origin.Here we have a look at the rule of thirds in action.
Notice that the main focal point sits right almost directly over one of the “golden means.” Additionally, other objects are placed near the other converging lines (the bird, for example) but, not directly on them, since that would create competition for the focal point.”
Implied Forms (Circular) — “The Circle is made up of a continuous ‘Curve’ and it’s circular movement keeps the eye in the picture frame. There are many circles in nature and man made objects. You can use the circle in a very obvious way in your composition or simply suggest it.”
Implied Forms (Radii) — “Is a connection of ‘Lines’ meeting in the Center and an expansion of ‘Lines’ leaving the Center. The Radii is usually found in Nature Subjects. The best example of the man made Radii is the spokes of a wheel.
The eye has two ways to go when it comes upon the Radii. It can either be drawn in to the picture area or it can be led out of the picture area. You must be careful how you used the Radii and try to have the eye led into the picture.”
Cross composition — “A showing of ‘Opposing Force’ that will give the picture a feeling of Cohesion and Relationship. The horizontal bar of the Cross will act as a “stopper’ while the vertical pole can act as a leading line. The windows in a large skyscraper will form crosses and will keep your interest in the building.”
L Composition — “This makes an attractive ‘frame’. It can be used to accentuate important subjects. Many times it is a ‘frame’ within a ‘frame’.
A tree with an overhanging branch at the ‘right’ side of the picture area will form a ‘Rectangle’ and help frame the Main Subject in the picture. By doing this you will make the Center of Interest stand out and be noticed clearly.”
So I was chatting with the lovely Justin Oaksford yesterday, and he casually asked if I used photo reference for my recent Rolemodels piece- not as a bad thing, but because the pose and the camera angle read well. Pretty sure I grinned like an idiot when he brought it up because, goddammit, I’m proud that the work shows! I’ve felt like my work has been somewhat stilted as of late- I could feel myself subconsciously trending towards easier angles, easier poses, easier expressions just because it’s slightly less frustrating for my brain to process- so getting that confirmation from a colleague was pretty damn satisfying.
I think there’s a tendency for artists to take pride in being able to draw out of your head, and, while that’s an admittedly important skill, what’s actually important is what that skill implies- it implies that you’ve internalized reference. That you’ve spent so much time looking at the world around you, studying it, drawing from it, breaking it down, that you’ve amassed an extensive mental library that you can draw from. You are Google reborn in the shallow husk of a human being.
But heck, the world’s a big place- what are the chances that you ever get to a point that you’ve internalized all of it? Internalized it AND ALSO are never going to forget it ever? Probably no chance at all. Sorry buddy. So rather than bemoaning the fact that we don’t have impenetrable search engine cyborg brains- yet- you sure as hell better still be using reference to fill in/refresh those empty shelves in your mental library. You shouldn’t have worm-ridden books about dinosaur anatomy from the 60’s in there. Stegosauruses with brains in their tails? CLEAN THAT SHIT OUT.
So my general process for using reference of any sort is:
- loose thumbnails and brainstorming. If you have an idea, get that raw thing- unadulterated in it’s potential shittiness- onto paper. Good art is a combination of both instinct and discipline, so you don’t want to entirely discount those lightning strikes of brilliance. Or idiocy. Happens to all of us.
- research and reference. Start gathering and internalizing whatever reference is pertinent to your piece- could be diagrams, art, photos, good old-fashioned READIN’, whathaveyou. Please note that this doesn’t mean find one picture of a giraffe- this means find tons of photos of giraffes, read about giraffes, understand giraffes, and learn how to incorporate that knowledge into your art with purpose and intent (Justin uses the word “intent” a lot so I’m stealing it). Don’t blindly copy what you see, but understand how to integrate it in an interesting and informed manner.
- studies and practice. Could be lumped in with the previous step, granted, but it’s worth reiterating- if you’re drawing something new, it’s worth doing some studies. You discover things that you wouldn’t otherwise by just staring at them. It’s weird how I’m still learning this- “Gee golly, six-shooters are way easier to draw now that I’ve drawn a ton of them!” Yes wow Claire BRILLIANT. Gold star.
- go for the gold. Finally, I’m sure it goes without saying, you integrate all of that research and knowledge into your initial thumbnails. If you learned something about anatomy, or fashion, or color, or butts, now you can drastically improve your original idea with this newfound knowledge. Also, per the images above, this is also your chance to improve on the reference- photos are a fantastic tool, but trust your instincts. Cameras can’t make informed decisions.
…So that’s my soapbox- it’s pretty easy, and it’s totally worth it. Research and reference lets you stand on the shoulders of giants- it lends legitimacy, specificity, and allure to your work that wouldn’t be there if you were just drawing out of your head 100% of the time. To put it simply- it makes your work ownable. It makes you stand out.
It makes you a better artist. :)
This is awesome. Thank you!
This is as close to my own process as I could ever hope to post a tutorial of. In case anyone was wondering.
a new technique I found while working on my latest comic page. Thought I’d share the process!
I’m not sure if this is a really obvious tip, but I can’t believe I didn’t think of doing this earlier.
All those concrete walls I painted in perspective ;-; They could have been painted in 2d! Hope this is helpful to someone. I’m pretty excited to use this in future environment paintings