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The Basics of Drawing #2: Introducing Perspective
A Multi-Age Art Level Lesson

by Elaine Ernst Schneider

January  26, 2001 

Leonardo Da Vinci: The Complete Paintings by Pietro C. Marani
Leonardo Da Vinci: The Complete Paintings
Drawing With Children : A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too 
by Mona Brookes
Drawing With Children : A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too
Ed Emberley's Big Green Drawing Book



The first thoughts toward imagining a drawing must include perspective. Shaping and measuring are good tools for gaining an overall “feel” for the drawing you want to produce. It is important to be able to determine width against height. A good rule of thumb is to make the subject of the drawing stand four units and make the width 3 units. In other words, the width should be approximately ¾ of the height. There is no need to actually use a ruler. Place your thumb on your pencil and roughly “guestimate” the height. Imagine where on the pencil ¾ would measure and seek to make the width of the drawn subject within an approximate range of that. 

Next imagine what shape can be drawn in around the subject. For a tree, for example, perhaps you might want to lightly pencil in a rectangle, standing tall from top to bottom. This will help you keep the tree in proportion as you being to draw. Even round or cylindrical objects can be fit into boxes. A good trick is to imagine sending the item in a box as a gift. What size/shape box would you have to locate? Leonardo da Vinci was a master of using geometric designs for proportion and perspective in his art work.   For Leonardo’s famous painting, The Last Supper, he first arranged a stream of rays radiating out from Christ’s eyes. The disciples were seated along the lines of the rays. For the Mona Lisa, Leonardo worked within the shape of a truncated cone while with St. Anne, Virgin and Child, he worked within a pentagon. 

Think of a subject for your drawing. Decide what shape you might place it within. If possible, look at the real object. Compare the shape you first imagined with the shape you believe it would actually fit in best. For instance, at first blush, you might consider drawing an apple within the shape of a circle. But upon closer examination, one might find the apple better suited for placement within a rectangle, as apples in reality are not truly round.

Take a blank piece of paper. Decide how large you want your art subject to be. Draw in a shape 4 parts to 3 as explained in the first paragraph. Be sure the shape you choose is best for your subject. Now, begin to draw, fitting the subject of your drawing into the perspective you have established. 

With younger children:  Younger children love the fascination of shapes. This might be a great time to discuss triangles, circles, cones, pentagons, and more!

With the more mature artist: Study some of Leonardo da Vinci’s work. His blending of geometry and art is fascinating. Leonardo believed and espoused that all knowledge dove-tailed from one branch to another. Based on this theory, Leonardo made geometry the basis of his paintings.

Art as a Thematic Cross-Curriculum Teaching Tool: Study measurement in math. Students on any and every level can find measurement exercises, from inches compared to millimeters and centimeters in elementary grades to determining angle degrees in triangles for older students.

For Added Impact:  Once you have determined the shape within which the subject will be drawn, consider turning the shape sideways or tilting it at an angle to create a different effect.

Have fun! 

Links of Note
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Submitted by:  © Elaine Ernst Schneider  is a freelance writer and a teacher. She has been writing since high school and has published articles, songs, and children's work. Today, she writes curriculum for several companies, as well as freelance articles on education and is the co-founder and Managing Editor for the educational website Visit her art website
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