Spatial drawing, simply explained

We live in a world with three dimensions. And thus you often have to pay attention to the three dimensions in the graphical representation in order to draw a motive that appears realistically. For every motif usually extends in height, width and length - in three dimensions.
If you want to depict this correctly, you must learn how to sketch and draw spatially* correctly. Based on this, you can then practice the correct perspective drawing in order to display three-dimensional objects correctly.

An important basic rule, if you want to draw spatial: the same object always looks differently from different perspectives. Is comes due to the shape and the light / shadow, which describes the body. This applies to inanimate objects as well as to humans, animals or plants.

spatial still life in perspectiv
Example of a still life with spatial appearance

The perspective shortening

Perspective foreshortening is an effect that becomes particularly distinct when we view, from straight ahead, an object that stretches out into the distance. For example, we look at an outstretched arm or a branch directly from the front.

draw spatial foreshortening
Perspective foreshortening of a cylinder from various points of view

The drawing below is a further good example of perspective foreshortening. Here we see a man stretching out his arms to both sides. Our point of view as observers of the scene has been selected in such a manner that we are standing almost in a line with the stretched out arms. We can thus only guess at the length of the arms. This makes it quite difficult for us as illustrators to realistically draw the geometry of the arms including the clothing.

draw perspective foreshortening
Example of perspective foreshortening
The following painting served as a model: The Lord’s Supper in Emmaus by Caravaggio

The graphic problem arises out of the geometrical form that the arms and sleeves assume from this perspective. The geometry in this context is simply quite abnormal when it has to be drawn. The reason: What we need to draw here contradicts our pre-conception that arms, hands and fingers are long and thin. From our point of view however, these body parts rather assume the form of a circle.

Spatial drawing
Example of perspective foreshortening in a still life painting with scallions

Furthermore, a lot of “information” is compressed into very little space in this foreshortening of perspective. In our example here the wrinkles in the sleeve are compressed into the small surface area that we can see.

The foreshortening of perspective is also an effect that can be readily portrayed by using the technique of vanishing point perspective.  

Practice makes perfect

If you want to draw and paint spatial, you will find numerous other tips and tricks on this website. Some of them are also helpful for the representation and drawing of landscapes and perspective drawing. In the "Drawing Landscapes" section, you will find a few more tutorials, which deal with how to draw in perspective.

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