From here to infinity

5th March 1999 at 00:00

Martin Child takes an in-depth look at drawing the right perspective

Representing the three-dimensional world on a two-dimensional surface is a challenging process. Egyptian, Japanese and Indian cultures all produced images which offered no concession to the fact that objects appear to diminish in size as they move further into the distance, and in Europe it was not until the early 15th century that artists devised perspective as a way of depicting depth on a flat plane.

However, linear perspective has its limitations and Leonardo da Vinci was one of the first artists to experiment with curvilinear perspective, which offers a more convincing representation of how we see objects. Artists have developed and refined methods of using perspective and in the 20th century have often thrown out the rule book and deliberately invented their own ways of representing reality.

To break the rules, however, you first have to understand them. As a system for representing depth, perspective is a valuable tool and is a concept which should be introduced in its simplest form to pupils towards the end of key stage 2, with increasing complexities and subtleties taught as students progress through key stages 3 and 4.

Although all art teachers deal with perspective, it can be stimulating to take a fresh look at a the subject. An Introduction to Perspective investigates the many ways of representing the world. It details the history of the subject and goes on to deal with single-point, two-point and three-point perspective. There are exercises to try, including demonstrations on how to depict circles and curves in perspective.

Methods for showing atmospheric perspective, how to represent inclined planes, and ways of depicting reflections and shadows are also considered. Curvilinear projections are shown, along with other approaches that artists have taken, including the "joiner" photographs by David Hockney and the extraordinary interiors of Anthony Green.

Illustrated throughout in colour, the resources pack has many practical examples, augmented by the works of many artists. The book is appropriate for adults and older pupils, and as a reference volume it will be a very useful addition to the art room or school library. Some of the step-by-step demonstrations are obviously aimed at the amateur art market, but much of the material is useful.

The paperback is contained within a box which also has hinged rulers, drawing frames, grids, pads of squared and isometric paper and even a model of Escher's Impossible Triangle.

* Dorling Kindersley 9 Henrietta Street, London WC2E 8PS. Tel: 0171 836 5411. Website:

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