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Implementing the Visual Thinking and Perspective in Drawing

"Drawing is an illustration of the soul. The better you draw, the stronger your soul gets." - P.S. Tavishi

You need to be a keen observer to become a proficient artist. Before you pick up your pencil to draw, let’s dig deep into the visual relationships that exist around you.

As you begin, you’ll be amazed to see forms that you never knew existed. This will help you improve your drawing skills, change your perception of the surroundings, and enhance your observation skills.

Consider the base dimensions

Whether you are drawing on paper or digitally, every base has its predefined dimensions. You must think about its edges, boundaries, and enclosed field. Plan your drawing in a way such that it complements the base perimeter as well as its external shape.

The page orientation depends on the flow of elements to be drawn

The page orientation depends on the flow of elements to be drawn

Consider the page orientation

Both physics and digital papers have varying sizes and shapes such as rectangular, square, round, freeform, and many more. Not every drawing works best in landscape mode (rectangular shape), you need to orient your page in a manner that best fits your subject. Sometimes it’s confusing if the drawing would look better in landscape or portrait mode. To erase the confusion, figure out where lies the highest emphasis, you need to observe the subject carefully. Does it flow vertically? Does it emphasize the upward movement? One such example is a boy kicking a football. It can be drawn both vertically and horizontally depending on how his kicking style.

Along with your drawing, the edges of the paper are also a part of the whole composition. If you use parallel lines with respect to the paper edges, it offers directional strength to the sides. On the other hand, drawing non-parallel lines make the art more visually active. This means diagonal and curved lines become effectual with a rectangular form, while parallel lines are more forceful. For a circular page, curved lines complement the circumference while vertical and horizontal lines can create virtual tension.

Consider the flow of your drawing with respect to the edges

The moment you begin to draw, you have started to build a composition within the internal space. Your drawing may have different purposes and subjects. For each of them, here are a few things to consider.

Open and Closed Compositions

Your drawing is going to be either open or closed. Let’s discuss each of them starting with open composition.

Open Composition

Open Composition

Open Composition

In open composition, when you draw, the page is an open field. Your composition goes forever and dissolves with the edges. A viewer perceives there’s more to the drawing than what is visible.

How to draw Open Composition

You can draw an open composition while sitting in your room and looking at a specific object. In this, you aren’t focused on a single object rather perceiving the complete scenery and dubbing it into your peripheral vision. Your vision is not limited by boundaries. It is going beyond your focus means there’s more for viewers to see than what your drawing offers. This is how an open composition comes into the picture.

The image above shows open composition at its best. There are a bottle and some apples partially visible. You know there’s more to it like a fruit basket, a table, and maybe a few glasses as well.

Closed Composition

Closed Composition

Closed Composition

In closed composition, you stick to the edges and draw everything contained within it. Your composition highlights the edges, sometimes it may be parallel to the edges. The elements echo the boundaries and a viewer can witness each and every action.

How to draw Closed Composition

Focus steadily on a single object. Your focus is not hindered by your peripheral vision. For you, there’s just that object rest everything is beyond boundaries and doesn’t concern you. Here, you have envisioned a closed composition.

The example is given in the image above where the fruits and bottle are all covered within the edges. You understand there’s nothing else to view and the whole story is complete.

Camera's viewfinder

Camera's viewfinder

Consider using a viewfinder for your next composition

While using a camera, you must have used a viewfinder to compose a perfect well-balanced picture. A viewfinder helps you place the object in a frame aesthetically.

Similarly, drawing has to compose too. You have to transform a three-dimensional world into a two-dimensional field. Some artists do and some don’t use a viewfinder to compose life sceneries. Experienced ones don’t need it, but beginners can take huge benefit of this tool.

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A viewfinder lets you view the world in a rectangular form. It also lets you predict how the composition would go through the edges. It has variations: it can be a modular grid or based on the Rule of Third technique. We are going to discuss the latter here.

Viewfinder using Rule of Thirds technique

Viewfinder using Rule of Thirds technique

Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds is a compositional grid used in a viewfinder by various artists like photographers, painters, and designers. It is an asymmetrical way of enhancing visual interest and achieving the perfect balance. The main purpose of this technique is to avoid placing the focal point at the center of your art. It also prevents the separation of your composition in half, which means, the whole picture looks connected and vibrant.

How the Rule of Thirds is used?

The page (in the case of photography, it’s called a frame) is divided into 9 equal parts as a modular gird. This is done with four lines that divide the page into vertical and horizontal thirds. According to the Rule of Thirds, the most interesting elements of your drawing must be placed on or nearby the four intersection points of the four lines.

As per the design experts, the viewers become more engaged if the point of interest is drawn along these intersection points instead of leaving it at other areas or the center. In the case of portraits, the rule helps you draw the eyes and face at the most impactful location on the page.

Sky occupies more than 2/3rd of the surface as per the Rule of Thirds

Sky occupies more than 2/3rd of the surface as per the Rule of Thirds

Sky occupies less than 1/3rd of the surface as per the Rule of Thirds

Sky occupies less than 1/3rd of the surface as per the Rule of Thirds

In landscape mode, the rule helps you place the horizon at the right location. The general principle says to place the horizon near either of the horizontal lines to avoid separating the page into two. This can be better understood with an example. Let’s say you are drawing beach scenery. You are drawing the beach and sky. The beach is supposed to be in the foreground while the sky is in the background. However, as per the rule of thirds, if the sky looks more compelling than you should give it more space i.e. 2/3rd, and draw the beach in the remaining 1/3rd. In case the beach appears more revealing, then draw the reverse.

The intersections are pretty important in suggesting the appropriate setting for primary elements. You still need to make judgments regarding balance and counterpoint all by yourself, though. After working with this rule for a while, you’ll learn to develop aesthetic arts and then, you can forget the viewfinder for good.

The modular grid ratio (0.666) is closely related to the golden section (0.618). Due to this, the rule of thirds is also called the golden grid rule. Plenty of artists for centuries has used this method to develop remarkable proportions, which many have praised to be aesthetically pleasing.

A must-watch video to better understand Rule of Thirds to improve your drawing

Consider the spatial depth of the plane

The plane is a two-dimensional surface that’s blank as well as totally flat. The moment you begin to run your pencil over it, the whole appearance begins to transform. This also affects the depth and edges of the plane. Depending on the drawing, your plane can be subdivided into three sub-planes:

  1. Foreground (the surface that appears closest to the viewer)
  2. Middleground (the surface that appears between foreground and background)
  3. Background (the surface that appears furthermost away from the viewer)

These sub-planes help you achieve the illusion of three-dimensional space. To do so, keep the elements in the foreground bigger, brighter (if needed), and more detailed than the other two planes. In art, as the distance between the elements and a viewer increases, they become smaller and somewhat darker.

Try to draw strawberry using your visual memory

Try to draw strawberry using your visual memory

Consider the visual relationships

When you hear the term “strawberry”, you instantly form a mental picture of sweet red fruit. However, when you are planning to draw it, you have to keep aside the former notion. Instead, you need to carefully observe strawberry as if it’s right in front of you, use your perception skills. (This is a very important lesson.)

What are the strawberry’s shape and form? What are its colors? Where does it exist in space? What’s its size with respect to other objects? How can you transform its three-dimensional form into a two-dimension? The more you take inspiration from your surroundings and memories, the better artist you can become. With practice, your memory is enough for great masterpieces like manga artists and painters.


Consider the visual equanimity

Let’s say you are drawing a bowl full of strawberries placed on a table. To give a perfect space to each entity, you have to make comparisons among forms to draw a well-balanced composition, which you can call visual equanimity.

Here are important factors you need to think about before drawing.

  1. Which strawberries need to be bigger than the other?
  2. Which ones need to be shown partially and completely?
  3. What should be the strawberry’s size in comparison to the bowl?
  4. What should be bowl size that looks suitable for carrying fruits?
  5. What will be the size of their composition on the page?

Consider the overlaps and spaces between objects

It’s comparatively easy to get the hang of drawing a strawberry, bowl, and table. The complexity arises when you need to draw a bunch of strawberries placed together in a round object.

For this, you need to draw a mental picture of

  1. How each strawberry should be placed?
  2. How they overlap each other (overlapping is essential to create an illusion of depth)?
  3. What should be the spatial relationship among them?
  4. When including space, what should be the objects’ shapes?
  5. Where should the bowl be placed? Will it be near the table end, or at the center?
  6. Where should be the table placed? Will it be in the center of the room or near the wall?

Your skill to observe visual relationships is the most important factor in making you an exceptional artist

To draw something out of the real world, you don’t use a ruler to measure anything. Indeed, you need to use your visual skills and make determinations. You have to:

  1. Mentally determine the size (length, breadth, and height) and scale of the objects with respect to each other.
  2. Figure out the basic shape of an object, whether it’s a circle, sphere, ellipse, square, or rectangle.
  3. Determine the individual and group proportions of each object
  4. Visually determine objects’ positive and negative space from each other
  5. Consider the lighting and shadows as well as the color whether it’s warm or cool
  6. Understand your point of view, if you are viewing the object from front, behind, side, above, below, far away, or nearby
  7. Study the scenery for foreshortening i.e. to shorten the object in order to create an illusion of projection in space

Don’t worry about how you ‘should’ draw it. Just draw it the way you see it.

— Tim Burton


Try your drawing skills with what you have at hand. You can assemble a few items from your kitchen or even put together a bundle of your clothes and throw them into shambles (obviously you need to clean the mess later).

All I am saying is you can use your surroundings in any manner possible to improve your visual instincts. This will help you understand how different objects overlap each other, what are their sizes in relation to one another, and how they can be given perfect illusion in your drawing. Keep trying unless you feel confident with your visual memory.

Next you need to read

  • How to Make Use of Perspective Drawing in Anime and Manga?
    Perspective Drawing is the representation of an image as it is seen by a human eye. Synonym with linear projection, such drawing is based on a principle that the objects begin to appear smaller with their increasing distance from the viewer.

© 2020 Prachi Sharma

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