View Full Version : Perspective?

03-30-2004, 08:19 AM
It's funny that just yesterday I was thinking where to post this question and today I stumbled upon this forum. :) My problem is: when painting ships, how do you determine where the sea horizon would be? It is a problem with painting moored ships, because when the ship is sailing on the open sea, it does not show so much. So how do you determine the perspective with which the ship is painted and the proper height of the horizon? :confused:

Thanks for any help.


03-30-2004, 06:10 PM
It all depends on the scene you are trying to convey Veronika. As wuth any picture you try not to cut your picture in half with the horizon. A pretty fair rule of thumb is 1/3 to 2/3.

If you have 1/3 sky and 2/3 sea then you'll likely have a boat close up in the foreground giving the impression of a large expanse of water behind (ie. a far off horizon).
eg. http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/30-Mar-2004/8538-Edge_Andrea_and_Dinghy_L.jpg

This works just the same if you have a picture in a harbour where you're not actually showing the horizon line.
wg. http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/30-Mar-2004/8538-Edge_Dinghy_Orig_L.jpg

If you reverse the proportions and have 2/3 sky and 1/3 sea then you'll likely have one or several boats higher in the water with regards to the horizon line giving the impression of distance to the boats rather than just behind them.
eg. http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/30-Mar-2004/8538-Edge_Safe_Harbour_Blakney_L.jpg

I posted these just as simulated line drawings - I thought that may give you a better idea of what I mean. Hope this helps.

Alan Cross
03-31-2004, 02:30 AM
Yes there are many answers for this one.....I do lots of boat painting and just go by feel....good to have nice ref shots....try the RIL
Alan :)

03-31-2004, 08:17 AM
Joy and Alan, thanks a lot for your replies. Joy, I really appreciate the pictures you attached. Having read your explanation I realise now that the only remaining problem is to determine how the height of the sea horizon with respect to the ship changes when the viewer's standpoint changes, that is, standing higher or lower. (Sorry for the atrocious style, I've just finished a technical report and it shows. :) I mean if I look at the ship from above, I'll see the horizon lower and vice versa...) Apparently the basic rules of perspective have to be applied, but these ships have no straight horizontal lines! :eek:

OK, I'll go look at some more reference photos.

BTW I uploaded one of my photos of boats to RIL to be able to produce line drawings. :)
The photo is here: http://www.wetcanvas.com/RefLib/showphoto.php?photo=29859

Thanks for help.

07-25-2012, 04:36 PM
This is further confused when there is wind and waves. The laws of perspective going to a vanishing point on the horizon only apply if the sea or lake is "dead calm"

07-25-2012, 05:53 PM
Here is an trick I was shown once. I am a visual learner so this helped me:

get a shoebox.
put it on the Dining Room table:eek:

get as far back from the table as you can
note the perspective lines of the box (ship, car, house)
now get on your knees and see how every thing changes

where are you looking at the ship? as a bird? from another ship?
from a rowboat? did they just make you walk the plank and you are looking up, hoping.....:(

how far away are you ?

all these things affect the perspective lines of the ship, and how much of the ship is seen in the canvas

if you are a pirate climbing up the side of the ship your perspective really warps, as it does if you are way up in the lookout at the top of the mast looking down.:eek:

and as noted, if the ship is yawing, rolling, and pitching then you have to still follow the laws of perspective. Having a shoebox to look at while you are working helps me, because I can tilt it to the correct angles

Hope this is not too confusing, I can explain things better when I am holding the box in my hand and you are watching me, bedazzled by my brilliance :lol:

life is good


07-27-2012, 01:09 PM
All this discussion just shows what a complicated subject this is. I can remember once painting a picture of a trawler in the trough of a large wave. There was no horizon visible but I had to paint the boat as if there was one in order to get the sighting point and then 'draw' the curves of water and threatening nature of the surrounding sea away from it. A fascinating subject! Ady