2. HANDLING PERSPECTIVE
There is pronounced geometric and aerial perspective in the photograph and the technicalities have been discussed before in the Watercolour Handbook
So let’s start by establishing the horizon and locating the vanishing points on our reference photo by drawing along the horizontals on the face of the buildings for transfer to our paper. This is done by drawing along the roof lines, window and door heads to locate the vanishing points which lie on the horizon.
Note the vanishing point for the left and right sides of the street is the same, as the buildings are conveniently parallel. The horizon line in this case passes through the heads of the pedestrians as the street is level with the viewer. This can vary if the street is sloping toward or away from the viewer – the horizon being a level line at the height of the viewer. I have also indicated that all verticals are vertical – it is rare that vertical perspective needs to be taken into account, and that the sides of the buildings, which are at a slight angle to the viewer should strictly slope to vanishing points which are a some distance off each side of the photograph. As the sides of the buildings are almost at 90 degrees to the viewer I have chosen to ignore them If the buildings were at a more pronounced angle then they would have to slope to vanishing points off the paper.
If the street was curved, or buildings were not parallel, then each building would have a different vanishing point, but they would all lie on the horizon line as in this photograph of Knaresborough, Yorkshire which is the subject of a separate thread:
Having established the horizon line and the vanishing point/s, on the reference, transfer them to the paper by a process of measuring the photo and scaling up to establish a basic framework on our paper for our sketch. The horizon line is used as a basis for all the horizontal and vertical lines, and your long ruler and vanishing point to put in the perspective lines, pivoting one end of the ruler on the VP and drawing in the roof lines, window heads etc.
I have to admit it looks very complicated, but if we take it slowly, feature by feature it will prove do-able. In fact it will be much easier than it looks. I suggest for this scene you use a minimum paper size of 16 x 12 inches or larger – a half sheet would be better and make the drawing in of detail much easier.
It is not intended to cramp anyone’s style here, but to show how to get an accurate framework with correct perspective, and how to approach adding detail.
If you are not confident at a double sided street, you could try an oblique photograph of one side of a street with a single main vanishing point such as this one of River Street, Manistee, Michigan:
Note: there is also a right hand vanishing point for the sides of the shop roofs which is off the paper..
A larger copy is in the RIL here
3. SCALING UP
Accuracy is important when doing your sketch and although the easiest way is to take the photo down to the copy shop and have it enlarged to the size of your paper, using a light box or transfer paper to transfer it to your paper, scaling up is more flexible and can cater for any paper size.
Here I have printed out the reference photo and laid it on my 16x12 Langton pad. The diagonal ruler is used to ensure that the proportions of the painting are the same as the reference. This is important. The scale factor is calculated measuring the frame on the pad then the width of the photo and dividing one by the other I get a scale factor in my case 1.33. Everything I measure on the photo will therefore be multiplied by 1.33 to scale it up to fit the paper. I use millimetres and a pocket calculator as they make the mathematics easier.
The next step is to locate the horizon line, vanishing point and the corners of the buildings on the photograph, and by measuring from the edge of the photo and multiplying by the scale factor establish these points on the paper. Once the important corners are established, vertical, horizontal or perspective lines can be drawn as appropriate. I use a rolling ruler
for this which makes it easy to draw parallel lines. In this way the framework for the buildings is plotted on the paper. You can also use a set square and a ruler to draw parallel lines as shown
Note: I show an easy method for getting the line of the mountain top correct by measuring along and down from a horizontal line and scaling up. Normally I would put this in by eye.
In this example all horizontal lines of buildings facing the street slope to the same Vanishing Point.
Here’s my resulting framework. Note there are no details on the buildings at this stage, nor any street furniture, people or cars they will be added building by building as we go along. Note: I was a little heavy with the pencil so that they would show up in the photograph. I added the sky before going any further, I always do this on landscapes as a horrible sky can ruin hours of work. I used a mixture of French Ultramarine Blue and Cobalt Blue, turning the paper upside down which makes following the edge of buildings or mountains easier and often results in a slightly graduated wash, darker at the top.
REMINDER : Please post all questions and work in the “Homework” thread.