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Perspective drawing is on the wrong side of your brain

Perspective drawing is on the wrong side of your brain

Here is an excerpt from this week’s lessons for grades 3 – 12


This week we’re teaching how to draw one of the most basic shapes, the cube. However, this is really about perspective, and seeing past the preconceptions our brains put in our way and that prevent accuracy.

While the system of artist’s perspective is a great tool, it is very complex, and uses the analytical, non-creative part of the brain. It is extremely difficult for artists to truly understand perspective drawing. Why is that? I believe it’s because it is nearly impossible for anyone to work out of both the creative and the analytical parts of the brain at the same time. So, to use the system takes training and discipline to jump back and forth between these two modes of thinking, at just the right times. Learning it takes time and dedication on a level that is simply not possible for most young people. Even the most ambitious and brilliant kids will not be able to try this until the age of 15 or more.

So we just don’t go there. What we want to do though, is to help young artists draw more accurately, as easily as possible, and to prepare them for perspective when they are ready to learn such a complex system. Our approach is concrete and simple, using ideas that are familiar, and with visual demonstrations that are fun and surprising.


There are 3 core concepts


First, we have re-named perspective as viewpoint drawing, and placed an emphasis on the specific position of the eye in relation to the subject, as the source of every viewpoint. This is a much more concrete way to think about the idea of perspective.

Most people believe that you draw things from your knowledge of them, and the idea that drawing “without even looking” is more impressive than careful observation, persists against all evidence to the contrary.

Every subject has millions of different viewpoints in the 3-dimensional space around it. Your eye can move near and far, up and down, and also right and left. Even a small change in viewpoint can significantly change how an object is drawn. The problem is that most artists draw from memories of multiple viewpoints, and also incorporate misconceptions about objects – such as the fact that a cube has a perfectly square side instead of seeing the diamond shape in front of you.

A clear plastic cube helps a lot. But what really helps is learning to see clearly.

2. THINGS GET SMALLER (when they are farther from your eye)

Everyone intuitively knows this, so it’s a great starting point. Our brains compensate for perspective though, and we cannot quite see the amount of difference without training. We show how things actually get much smaller than you think. Then we apply this easy to remember concept to drawing shapes accurately.

3. THINGS GET FLATTER (when they are closer to the height of your eye)

Another idea that our brains compensate for when we look at things, is how much things get flatter the higher they are (until they are the same height as our eyes and become a flat line). Add to this, the fact that the ground, and tables, are all flat. This causes us to flatten things backwards, making things flatter the closer they are to the flat ground, and less flat when they are close to our eye height.

Together, these 3 concepts will be much more likely to improve the accuracy of your student’s drawings than trying to teach 1-point, 2-point, vanishing points, horizon lines, and divisions. We’ve tried to make it as fun as possible.

Because the world needs happy artists.
Dennas Davis

About The Author

Dennas Davis

Dennas is the founder of Firstlight Arts Academy in Nashville, and also of The Art Instructor (formerly ArtSquish). He has been designing, painting, illustrating and teaching in various combinations since he learned how to hold a crayon. He is the illustrator of 24 children’s books with over 5 million in print worldwide.
See his paintings at

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