I have two books on perspective, which I'll discuss together because they differ in interesting ways: Perspective! for Comic Book Artists
by David Chelsea and Vanishing Point: Perspective for Comics From the Ground Up
by Jason Cheeseman-Meyer.
The Chelsea is first notable for treating its subject matter in comic form, which makes it fun to read--I was reminded of Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics
and Making Comics
(indeed, the author cites McCloud as an influence). The introduction rather brilliantly introduces the question of why one would care about perspective in the first place, by showing a representation of the author himself being called up by an imaginary friend named "Mugg" (his head is shaped like a mug with a face on it, complete with a disconcerting handle sticking out the side) who is trying to draw a comic but running into perspective problems. Right away I could feel Mugg's pain, because I basically can't do anything but one-point perspective, and even then I struggle with knowing where to put the lines to make the heights of things look reasonable, ditto angles. I technically know how two- and three-point work, but I've never been able to use them in practice to make a picture that doesn't look weirdly distorted. (Exception: I can work from photographic or diagram reference, but in that case it's basically a cheat.) Anyway, in the comic narrative, the author walks to visit Mugg and passes by any number of beautifully rendered items (architecture, benches, even railroad tracks--there are always railroad tracks in these things) to illustrate perspective, and then we reach Mugg in his art studio and see his superhero comic sketches where the perspective is all wrong to the point where even I can tell.
Chapter two covers depth cues, including optical illusions and foreshortening. I think I should reread this in depth, in fact. Foreshortening the human figure, especially the arms, completely bollixes me up every time. :(
Chapter three discusses the picture plane, which I think
is talking about projective geometry. (Sorry, I donated that book on the mathematics of perspective because I couldn't get through it, but the material is out there for those who want to approach it from that angle.) Chapter four discusses the horizon and the vanishing point. The next chapters introduce one-, two-, and three-point perspective, followed by a special discussion of circles in perspective. The last two chapters deal with the human figure and with shortcuts.
Here's an example from a discussion of two-point perspective and floor plans:
Jason Cheeseman-Meyer's Vanishing Point
has a more conventional presentation from an instructional viewpoint. To my fascination, it describes not three types of perspective (one-, two-, and three-point, which I had learned about in 9th grade art class) but five
. Apparently there are also four- and five-point curvilinear perspectives! I find them very mysterious and have never attempted them, considering that I find regular perspective confusing enough, but it looks like you could get incredibly cool "fisheye" type effects with them.
Cheeseman-Meyer's book is well-organized into how-to pages, e.g. "draw a box in one-point perspective" or "the 90 degree cone of vision." There are apparently things called diagonal vanishing points (yeah, you can tell how long it's been since I last read this) that you can use to make your drawings more accurate for one-point. Tutorials give examples of using the material to produce a finished work. The one-point homework alone makes me quail:
To really grasp the lessons of one-point perspective, find a room that has good rectangular shapes in it (beds, dressers, coffee tables, etc.). Sit centered ot hte wall, and face the room flat-on. Draw what you see! (25)
I should do this sometime because it'd be good for me, but man, it'll take hours.
There's an extremely helpful section on drawing items rotated with respect to each other (answer: multiple grids, which admittedly gets visually confusing but I presume things like Photoshop have ways of dealing with this). Also a whole bunch on ellipses, circles, and cylinders, which can then form the foundation of things like human figures in perspective. Cheese-
Here's a very
useful tip on drawing foreshortened limbs in perspective, plus observations on cross sections and ground planes (67):
(Sorry--the book's pages are larger than my scanner's scanning area, so there's some truncation.)
I also liked the tutorial on how to draw a car--a nontrivial endeavor, considering the number of curves involved.
Cheeseman-Meyer then moves on to curvilinear perspectives with five-point, introduced first because it is (weirdly) the curvilinear equivalent of one-point. (I have no idea how the math works, by the way, so please don't ask me! Although if you want to explain it to me, I'm all ears. I have yet to find an explanation of perspective that makes it feel really intuitive to me.) Four-point is apparently the two-point equivalent. And then there is something called infinite-point perspective, but at that point my brain breaks.
The last part of the book is devoted to such topics as where to put the horizon line for different kinds of perspective, using floor plans (I desperately need to study this section), using thumbnails, and various tricks and shortcuts.
The short version of this post is that these are both great books, but they take different approaches. There's something appealing to the Chelsea's thoroughness with more basic topics (which I need), but it doesn't discuss curvilinear perspective at all, so if you need that, the Cheeseman-Meyer is worth picking up. I like having both on my shelf and I should probably actually draw a picture someday that requires me to use
perspective so I start getting practice.