Get Some Perspective

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 11870

"Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time." (Steven Wright) It's all about perspective, and the same is true — in a different way — in art. Learn how to use the art of illusion!


Visual Arts

Fine Arts
learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • If you look out an open window, or down a long, straight road, why do things seem to get smaller as they get further away?
  • How does that translate to art work?

The world is full of strange optical illusions, many of which we have simply gotten used to in our daily life.

For example, if you put a spoon in a glass of water, it appears to be split where it enters the water. Little kids still notice these funny tricks of the light, but as we get older, we accept them and then forget about them. A really important visual oddity that is actually really important to our survival is perspective.

Perspective is the way in which objects appear to get smaller and smaller as they get farther away. Think about the famous railroad track example:

  • If you imagine standing between two railroad tracks and looking to the horizon, what happens to the tracks as they approach the horizon?

They appear to get closer and closer together until they come together in a single point. In drawing terms, that single point is called a vanishing point.

Perspective is very useful in our everyday life, although we usually take it for granted. It helps us determine the distance and relationship between objects. That's important if you're crossing a busy street or trying to escape a wild bear!

The funny thing is that it took hundreds of years for European artists to go from flat, 2D drawings to more realistic-looking drawings that incorporated perspective.

Read Perspective in Art — Conjuring the Space about the history of this development. As you read, write down information and ideas that answer the following questions.

  • What techniques characterized pre-Renaissance art, according to the author?
  • How did Renaissance artists create the illusion of deep space in their paintings?
  • What are the key terms associated with perspective according to the article?

Then, reflect on the following questions.

  • In what ways does perspective add more impact to a work of art?
  • How do you think an artist creates the illusion of perspective in his or her art?
  • How do the terms you learned in the article apply to Raphael's work, School of Athens?

Armed with some of the key concepts involved in creating perspective, you are ready to see how it is really done. In the Got It? section, watch an artist apply some of those concepts in drawing a room with one-point perspective.

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