People new to sketching very quickly run into the concept of point of view, and associated with it come discussions of perspective. Point of view is simply where your eyes are relative to the subject you’re drawing. If you’re looking up at your subject the horizon is below your subject. Looking down on the subject puts the horizon above the subject. And we’re told this is important because perspective lines converge to the horizon.
It’s about this time that we vow never to draw a building – the subjects used to teach us this stuff. We generally acknowledge that a band on a stage is above us, a truck in a quarry is below us, and when we draw them we draw them with different points of view without really thinking about it. The notion of horizon, though, is not part of the internal debate, at least in my case.
It should be, though. I’ve just learned that the old “eye-level line”, or horizon can still be mighty important and I thought I’d share with you my error and discovery. The results of being new at a skill is often not pretty, but it can be funny and even insightful.
I was wandering the Quebec City downtown area when I came across a guy leaning against a lamp post and playing saxophone. I’m still not much of a sketch artist but I decided to draw him. I dropped a buck in his sax case and started to draw. I drew the guy, the sax, and the lamp post. It takes me a long time to do such things, mostly because my eraser gets more work than my pencil and pen, and so at this point I packed up and walked home. That evening I realized my guy wasn’t standing on anything so I drew a couple lines to indicate the curbs along the sidewalk he was standing on. I put the sketch away.
A couple days later I was looking at the sketch and realized that something was wrong. Apparently, I’d managed to draw this guy while I was standing on a forty-foot ladder in the middle of the street. That wouldn’t have been a bad thing if I’d planned it, but I hadn’t. How did that happen and why didn’t it look that way as I was drawing it?
It turned out that the answer was contained in those two short lines I’d added on a whim. I scanned the sketch and erased them. Then I added some others. I kept playing with this until I got the point of view shuffled around to the way it was when I was drawing. Here’s the result.