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Early Theory of Perspective

Illustration Friday

Early Theory of Perspective

  1. The world is flat and ends at the horizon.
  2. As you get closer to the horizon you get smaller and smaller until….
  3. You fall off the edge and disappear…
  4. And that’s why it’s called the “vanishing point.”

This week’s Illustration Friday challenge is the word “Theory.” Since I’ve been re-learning perspective and reading about the progression of artists’ attempts to create the illusion of depth and space, I thought I’d propose my own history of what the earliest thoughts about perspective might have been.

My continuing exploration of perspective has led to me making a fool of myself as I walk around, closing one eye and putting my hands up to match the angles on buildings and trees as I look for vanishing points and check how angles and lines relate to one another.

I tried to demonstrate to some co-workers as we went out foraging for lunch how the horizon is relative to the individual viewing it, not a fixed location. Nobody was going for it though, either trying to prove me wrong or having more important things to think about, like whether they were in the mood for soup or salad.

Here’s what my favorite book (so far) on perspective says about the horizon:

Eye level rises and falls with the level of your eye, wheher you are down near the floor, sitting, standing, in a tall building, or in an airplane. The eye-level plane extends an infinite distance in all directions and at a remote distance coincides with the horizon, which the eye level is often called.

I can’t really explain why this concept so intrigues me, but I just can’t get over it. I loved the way Brittney Gilbert, writer of’s blog “Eye on Blogs,” titled her link to my recent post: “The Horizon is You-Dependent.”

It just makes me wonder what other facts of life that I’ve taken for granted are only perceptual, not actual. Is reality completely subjective?

11 replies on “Early Theory of Perspective”

What a thoughtful entry! I’ve just been so SLOW to get to IF I missed several opportunities to illustrate and be seen. Luigi Pirandello famously said, “It is so, if you think it’s so.” And on the other hand, “Reality always wins.”


Wonderful illustration, Jana!! Yes, ‘you’ dependent is such a mind-boggling idea! Reminds me of the — what was it called — the theory that the minutest particle — smaller than atoms — were influenced by the ‘eye’ watching them … ever read “The Zen of Physics?” — reminds me of all that — and yes, makes my mind spin!


Good theory! I have also been reading about perspective resently. The perspective is really in the eye of the beholder. I also saw your post about lerning to see color. A very good book about how to see and mix right colors is “Color” by Betty Edwards. Great descriptions and exercises. I really recommend the book.


I think about this with color too. When we both look at something “red” do we see the same thing? or do we each see something different that we have learned to call “red.” Hard to explain, but I’m sure you probably know what I mean.


8 Joyce : I have had that question too in the past and remember asking that of my science teacher in seventh grade. Because rods and cones and color and is also mathematically measurable concerning light waves, we can be certain that red for me is red for you. Other things are not so simple in life. Perception is reality in the psyche area concerning painful memories and emotions.


Interesting comments on perspective. I learned in architecture school, even wrote computer programs to calculate and render perspectives from blueprints (so that’s what trigonometry is for!), but it is still a challenge when putting pencil to paper.

I admire how you’ve delved into this research and are absorbing it all: I could use a refresher!


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