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How To Make Your Painting Realistic: Fundamental Rule Number 1
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How to Make Your Painting Realistic: Fundamental Rule Number 1

There are two fundamental aspects to the drawing and painting which, if your interest is any way connected to “realism” must be implemented. The first is Perspective and the second is the depiction of Form. Both of these aspects work together to create what people see as a

3 Dimensional effect. When you apply these two basic rules automatically and consistently you almost can’t fail to ensure that you’re the realism which you’re trying to get across rings true. In this article I want to concentrate on perspective. Please note that this is not a full explanation of how perspective work but more a plea to you, the artist, to keep it in mind as an absolute FUNDAMENTAL when approaching the task of depicting reality. There is plenty of material out there to show you the mechanics of this but I want to impress upon you just how essential this is to your art.

Simply put the law of perspective can be summarised in the following way:

Things that are nearer to you are bigger than things that are further away.

That’s it. A simple truth, but one, which is so often under-prioritised,or even forgotten in the rendering of reality. Briefly, how is this achieved, how do I quantify this and control this?

This is also as simple as the statement. Let’s imagine you’re drawing two trees in the garden (bear with me here, it’s a bit tricky explaining this without an illustration, hence the need for you to follow this up by checking out material dedicated to the mechanics of this). The tree further away is clearly smaller than the nearer tree. Now quantify this. Measure it, and I don’t mean with a measuring tape. Hold your arm straight out, almost rigid with the a pencil held vertically in the hand. Get the top of the tree to match the top of your pencil. Keeping this position work your thumb down the pencil until it matches the bottom of the tree. You now have the height of the tree as it appears to your eyes. Keeping this pencil measurement transfer it exactly onto the paper or canvas. This is your length and can also act as the basic measurement against which anything else can be measured and double checked. O.K., now use the same method to determine the width of the tree at the various points, trunk and branches etc.

You now have the basic dimensions of the first tree. Now do the same with the second tree but note where it starts and finishes in relation to the first tree. Is the top of the second tree higher, lower or at the same height as the first tree? If so, how high/low? Is it roughly a half , a third, a quarter of the first length you put on the paper? Where is the bottom of the trunk; is it half way up the tree, or more or less? You have your first measurement, remember, so measure using the pencil method and cross-reference this length in relation to your first measurement. Continue to compare all other measurements in this way, as it compares to the first measurement, that way the lengths and breadths of any objects you depict will be true.

Apply this method automatically and systematically to everything you wish to draw and you will always have a near perfect depiction. It is, for example, critical in figure drawing. Imagine you’re drawing a head from above; the top of the head will be nearer and therefore much bigger than the bottom where the chin sits. How much bigger depends on how systematically you measure and continually check it with your original measurement. Everything is our visual world complies to these laws, so all you have to do is follow them in the way I’ve described and you’ve got the basics for what could be a masterpiece. Have fun practicing and remember to always keep your arm rigid when making your measurements.

Street Talk

Great explanation! Will try it... probably a couple of hundred times in reality! Thanks Martin.

  about 6 years ago

Thanks Sherry. It's practicing it that actually makes it so much fun.

  about 6 years ago

Makes me want to run out and draw a tree! lol. Very well explained. I get it.... now if only I could translate that to paper ;-)

  about 6 years ago

Sorry I missed your comment earlier Heather, I somehow overlooked this! I just want to say I'm glad that I've inspired you ;-)

  about 6 years ago
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