Learn How to Sketch - Hints on Sketching

How to sketch. - The drawing of a cathedral with all its complexities and innumerable details is governed by the same rules as the drawing of a barn or even of a brick, and these rules are simple, and are easily stated.
In sketching we have to draw things as they seem, not as we know them to be.
The top of a bucket is a perfect circle; yet when we draw it, unless we look down upon it from a point exactly above its centre, we represent it by an oval.
Similarly, when we look along a stretch of railway line we know that the lines are exactly parallel, but they seem to draw nearer to each other.
The rails of a fence are of equal height, and have been put at equal distances apart, but as we look along the fence it seems as though further away the workman had used shorter posts, and had put them nearer together.
If we can see through a railway tunnel, it looks as though the way out at the other end were smaller than the way in at this; but we know they are of the same size.
The rules under which lines seem to draw together and spaces become smaller have been called the rules of perspective, and it is important that we should learn these rules.
Luckily they are few and not difficult to understand, and we will learn them as we go along in drawing a few simple forms that shall include them.
In Fig. 1 we have a box, its corner towards us.

In the box itself the lines A B, C D, and E F would be the same distance from each other from end to end, and if they were made ever so long would never meet, but here in the drawing they meet at G.

In the same way the lines A H, C E, and D F, which in the actual box are parallel or equi-distant and so draw no nearer to each other, meet in the drawing at I.

In the drawing, as in reality, the lines E H, C A, and D B are parallel, and would never meet, however far we might lengthen them.

The lines of the brass round the key-hole follow the same rules.
Let this box illustrate another matter.
We move it into a slightly different position, so that we almost lose sight of the end E C A H. This end, in the language of artists, is now said to be “fore-shortened.” The lines that draw nearer together are said to “vanish.”
The point where they meet is their vanishing point.

Fig. 1.


Fig. 2.

Fig. 3.

We will give some further examples of the same rules of perspective applied to different forms.
The young artist standing before a scene he is going to sketch should decide what point is opposite his eyes.
It may be some place in a church wall or in a tree, or even in the sky.
However, having fixed it, mark it also upon your paper, and then draw a horizontal line through it.

In the scene we have selected we stand upon a hill and look at a farmhouse that stands upon another hill.
The point opposite our eyes is the window A. It will be noticed that the lines above the eyes come down to the line of sight or horizontal line, B C.
Those below rise to it. Lines that are parallel to each other, whether they are roof lines tiles, the tops or bottoms of windows, meet in the same point, so that if you get one of those lines right, it is easy to get all the others right by continuing them to the same point.

Fig. 4. Rigg’s Farm, Near Aysgarth, Wensleydale.

From this sketch, and the foregoing examples, we arrive at the following rules:—
  • Horizontal, receding lines, if they are below the level of the eyes, appear to rise.
  • Horizontal, receding lines, if they are above the level of the eyes, appear to descend.
  • Spaces, as they recede, appear to become smaller.
  • Objects, as they recede, appear to become smaller.
  • All horizontal receding lines have their vanishing point upon the line of sight.
  • All parallel retiring lines have the same vanishing point as each other.
  • All horizontal lines which are parallel with the picture plane are drawn parallel with each other, and with the line of sight.
  • All horizontal retiring lines forming right angles with the picture plane, or with our position, have the point of sight for their vanishing point.

We have here introduced a new term, the picture plane.
The best way to understand this is to imagine you are looking at everything through a pane of glass. In this case the glass would be the picture plane, and if we could stand steadily enough in one place and trace upon the window pane the lines of the streets and houses, we should find the lines upon the pane following the rules we have given.

Many of the rules of perspective are to be seen in the sketch of Rigg’s Farm, Wensleydale, Yorkshire, Fig. 4.
The receding lines of the road, the grass edges, and the walls; the front of the farmhouse is so much foreshortened that it is possible to see only a very small part of it, though the building is really a long one.
 Sketch at Norton.

We have given also a sketch by Rembrandt, and a pen and ink landscape drawing made at Norton in North Derbyshire by Charles Ashmore.

Saskia Van Ulenburgh, Rembrandt’s Wife.
From a drawing by Rembrandt in the Berlin Museum.

Excerpt from the book:
Three Hundred Things A Bright Boy Can Do
BY MANY HANDS
FULLY ILLUSTRATED
LONDON
SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON & CO., LTD. 1914
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