Welcome to The Helpful Art Teacher, an interdisciplinary website linking visual arts to math, social studies, science and language arts.

Learning how to draw means learning to see. A good art lesson teaches us not only to create but to look at, think about and understand our world through art.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Now that you have mastered one point perspective, you are ready to move on to two point perspective.

Instead of a single vanishing point, you will be working with two vanishing points.

Two point perspective view of the historic  Thomas Mundy Peterson School in Perth Amboy New Jersey

Let's compare one point perspective to  two point perspective:

Here is the one point perspective photograph I took a few days ago:

Compare it to this two point perspective view of the same building:

The part of the building nearest to the viewer in a two point perspective picture is the corner.

If you would like to take photographs of buildings to draw in two point perspective you need to stand with your camera facing the corner of the building. Two walls of the building should be clearly visible; one extending to the left and the other to the right. The bottom edges of the building will appear to get higher as they extend farther away from you towards the horizon. The top edges of the building will appear to get lower the farther away they go. Extend the lines to determine the two vanishing points and the location of the horizon.

Before you try to draw a real building, practice by making two point perspective cubes and rectangular solids.

Begin by drawing a horizon line and two vanishing points like this:

Use a right triangle to makes sure that your horizon is perfectly horizontal. You can also measure the same distance up from the bottom of the page on both sides to ensure that the horizon is drawn correctly.

Use a right triangle to make the corner of the building. line the bottom edge of the right angle up with the bottom edge of your paper, as shown. This will ensure that your edge is perfectly vertical.

All vertical lines should be drawn using the right angle of an architect's triangle. Here is a diagram showing how to flip the triangle to make use of the 90 degree angle:

Please note that every time I used the triangle I lined it up with either the horizon line or the bottom or top of the page. The corners of your shape need to be perfectly vertical if you want your picture to look three dimensional.

To turn your rectangular solid into a house, merely draw an 'X' from corner to corner along one face of the building. The place where the two lines cross is the middle. Next use a triangle to draw a vertical line straight up through the center of the 'X'. Notice how I flip my triangle and line the right angle up with the top edge of my paper to insure my lines are accurate.

Practice using your triangle to create vertical lines. Print out this helpful two point perspective grid. Draw directly on the grid, creating two point perspective boxes. Remember to make your vertical lines perpendicular to the bottom of the page, the top of the page or the horizon line.

Step by step directions for how to draw three-dimensional boxes and buildings using the two point perspective grid

I printed out the two point perspective grid and used a right triangle to draw vertical lines.

I made sure to line up the bottom edge of the triangle with the bottom edge of my paper to create a vertical line perpendicular to the bottom of the page.

For the far buildings, my triangle would not reach the bottom of the page so I flipped the triangle and lined it up with the horizon line.

Are you ready to create two point perspective drawings of the Thomas Mundy Peterson school and other historic buildings in beautiful Perth Amboy NJ?

Two point perspective view of the historic  Thomas Mundy Peterson School in Perth Amboy New Jersey

" Thomas Mundy Peterson (1824–1904) of Perth Amboy, New Jersey was the first African-American to vote in an election under the just-enacted provisions of the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution. His vote was cast on March 31, 1870"*. 

 In additon to being the first black man to vote in America, Peterson was also the city's first African American to serve on a jury and the first black man in Middlesex County New Jersey to hold elected office.  He was the custodian of the this historic and beautiful building.
*Information on Thomas Mundy Peterson courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Mundy_Peterson

Start by printing out two copies of the black and white picture above and drawing directly on top of one of them. Follow the steps below to determine the vanishing points and horizon lines before creating your own two-point perspective building.

When drawing a two point perspective building, first establish the vertical lines


Next, extend the lines of the sides of the building to determine your two vanishing points. Connecting the two  vanishing points will give you the horizon line.

Remember, if you are having trouble drawing something in perspective, try drawing the 'box it came in' fist.

Try finishing the drawing on your own. Remember the windows are on the same plane as the walls of the building. Therefore the top and bottom of each window will extend to the vanishing point. The sides of each window will be vertical.

Up for an additional challenge? Try drawing the beautiful historic building below in two point perspective.

It would be impossible to take this photograph today because this school is now in the middle of a vibrant city and surrounded by other buildings. This picture is from 1909, when this building was Perth Amboy's high school.

Here is a helpful diagram to get you started

More historic buildings to draw from beautiful Perth Amboy, New Jersey:

For a summary of the rich history of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, please click here.

The Proprietary House

"Perth Amboy is home to the only official Royal Governor’s Mansion still intact since Colonial days, commonly known as the Proprietary House. The Proprietors of East Jersey were responsible for its construction during 1762-1764 for the Royal Governor of New Jersey. In 1774, William Franklin, son of Benjamin Franklin, was Royal Governor at which time he took up residence at the mansion with his wife. However, since he was arrested by the continental army in 1776, the house did not remain a Governor’s mansion for long. After the Revolution, the Proprietary House became a private home. In 1809 it became a resort hotel, but business was ruined by the War of 1812. In 1883 it became a rooming house for retired Presbyterian ministers, called the Westminster. Currently, the Proprietary House is owned by the State and maintained by the Proprietary House Association."*
*Information on the Proprietary house courtesy of the city's official website http://ci.perthamboy.nj.us/the-history-of-perth-amboy.html

Print out this picture of the Proprietary House and try drawing it in two point perspective

City Hall

"Perth Amboy is also home to the oldest City Hall in continuous use in the United States, built during 1714-1717 or 1718, to serve as the County courthouse and jail. It burned in a fire in 1731 and was not rebuilt until 1745. It was again burned in 1765 or 1766 when a man named Martin, angered by his earlier imprisonment in the City Hall on debt charges, allegedly set fire to the building. It was rebuilt in 1767. City Hall contained court chambers, rooms for the Provincial Assembly until 1775, and was used as a schoolhouse and for community meetings. It was in City Hall that the State of New Jersey became the first state to ratify the Bill of Rights."*
*Information on Perth Amboy's Historic City Hall courtesy of the city's official website:

Print out this black and white picture of Historic City Hall and try to draw it in two point perspective


  1. i love mcg and i love the city of perth amboy and i love art

  2. Rachel, your blog is a perfect example of using real-world examples in teaching and learning. I could see the perspective lessons teaming up nicely with a geometry lesson! Nice work!

  3. Thanks Kay! All the math terms (vertical, horizontal, perpendicular etc) are hyperlinked to the relevant pages on http://www.mathopenref.com/
    for easy reference during a math lesson. The students just need to click on the words as they are reading. I wrote the lesson with interdisciplinary applications (both math and social studies)in mind. Hopefully others will find it useful.

  4. ..thanks for this ,this is helpful for me as a Technical Drawing stdent^_^

  5. That was cool! Thanks for the history and help with buildi ngs and perspective! :) It'll help me with my Graphics poster..... :)

  6. Finally, an easy and understandable explanation of how to find the vanishing points and horizon line!
    Thank you

  7. First of all many thanks to the explanation and very good examples. I am trying to draw the WILLIAM C. McGINNIS SCHOOL but I am having a problem when it comes to proportions so that I can make the building fit perfectly in an A3 paper. Sometimes it confuses me when it comes to measurements from where I'm going to start. I would appreciate any advise.

  8. What should you do when a drawing has the vanishing points outside the paper?

    1. Beginners should tape their smaller paper to a much larger piece of paper. Then you should find your vanishing point and proceed as normal. When your art is complete just remove your picture. Voila!

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