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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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Fun with one point perspective boxes and other geometric forms


Follow the step by step directions in the You Tube video above to draw this picture of one point perspective boxes.

In order to fully understand perspective drawing it is helpful to print out a cube pattern,like the one pictured above, with each side of the cube a different color. Tape a piece of paper to the wall and draw a horizon line that is exactly at the same level as your eyes. Hold the cube above the horizon line. How many sides do you see? Hold the cube below the horizon line. How many sides do you see? Hold the cube exactly at the horizon line, at the same level as your eyes. How many sides do you see? What is the most number of sides you can see at any one time? Think about these questions before you begin to draw.

Print out and follow the instructions on the worksheets above to draw the boxes in one point perspective. Follow the directions exactly. You will not be given credit for this assignment if the lines are not drawn with a ruler. You will only be given credit if the lines go from the corners of the boxes to the vanishing point. You will need to make sure that the sides of each box in the back are parallel to the sides in the front. If they are not parallel you must erase and redo them. Keep trying until you get it right. No work will be accepted if any part is done incorrectly.

There are several tricks and tips that you can use to make sure the back of your box is parallel to the front of the box. One trick is to line up one side of your ruler with the front of the box and use the other side of your ruler to draw the back of your box. Another trick is to use the 90 degree corner of a separate piece of paper as a guide. Architects and carpenters use a tool called a triangle to help them with perspective drawing. The video below shows how to use a triangle to draw a box in one point perspective.

Once you know the basics of perspective drawing you can have all sorts of fun and create amazing artwork. 

Print out the patterns of other geometric three dimensional forms, such as tetrahedrons, cylinders, cones and pyramids. decorate them using  repeating rhythmic lines to create interesting patterns. 
For ideas on how to use rhythmic line to create beautiful, intricate patterns and designs, click here.

Once you are done decorating  put the three dimensional forms together by folding them carefully along the lines and applying a glue stick to the tabs. Combine them to create interesting sculptures. When you are done, try to figure out how to draw them using what you know about perspective drawing. What parts of your sculpture can you see when you are looking down at it? What parts can you see when you are looking up at it? What parts of your sculpture are visible when your sculpture is at your eye level. Which parts of your sculpture are even with the horizon line? 

It may be easier to figure out how to draw your sculpture if you photograph it first.

Here are some patterns for you to print out, 
decorate and put together:






Guide for decorating your geometry nets with rhythmic lines:

You may use black marker on white paper or you may select a pair of complimentary colors for your rhythmic line designs. Whatever contrasting color pattern you choose, use it consistently for all of the shapes you decorate. If you are working in a group, everyone in your group must use the same color scheme.

You may use:

Black and White
Red and Green
Blue and Orange
Yellow and Purple

Once you select a color scheme you must stick with just those two colors.

I chose the colors orange and blue for the sample I created:

When you are done decorating your patterns with rhythmic lines, put together the three dimensional forms and play around with combining them. Before drawing perspective pictures of your sculptures, try rearranging them and photographing them in different ways. Try stacking them and overlapping them. Here are the photographs I created of my geometric forms:

Before I took these photographs I drew a horizon line in the background and lined my camera up so that the horizon line was even with my eye level. 

The next step is to examine the pictures you have taken and see if you notice anything that will help you to draw these combinations of shapes realistically.

Here are some things you should notice that will help you with perspective drawing:

When a shape is below your eye level all the top and bottom lines at the edge of each shape appear to go up as they get farther away, towards the horizon line. 

When a shape is above your eye level all the top and bottom lines at the edge of the shape appear to go downwards, towards the horizon line as they get farther away. The farther away something is, the closer that object appears to the horizon line. 

The bottom of a cylindrical shape curves down from the edges of the cylinder if it is below the horizon, forming a 'U' shape.

 If the top of a cylinder is below the horizon it will look like an ellipse. If the top of a cylinder is above the horizon it will appear to curve up in the middle, forming an arc. 

You can see the sides and top of a shape if you are looking down on it. 

You can see the sides and bottom of a shape if you are looking up at it. 

When you look at something that is at the same level as your eyes you can only see the sides of that shape. 

How can keeping these generalizations in mind help you to become more skilled at drawing in perspective?




I found the helpful worksheet below on foreshortening using Google Images 
and do not know it's author:

The three worksheets below are from Perspective Drawing by Ernest Norling

For more information on one point perspective drawing, please click here to see my article, Perspective Drawing 101

Artists first started using perspective drawing during the Renaissance in the fifteenth century.
For a history of the development of perspective in Renaissance art watch the video, by the National Gallery of Art, below:

  If the video above is unavailable, click on the links below to view the video, in seven parts, on the National Gallery Website:

Opera Mathematica ou Oeuvres Mathematiques Traictant de Geometrie, Perspective, Architecture, et Fortification engraving by Paul Vredeman de Vries  1567–1630

...to the surrealistic landscape below. What similarities do you see?

Ruin with Head of Medusa and Landscape 

by Salvador Dali 1941

Compare this Renaissance picture...

Children's Games by  Pieter Bruegel the Elder 1560

...to this surrealistic picture. What similarities do you see? 

Can you find the horizon lines and vanishing points

 in both pictures?

Spanish Dancers in a landscape 1946 Salvador Dali

Both the Renaissance picture and the Surrealistic picture below create bizarre imaginary worlds based on a single word. The first picture illustrates the word 'laziness' while the second picture depicts 'memory'. 

Laziness  Pieter Bruegel the Elder 1545-1570

The persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali 1931

Can you find the horizon lines 
in both the landscapes below?

 Patience by Pieter Bruegel the Elder 1545-1570

Landscape With Butterflies by Salvador Dali 1956

Compare the two pictures of the Last Supper below. The first one was created in the fifteenth century, the second in the twentieth century. 

The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci 1495–1498

Sacrament of the Last Supper by Salvador Dali 1955

Both Da Vinci's and Salvador Dali's Last Supper use one 

point perspective to create the illusion of three dimensional

 space in a two dimensional picture.

Can you create your own imaginary one point perspective landscape using a word, a dream or a story that is meaningful to you? What symbols would you use to illustrate your ideas? What emotions or thoughts would you try to evoke in your audience? Salvador Dali felt it was very important that each of his paintings retain a sense of mystery so that each viewer could come up with a personal interpretation. What mysterious images would you include in your own surrealistic landscape?


  1. Thanks for sharing such valuable information.

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    LT (elem. art on a cart in a challenging work environment). Bravo!

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