Welcome to a series of ten blog posts with tips for better sketching!
#2: Think Eye Level, not Horizon Line
Most people who know even a bit about perspective have heard about the "Horizon Line". We know that the vanishing points are supposed to be on the Horizon Line, but it's a vague concept that many of us don't understand very well.
Let's unpack this...
The Horizon Line is literally the horizon, where the land/water meet the sky. Imagine you are at the beach and looking out at the ocean, or in Venice looking out at the sea...where the water meets the sky in the distance is the horizon line.
The problem with this term is that it's not particularly relevant to location sketching since most of the time, we can't see where the water or land meet the sky! Buildings, mountains, almost everything we see block our view of this important line in the distance.
Lucky for us, we have a unique relationship to the Horizon Line...the Horizon Line aligns with your eye level!!!!
Yes, your horizon line is the SAME as your EYE LEVEL LINE, no matter how high or low you are above the ground. Take a look at this photo from the Basilica San Marco in Venice...I'm standing on an upper floor looking down, but the line where the water meets the sky is at my eye level.
When you are sketching, find your eye level by holding your pencil/pen directly in front of your eyes, without tilting up or down, and pin that line like the game "pin the tail on the donkey" onto something in your view. Then draw your eye level line as a horizontal line all the way across your sketch. It will come be useful in many ways. Once you know where your eye level line is, it's much easier to find your vanishing points too, as most VP's will live on this line.
This is what makes perspective so interesting to me, as the structure of the sketch is literally dependent on YOUR eye level, your viewpoint, your "perspective". And perspective is not hard, once you know what to look for...