This rather fanciful illustration that I did a few years back, shows the Renaissance architect, Filippo Brunelleschi - famous for building the cupola of the Duomo in Florence - devising the system of perspective that was to revolutionise art and become a central pillar of European painting for the next 500 years. Having solved the problem of how to show a convincing three dimensional world on a two dimension surface – specifically the diminution of space – Brunelleschi happily got on with creating Renaissance Florence, leaving his young protégé, Masaccio, to astound the world of painting.
The advent of modern art may have diminished the dominance of perspective in fine art painting, but it remains a vital element in visual narrative art forms. Along side good figure drawing, a command of viewpoint, horizon lines and vanishing points remains important for any narrative illustrator, working in a naturalistic style. On the face of it, perspective can seem a rather dry mathematical exercise, with its concern for parallel lines converging on vanishing points etc, but the essence of perspective – viewpoint – is vital to visual narrative. Perspective allows you to place the viewer in relation to the scene you’re depicting, - just like a filmmaker. It allows you to make psychological suggestions and to create empathy with characters in the story.
Curiously perspective doesn’t seem to be widely taught on illustration courses, leading to occasional enquiries from desperate students eager to learn and – like me – having been left to teach themselves.