Zero-Point PerspectiveEver Hear of It?

There’s no shame in your game if you haven’t heard of this kind of perspective drawing…or lack thereof. I kind of pride myself on knowing a good bit about how to draw perspective (although my actual execution of a perspective drawing is usually totally crappy) and I’d never heard of zero-point perspective either.

02 May 2012 by Lynn Boggess, oil on canvas, 26 x 22.
02 May 2012 by Lynn Boggess, oil on canvas, 26 x 22.

But zero-point perspective is way more common than you might think. In fact, it is the most common kind of perspective you’ll find. Basically, zero-point perspective is just a fancy way of describing a natural scene such as a mountain range or a landscape of hills and valleys–a non-linear scene in which there are no parallel lines appearing to meet off in the distance somewhere. Therefore, there are no vanishing points, which is where this kind of perspective gets its name. Because remember, with linear perspective, a scene is described as showing one-point perspective or two-point perspective based on how many vanishing points it has where parallel lines seem to converge.

21 March 2012 by Lynn Boggess, oil on canvas, 46 x 40.
21 March 2012 by Lynn Boggess, oil on canvas, 46 x 40.

Without vanishing points, you might think a painting or drawing won’t have as much depth as it could, and to a point that is true. Linear perspective really does enhance the illusion of space in a rendered scene. But the best perspective drawing lessons that I was taught revolve around supplementing linear perspective with an artist’s understanding of color and scale. That is when the illusion of space is most convincing.

Knowing how to put these ideas and techniques together comes from approaching perspective drawing as an artist not a mathematician. The Artist’s Guide to Perspective download is a DVD that makes the complexities of form easier to understand with its focus on how an artist uses perspective, from drawing techniques on one-, two-, and three-point perspective, to how to work with vanishing points, and more. It is all there in this in-depth three-hour lesson. I feel like such a nerd when I say time flies by when you are watching it, but it is true. Enjoy!


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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

9 thoughts on “Zero-Point PerspectiveEver Hear of It?

  1. Courney,

    I think that is more commonly called a free-hand multiple point perspective. You can introduce as many vanishing points and planes as you wish. The images shown have multiple points. Your eye can see if not damaged in multiple points, whereas if you have a stigmatism which is your eye pined by the CIA or others into a ellipse shape you see in 1 point perspectine and the pin a scanner rod sees like a panoramic camera (1950s invention to make poor poorer and rich richer). So, stock traders have them and rich watch their eyes and make trades with insider knowledge. FBI and DOJ spend most of their day making their trades having installed or broken into the tech. So, its human view of the rich 20/20. Those with stigmas in my world are called Patriots. People denied their right to see and profit from their own view: aparteid. So, its not worth zero, but as many views as our visible. Multi-point is worth more.

  2. With respect, I don’t believe the premise is entirely accurate.

    With your example of the landscape, perspective does play a role, just because it isn’t as easy to define or replicate doesn’t mean that the natural rules of perspective don’t play a role.

    There are six main points of vanishing: left, right, forward, back, zenith and nadir (up and down) and a point of origination (perspective viewpoint) Everything else is simply a combination of these planes (like viewing a scene from a 3/4 viewpoint we see something that diminishes with a combination of depth and lateral shift.) When considering a landscape we know these forces play a role, since they play a role in ANY space observed in the natural world, they are just much harder to evaluate because of the natural curve and disruption of the physical properties of nature.

    All we have to do is look at a mountain range and notice that the mountains that are closer-up are larger than the mountains that are further away and we know that perspective is playing it’s part…or that trees diminish with distance. Perspective is every bit as pertinent to the accuracy of a landscape scene as it is anywhere else, the reason it tends to be ignored is because it’s less important, people can “wing it” much easier, because who’s to say that THAT mountain has to be smaller than THIS one? People accept inaccuracy in a landscape much easier than other forms of expression simply because landscapes tend to have soft edges, non-linear planes and natural surfaces. That does NOT change the rules that govern their perception, it just makes it harder to understand.

    In my experience zero point perspective is artwork that is accomplished by disposing of the information available in the natural world. Creating “flat” images, or seemingly two dimensional scenes. It’s a distortion of the natural realm and can only exist in the mind, on a computer, or on a two dimensional surface. It cannot truly be achieved in three dimensions (sculpture) but that’s another whole long discussion.

    In my opinion the landscapes you posted do have some form of perspective. I would say Zenith probably plays the largest role (the cliffs diminish upward.) Other forces can be argued as well.

  3. Hi Courtney,

    Read your articles consistently and appreciate the catchy titles. Although it’s been discussed that there really isn’t a “zero-point perspective” per se – it is intriguing to follow or capture someone’s work for a moment and create a discussion. It’s much more interesting than “i love this” . Thanks for your efforts in continuing these postings.

    Fused Glass Artist

  4. I just joined! I appreciate fun and informal writing that uses words like “crappy”.

    Also, interesting observations on zero-point perspective. Conventional geometric perspective is also called “linear” perspective, and in the absence of lines, I think “zero-point” perspective is as apt a description as any.