May 27, 2021

Using Perspective to Make Your Art Better

Many students who attend art school come away learning many different lessons. Whether it be the materials they have been introduced to and now are familiar with, the guidance they have been given, or the new pieces they have for their portfolio. Getting an education goes a long way in helping us with our skills. However, a much closer look will reveal one theme that will impact our work long after we have left the classroom.


Perspective is the way we perceive things.

Other than the art fundamental itself, perspective is also helpful in how to see as an artist. This includes natural vision and perception (recognizing and producing what’s there), your own vision and perception, other artists’ vision, and perception; and once this understanding has been applied – how to use what you create to communicate a message to the audience successfully.

In art fundamentals, one of the most important lessons is how to see and draw what is there. According to Maurice Grosser, author of “The Painter’s Eye”,

            The painter draws with his eyes, not with his hands. Whatever he sees, if he sees it clear, he can put down. The putting of it down requires, perhaps, much care and labor, but no more muscular agility than it takes for him to write his name. Seeing clear is the important thing.

In a fundamental art course, perspective will most likely be the focus. Many times, people who want to learn to draw but feel they don’t have the ability can access this skill just by learning to see and translate that information on paper. Yes, it is easier said than done. But the course will teach the beginning artist techniques that will help make this transition from object to perception to paper. One such technique is called contour drawing.

Contour drawing is a skill all its own but used in practice can make a massive difference to the beginning artist. This technique is about learning how to move your eyes across an object, and have your hand follow the movement. In the beginning, it will most likely look messy. It will feel like a child’s drawing. But eventually, you will understand its beauty when you make enough. It begins to serve as a roadmap of your growth. This is just one technique, however. There are more. Artists share these techniques everyday with the world. For example, Betty Edwards, author of “Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain” shares techniques such as using your non-dominant hand and drawing an inverted picture. All these used in practice every day will hone the skill of seeing. It will open up your line vision as well as your perspectives. However, it can be tedious and tiresome so you must begin with very simple objects so as not to overwhelm your mind as you scan and interpret vision to pencil to paper.

Because of this skill, you will also learn to see what others see through their artwork. You will be exposed to the different ways fellow artists perceive objects and how they improve their perspective in practicing the same projects together. You can even learn from each other by aiding in changes that will improve their work along with yours. This may lead to shared ideas and collaboration. Once this happens, new pieces can then emerge.

This image is from a top-down perspective, also known as bird's eye view.

This then brings us to the last and most important part of perspective. Learning to communicate what you want the audience to see. Read that again. Learning to communicate what you want the audience to see. If the goal of your work is the connect with the audience, then it is imperative to know how to see. When we think about misunderstandings using words and language, we know how frustrating it can be when what we’ve said something and realize soon afterward that different words would have made more sense and fostered a better understanding. Drawing/painting is the same way. It is important to understand it like a language. Understanding how to see, how you see, and how others see will bring about pieces that exude these lessons and will naturally help the audience connect and trust you as an artist.

Curious about a career in graphic design? F.I.R.S.T. Institute’s Graphic Design and Web Development program allows students to launch their art careers in just 11 months — on campus, or online!

Article by Marianne Catangay, Graphic Design & Web Development Instructor at F.I.R.S.T. Institute.