Elementary Perspective

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Feb 17th, 2011
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Elementary Perspective

The ink drawing that is featured here was part of a drafting assignment that my father completed back in June, 1928. He received a 100% from his correspondence school teacher, and moved on to more difficult “perspective” drawings. The title of the assignment was “Elementary Perspective”, which stirred something inside of me. If there is Elementary Perspective, then what would Intermediate or Advanced Perspective look like. What about “Virtuoso” Perspective? I decided to investigate.

In itself, “Perspective” has many different connotations. In the case of a drawing, we may think of the drawings we did in Middle School. Looking down a street towards a vanishing point. We really weren’t quite sure what we were doing, but we did our best to make our teachers happy.

As we got older, we learned about “Keeping Things In Perspective” – looking at the whole picture, rather than owing over to our emotions. We “See things in Perspective”, have a “Healthy Perspective”, and eventually gain a “New Perspective”. Essentially, we just redirect our point of view from one form of perspective to another. Our “Psychological Perspective” merely reflects our wisdom, or lack thereof.

Modern artists use perspective to trick the viewer into their imaginary worlds. Truth be told, it is all an illusion, as pure “Geometric Perspective” is not always pleasing to the eye. It fascinates me. The human eye sees things in a conical fashion, and no two eyes are the same. Perspective may show a sense of depth, but ultimately, you see things differently than I do, and so on, and so on.

We therefore see things in a “Different Perspective” from one another. No wonder we don’t get along. We just don’t see things “eye to eye”. It’s amazing. I ran across a quote from Plato’s Republic, Book X, who said of perpsective:

“And the same object appears straight when looked at out of the water, and crooked when in the water; and the concave becomes convex, owing to the illusion about colors to which the sight is liable. Thus every sort of confusion is revealed within us; and this is that weakness of the human mind on which the art of conjuring and of deceiving by light and shadow and other ingenious devices imposes, having an effect upon us like magic.”

This brings to mind the current trend in 3-D movies. CAD computers use linear algebra and a sort of matrix multiplication to create a “Sense of Perspective”. Yes, folks, 3-D is actually an illusion. It is not at all realistic, and is just another way for Hollywood to charge more for movies with no real plot or story line, but tons of scenes of things blowing up and people flying through the air. In fact, I know very few people who actually enjoy the 3-D “experience”, and that includes young, and old.

What really intrigues me, are the principals of “Vertical Perspective”, “Down to Up Perspective” and “Zero-Point Perspective”. The ancient Egyptians used vertical perspective, placing things of higher importance in larger proportionto the lesser ones. Italian painter Melozzo da Foril, used “Down to Up Perspective”in his frescoes at Loreto in Rome. I find this awe inspiring to look at, and hope to see it in person one day.


Fresco at Basilica Loreto, Rome


The most incredible perspective, however, is “Zero-Point Perspective”. It is the one found in nature. The scene of a mountain range, perhaps the Rockies. A non-linear view, without a vanishing point in sight, yet we feel the depth and the wonder of it all. It breaks the rules of perspective, and reminds us that despite everything, there is something bigger than ourselves “out there”.

Face it, when it comes to nature, all bets are off. Take a walk on the beach at BIg Sur, or along the craggy coastline of Maine. The Alps, The Himalayas, or the underwater wonders of a coral reef. Our mouths drop in wonder, our hearts pound in our chests.This is true beauty.

No longer do we care about why “he’s ” dating “her”. After all, she is soooo plain. And who really cares about that super hot car? It’s just a hunk of metal. Yes, nature puts everything “into perspective” now, doesn’t it. Man can try to recreate the wonder of it all, but in the end, fails.

But, don’t get down on yourself. You just need to “Put Things Into Perspective”, and remember what Truman Capote once said:

“Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade, just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then, rearrange the rules to suit yourself.”

Ah, perspective. It’s not “Elementary” at all.

An Afterthought:

My daughter recently remarked that the terms, “frankly speaking”, “to be truthful/honest”, and the like, are merely ways of people covering up lies. At first, I thought she was being a typical college student, a know-it-all. We’ve all been there. Then, I caught myself. Was I being “totally honest”, or just giving an opinion that may or not be accurate? It made me look at things from “Her Perspective”.

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