An Artistic Approach on Perspective

…there is always more than one approach to perspective.”

Today, I’d like to talk about perspective. Linear perspective is what separates the men from the boys in the art world. You know, the Renaissance is kind of a big deal, historically speaking. And, one of the greatest artistic developments of the Renaissance was the formalization of linear perspective. If you use AutoCAD, you can thank a Florentine fellow named Filippo Brunelleschi for developing the geometry behind one, two, and three-point perspective. Basically, he put the math to paper that allows us to believably communicate 3-dimensional space on a 2-dimensional plane. However, this is not the only type of perspective. For example, there is also aerial perspective. Aerial perspective uses relative size and the diffusion of light and color to communicate 3-dimensional space without the math. And then there is hierarchical perspective­—think Egyptian hieroglyphics or ancient Chinese ink paintings. This perspective enlarges the most important subjects to create a ranking in space, even if it isn’t a believable, inhabitable space. This is important. While the Renaissance gets a lot of airplay because things look so “real,” don’t be fooled; all three approaches to perspective in art are valid. They all communicate ideas and space. However, they all communicate differently and convey different ideas.

As an art teacher (and sometime artist), I do a lot of talking about visual communication. Beyond basic rendering skills and color-mixing, the goal of art education is communication. In upper level art classes, we ask lots of questions:

“What emotions does your color palette evoke?”

“Does your linework lend itself to its subject matter?”

“Does your cluttered composition clarify your message or confuse it?”

You see, art is a language. It communicates things where words often fail. It engages its audience in ways that text cannot, and it elicits responses almost instantaneously. So, as students begin mapping out their compositions for their masterpieces, it should not be a surprise that perspective is in play. Forcing the viewer to have a worm’s-eye view on the subject or, alternatively, a bird’s-eye view greatly alters the meaning of the piece. Enlarged subjects obviously hold greater significance and weight over smaller objects in a composition, especially if both of those objects are relatively similar in size in real life. These carefully crafted decisions are intentional and when applied correctly can communicate a whole host of emotions, ideas, ideals, fears, longing, and even the sublime. When done with great expertise, they can evoke those ideas in the viewer.

Perspective is powerful both in the arts and in our daily lives.

When we wrapped up 2020, I wanted to check my perspective, and I invite you to do the same. I think we can all agree that 2020 offered its fair share of curveballs. For some, those curveballs have been devastating. For others, they are probably more akin to petty annoyances or disappointments. Whatever situation you find yourself in, can we all agree that there is not only one perspective? I have heard a growing refrain of discouragement and even despair as circumstances developed, and let’s face it, there has been a lot to be discouraged by. Yet, remember, there is always more than one approach to perspective. If I allow the petty annoyances or even tragedy to have prominence and consume my composition, I too will be consumed with despair. And, more troubling, I can convey that despair to my audience. But, if I lift my head and realize that this moment is filled with purpose—crafted by the sovereign Father to produce the masterpiece that reveals His glory—any negative becomes an insignificant (while intentional!) part of the composition.  And, most encouraging, I can convey that glory to my audience. Perspective has an instantaneous effect on my perception of events, but it does not end with just me. There is something inevitable about influencing the people who observe the perspective of your life.

Now that we are blessed to be a part of 2021, let us look back at 2020 as a year of blessing too. Be filled with the confidence that the Creator, the original and only true master craftsman, is…

…working for the good of those who love Him; whom have been called by Him, according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28