I want to paint a scene with a low eye level – any tips?

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San­dra Cooke, Eng­land

Nick replies

Cre­at­ing a low eye-level im­age can be great fun, just as a high one can. The main thing I think about when tack­ling the scene is that the same gen­eral rules of per­spec­tive ap­ply as for other com­po­si­tions.

So, ob­jects ap­pear smaller the fur­ther you are from them. Lines ap­pear to con­verge, so that tall build­ings seen from ground level may ap­pear to be lean­ing to­gether. This is a vis­ual trick of course, just as the rules of per­spec­tive are. You’ll find that the dis­tor­tion around the edges of a scene with an ex­treme low eye-level will tend to look un­nat­u­ral. This is ac­cept­able if that’s what you’re af­ter, but you do need to be aware of the lim­i­ta­tions of what you can get away with.

Let’s go all fairy tale and paint a gi­ant, from ground level. I sketch out our lofty one first and even have him lean­ing back slightly in a stomp­ing pose. This in­tro­duces some fore­short­en­ing and over­lap­ping forms. All that means is that shapes nearer the viewer par­tially ob­scure the ones be­hind, like a ten­nis ball in front of a foot­ball for ex­am­ple.

Our gi­ant’s foot is clos­est to the viewer and so it seems large com­pared to his leg, which also ap­pears shorter than if viewed square on and has di­min­ish­ing pro­por­tions. In turn, his torso is pro­por­tion­ally smaller again and so on, all the way up to his head. And you can’t see his neck at all – that’s some fore­short­en­ing for you!

Per­spec­tive rules are cru­cial for im­ply­ing a low eye-level. Haze makes dis­tant things ap­pear

fainter and less dis­tinct.

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