Circles in Perspective

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Water Ellipse

This course will teach you all you need to know about Ellipses, Circles in Perspective, one of the most essential aspect of producing almost any drawing. Understanding how to create an Ellipse will allow you to construct more accurate drawings.

The List of Lessons used in this Course will teach you:

LESSONS - Circles in Perspective

Definition of an Ellipse.
Minor and Major Axis of an Ellipse.
When an Ellipse is not a Sphere.
Constructing the various views to an Ellipse.
Creating the wheels of a Car.
Correcting distortion to an Ellipse.
Cylinder Constructions.

Circles and Ellipses

Circles are everywhere, the vase or bowl of fruit you draw in your still life and an Ellipse is a  circle in perspective. Poorly constructed ellipses are one of the quickest give-away of the untrained artist. This Course will demonstrate just how you can construct a precise ellipse and how you can improve your freehand and technical drawing of anything that has circular sections.

This Course will show you how to overcome the two most baffling problems beginners have in trying to draw wheels on cars, knobs on doors or that fruit bowl you can never get right. Finding the centre of the circle in space and placing the angles properly will be solved for the rest of your drawing vocation.

Questions and Exercises will follow at the end of each lesson.
When we talk of an ellipse, the Maths teacher has a different meaning than the Art teacher. The theory of perspective can be a very technical one, but as artists we need to create what’s real to us. How many of us ever see a circle? We don’t! We see a circle drawn on paper with a compass (or do we) or a pretty pattern on the wall made of circles, but when do we see a circle? Yet circles are around us all the time in some form. How often do you pick up a cup of tea and see a circle, never! We see an ellipse, a “Circle in Perspective“.

In geometry or mathematics, “Orthogonal” means, “involving right angles“. And we know an ellipse can be obtained by slicing a Cone on the inclined plane, yes it’s an ellipse but Maths. This is all mathematics and has nothing to do with perspective drawing.

It’s the mathematics that is used to create 3D Apps, not the perspective ellipses we draw. If we were to plot an ellipse in perspective the front end would be bigger than the back end, fact, just as a square drawn in perspective, but we almost never draw an ellipse that way because the brain knows just what it is, the brain sees a circle every single day of our lives and it tells us the shape of what we see, an ellipse.

The common factor with circles and ellipses is the Minor and Major Axis, that’s it! Understand them and forget the mathematics. We ALL see perspective images each day of our lives, from morning until night, yet we don’t understand it. It’s all about distant, angles, shapes, depth and all the elements of being an artist.

Learn and understand the special language of perspective

There are many approaches to Perspective (by which I mean Linear Perspective) that we can make. Perhaps the most helpful approach is to think of perspective as a collection of tools. Once you understand the tools and how they work, the perspective tools extend the scope of the artists as dramatically as a power saw extends the scope of a carpenter.

One of the conditions of understanding the perspective tools is that you should learn and understand the special language of perspective terms that governs these tools.

The tools used are not numerous so it will be easy for you to recall and therefore should be referred to again and again until they are remembered and understood.

Lets have a look at your tools:

Ground Plane (GP)
Ground Line (GL)
The Horizon Line (HL)
Station Point (SP)
Line of Sight (LS)
Picture Plane (PP)
Centre of Vision (C of V)
Cone of Vision (CV)
Vanishing Points (VP)
Measuring Points (MP)

When we understand the perspective tools, what precisely can we do with it?

Briefly, we can represent any object or scene by lines on a flat sheet of paper in such a way that the image is similar to what you would see if you looked at the actual object or scene through one eye, and kept the eye fixed on one point.

The perspective views, which we can draw, correspond closely enough to our experience of what we see, to be readily acceptable and readily understood, so that perspective drawings are of the greatest value to the artist as a means of communication.

The group of Artists that excel with the use of Perspective are the Technical Illustrators. They love accurate lines and therefore love the use of perspective to create some of the best perspective drawings around, but also the Fine Artist use perspective all the time, guessing where the eyes line up is easer and more accurately measured using perspective lines in the original sketch.

So OK, lets study the tools.

The Ground Plane is the horizontal surface on which the Subject generally rests. It is also the base from which the level of the Station Point and other heights are accurately measured…
The Ground Line is the line at the intersection of the Picture Plane and the Ground Plane. The point of intersection is the point where both Height and Width of the Subject is accurately measured…
The Horizon Line is the Trace or Line on the Picture Plane containing the Centre of Vision, Vanishing Points and Measuring Points. When the Picture Plane is vertical, the Horizon Line passes through the Centre of Vision
This is the eye of the observer, your eye if you wish. The Station Point must always follow the same rule and that is, wherever the Station Point is located above the Ground Plane, it could be an inch or it could be hundreds of feet above the Ground Plane, it is also the height of the Horizon Line.
The Line of Sight is a ray of light or sight line travelling from a given point on the Subject to the Station Point…
Think of the Picture Plane as Window or a Sheet of Glass placed between the Station Point, you, and the Subject upon which the Image or Picture is drawn. The Picture Plane is your Art Board on which you construct all your perspective lines and points to create your final image.
The Centre of Vision is the nearest point on the Picture Plane to the Station Point. This point is directly opposite the Station Point.
When the eye looks fixed in one direction, there is a limit to what can be seen. The boundary of vision is conical and therefore for perspective purposes the angle of the Cone is 60º or less and has it’s apex at the eye, or Station Point. Outside the cone the image becomes distorted and often senseless. Understanding perspective will enable you to correct these problems.
The Vanishing Points are points on the Picture Plane (not just the Horizon Line) to which a set of parallel lines from the Station Point appear to converge. Therefore Vanishing Points can appear at any given point on the Picture Plane.
Accurate measurements can only be made with the Measuring Points located on the Horizon Line, each Measuring Point working with it’s own Vanishing Point. If you were following this course correctly you would have already dealt with Measuring Points. Always measure from the Ground Line and the Ground Plain.
These Lessons will help you with the construction of various shapes with Ellipses. Please try and complete these illustrations, they will help you in the future to understand just how important getting an Ellipse correct makes your artwork looks real. Good luck with your Lessons!


Lesson 1: Definition of an Ellipse

Length: 40 minutesAuthor: TutorComplexity: Standard

One of the most important skills in perspective drawing is the ability to construct circles (ellipses) in perspective. The circle is so ordinary, when you are working with drilled holes… Related

Lesson 2: Minor and Major Axis of an Ellipse

Length: 120 minutesAuthor: TutorComplexity: Standard

Major and Minor Ellipse

Perception of a Circle Our perception of a Circle in Two Point Perspective is not a true Circle at all, but an ellipse that varies considerably from a perfect Circle… Related

Lesson 3: When an Ellipse is not a Sphere

Length: 120 minutesAuthor: TutorComplexity: Standard

Circle, ellipse and sphere

The Sphere is Symmetrical! Spheres are nothing more than circles until they are given detailing to give them the third dimension. They can be shaded or textured for even more… Related

Lesson 4: Various Views of Ellipses (Preview)

Length: 120 minutesAuthor: TutorComplexity: Standard

It’s important the ellipse is correctly drawn! Below is a selection of images that I want you to create. Image 19 shows various images and views of Ellipses. I would… Related

Lesson 5: Creating the Wheels of a Car

Length: 90 minutesAuthor: TutorComplexity: Standard

No, I don’t want you to draw a Car. No need to draw a Car, just the wheels at the four corners. But before you do so I want to… Related

Lesson 6: Correcting distortion to an Ellipse.

Length: 120 minutesAuthor: TutorComplexity: Easy

I have often seen drawings and indeed photographic images that are out of focus. The drawing is distorted and in need of correction. By that I mean they are distorted.… Related

Lesson 7: Cylinder Constructions

Length: 90 minutesAuthor: TutorComplexity: Standard

Cylinders Office Pens

Any circle can be taken through this third dimension. The perspective that is necessary to convey a cylinder is very similar to circles on a perspective plane. Any circle can… Related

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  • Technical illustrations generally have to describe and explain the subjects to a non-technical audience.

    Therefore, the visual image should be accurate in terms of dimensions and proportions, and should provide “an overall impression of what an object is or does, to enhance the viewer’s interest and understanding”.

  • Linear perspective, a system of creating an illusion of depth on a flat surface.

    In linear perspective parallel lines that diminish into the distance appear to get closer together or converge.

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