Remember this…the reverse perspective?


I’ve had a lot of interest in my previous post about reverse perspective. I’ve promised a number of people that I’d try and post some more detailed instructions, so here they are:

Firstly a few basic facts about how I worked……

  • I was working with classes of twelve year olds (of higher than average academic ability)
  • All in all it took about three hour long lessons to complete


  • A4 paper, 120-160g drawing paper (it needs to be thick enough to hold its shape once folded, but at the same time not so thick that accurate folding of the paper becomes a problem)
  • Pencils, erasers, rulers
  • Coloured pencils… always, the better the quality, the better the colours and results!

reverse perspective diagram

Click on the link below to download this file as a .pdf that is suitable for printing

Reverse perspective diagram

I have included an A4 printout diagram here, I didn’t give my pupils anything that was printed out, I preferred to draw it all on the board at the front, step by step and explain as I went along.

The printable has all the lines that play a part in this assignment on it all at once, the PowerPoint that I have added shows a step by step series of photographs of the order that I carried out the various steps. Click on the link below for the PowerPoint.

Reverse perspective

I’ll be interested to hear how you get on if you give it a try.  Incidentally, the illusionistic effect works better with:

  • Strong colours in the drawing work
  • When multiple ‘rooms’ are lined up together

Good luck!


Reverse Perspective

Every year in my first year classes (12 year olds) I touch on the principles of perspective, at least in its one point form. We do a little art history, take a look at Masaccio and Mantegna. We make a drawing, or a painting that in one way or another makes use of one-point perspective. There are of course lots of ways in which this can be done.

Mostly for my own amusement I mix things up a bit on a yearly basis, and also a bit dependent on just how complex I dare to make it with a particular class (although it has to be said that with some classes the term vanishing point seems to refer more to an ability to follow instructions than a place on their drawing!).

This year I decided to tackle head on an approach I’ve pondered doing for a couple of years now. It makes use of the three-dimensional ‘reverse perspective’ that British artist Patrick Hughes employs. Like perspective itself, it is a bit of a visual trick, but one that invites us to look again and question our interpretation. Whether we are looking at the resulting artwork for real or on film, in summary everything seems to not be quite as you would expect.

The drawing assignment begins with an essentially quite straight forward piece of one point perspective of an interior space. The receding lines along the top and bottom of each wall converging at the vanishing point. The most important alteration in this familiar setup is the wedge in the gap between the wall and floor or ceiling (see link to a model below, where the light blue parts need to be cut away). By removing this wedge you are able to fold the paper so that a sort of pyramid form is made, one that has had its point cut off. This can be folded in such a way that the back wall of the drawn room is forced forward. In effect it sets up a conflict between the visual illusion of the drawing that places the back wall in the distance, and the physical reality of the three-dimensional form that has been created that places the same back wall actually closer by. It is this conflict that makes the illusion so intriguing.

reverse perspective2

The pupils this year followed the instructions carefully, added colour and folded. The results had something of a magical quality for the class. Judging by the number of views of the films that I made of the work and posted on the school’s Instagram account it had a fascination for many others too. Try it for yourself!

September 2021: for a more recent experiment with reverse perspective you can also try this link:



reverse perspective

Word of the day….”lethargic”


“What does lethargic mean Mr Sansom?”.  An interesting question from my class of Dutch fifteen and sixteen year olds who have had three and a half years of being taught in English as part of their bilingual education.  Three and a half years of English and yet somehow they hadn’t yet come across the word ‘lethargic’.  It’s surprising really because it is undoubtedly a highly appropriate word to describe them as a class. I was teaching them during the first lesson of the day (8.20 am-9.20 am). As a class they are completely up to date with their homework, the quality of the written and creative assignments that they do are, whilst generally not being truly memorable, certainly acceptable.   

So why am I complaining?  Well, as I pointed out to them this morning, teaching the class whilst not being difficult in terms of general order, does feel a bit like having your fingernails pulled out or maybe dragging a dead weight up a hill.  It is painfully difficult to get an opinion out of them on anything, and as the subject I teach them is about unlocking opinions or art and cultural issues I find myself at a bit of a log jam. 

So what’s going on?  Well, a number of things probably: 

·         It is 8.20 in the morning 

·         This is a class of the more science related children, the culturally orientated ones are in a parallel class 

·         It is a class that is a mix of two classes from last year, a mix that somehow never seems to have come together 

But I think for me, in my lessons, the problem comes down to a maybe extreme case of a common problem amongst fifteen and sixteen year olds.  They simply spend a lot of time thinking and worrying about what their peer group thinks of them. 

They are only too happy to make a remark under their breath to friends sitting in the vicinity, but outing and opinion to the whole group, certainly if it about the lesson material, seems to be a bit of a no go area. 

I could just carry on, we’d get to the end of the year OK. But I like my classroom discussions, at least I do when I’m not having them by myself.  Discussion is also good for their English and brings extra insights to the themes we are dealing with.  The teaching challenge is there for the weeks ahead.  Having taught them the word ‘lethargic’ today it is time to move on to ‘engaged’ and ‘contributor’. 

I see the class twice a week for an hour, so there are opportunities enough to experiment with different approaches.  I fact, I’m seeing them again today.  However, by a strange twist in the roulette wheel that is a new timetable for the second half of the school year, I’ve ended up with the class on two successive days at 8.20 am. Sometimes the flow just seems to be against you!