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!

reverse perspective

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2 thoughts on “Reverse Perspective

    • Hi Heather, I’m not sure that you will have got my first reply, so…….
      I would pin them up onto a prick-board using dressmaker’s pins, for a delicate an fairly elegant approach. Or use duct tape attached to the back and onto the wall for a more robust approach. Good luck, Peter

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