Questioning Perspective

Given my near obsession with the work of Escher, it seems fitting that my first ‘proper’ post should be on perspective. I’ve been thinking of what my next project should be, and as ‘Through a Droplet’ seems to have been popular, I thought I’d revisit reflections and distortion.

I’m very conscious this post could end up as the ideal reading material for those wishing to enter the land of nod, so I’ll try and explain Escher in one (hopefully not too long) paragraph, with the aid of an image or two. Here goes…

A box can be drawn in 3D using 2 points of perspective on a horizon. Escher’s perspective work was essentially based on this, but with addition of two other points; the Zenith and Nadir. Imagine you’re half way up a skyscraper on a balcony, you look up, and the walls of the skyscraper converge above you, vise versa for when you look down. These vanishing points are the Zenith (top) and Nadir (bottom). But when you look ahead you see a flat image where the walls of the building are parallel. This is the problem with traditional perspective, it is counterintuitively, rather ‘flat’. You only see one plane. So how do you get an image where multiple planes are visible? Add a Zenith and Nadir. Previously straight lines become curved, to create movement through different visual planes.

OK, so that’s great for buildings, corridors e.t.c. but in a world where you can look up, down, left and right, is it possible to combine two sets of Zenith and Nadir? I think so. So I had a play around with it and came up with (drum roll please) this grid:

A Zenith, Nadir, and two traditional points of perspective that also use the principles of curved lines. The one on the left is all possible combinations, and thus completely useless as a drawing grid. However by taking specific elements, it becomes a really useful tool. Top right is a ‘diminishing world’ where everything gets smaller as it goes away from you.  Bottom right is a ‘half and half’, smaller in one axis, larger in the other.  The other option would be where both axis get larger or an ‘increasing world’.

Unsurprisingly, Escher had this all worked out;

‘Diminishing’ world concept.

‘Increasing world’ concept.

So yes, I am only rehashing ideas that Escher was doing before I was born, but hey, it’s good fun to get your head around. This does all have a point to it. I’ve been working on the first piece in what I hope will be a mini series of pieces based on a first person view of the world. Unfortunately I only have experience of one first person view, and it’s mine, so let’s hope it isn’t too boring a place to be! Here’s the concept sketch, the first one is almost done, so a few finishing touches and I’ll post it up.

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