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  • Writer's pictureKonstantin

The 5 Things Influenced And Changed By Foreshortening In Drawing

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

Foreshortening is another one of these terms that art teachers love to throw around. It is essential to understand how this works to be able to draw from life. I've done some research on that topic since I started to draw that I want to share with you today.

What is foreshortening in drawing?

Foreshortening is a way to describe the phenomenon of objects appearing differently depending on the angle you look at them from. Foreshortening exactly describes the fact that parts of an object appear smaller when they are farther away from the viewer's point of view.

I'm be glad if this is the answer to the question you came here for in the first place but if it isn't so far, don't worry. We'll go through all the elements that appear in a different way when you're looking at a foreshortened object. Tips for you to apply in your own drawings will also be a major part of this article.

I. Perceive Foreshortening Correctly

Foreshortening obviously changes many different elements of an object. In order for you to get it right in your own works and drawings, we will at first go over all the things that appear differently in foreshortened images.

What elements of art and perception skills do you need to understand in order to perceive foreshortened objects correctly?

1. Shapes

2. Lines/Edges

3. Spaces

4. Textures

5. Gestalt

Except for the "edges" part in number two, all of these things are elements from the 7 elements of art. Relationships belong to the 5 basic perception skills for drawing. Both of these topics have already been dealt with on Mac H. - Creative by articles I've written and uploaded. The links will lead you to the corresponding articles on the blog.

Let's start with the first thing influenced by foreshortening right now.

1. Shapes

Shapes represent one of the 7 elements of art and based on shapes (forms as well) you can most easily perceive foreshortening. If an object is closer to the viewer than another object, the object closer to the viewer appears larger and the other one appears smaller.

Let's take still life drawing as an example of that. A drawing type that requires above-average foreshortening knowledge. Clicking the link will lead you to an article on the Mac H. - Creative website.

In still life setups, you will almost always have multiple objects that are not all located in one line next to each other. They will be set up in different locations and in different distances to you as the drawer. A still life drawing can perfectly be used as an exercise to improve your knowledge about foreshortening.

When you're looking at your setup now, you will quickly realize that some objects are lapping over others. This overlapping leads us to the next point because the lines that represent the borders between the overlapping objects are called edges.

2. Lines/Edges

Clearly lines and edges also belong to the things that are drastically influenced by foreshortening. Just take a look at the image at the very top of this post, the picture of the arm reaching towards the sun.

Usually, a hand takes up approximately 40% of the entire underarm if you look at it from the side without having to struggle with the foreshortening effect. In this image, you can clearly see that the distance from the tip of the thumb to the right end of the hand's palm appears really almost as long as the rest of the arm.

Our mind is trained to process visual data via the left side of the brain which is responsible for the phenomenon that we normally tend to oversee foreshortened images. Your left brain is responsible for logical thinking and that is the reason why we often can't really see as an artist.

Seeing like an artist is a skill that can be learned if you know about the five basic perception skills. If you click the link you will be directed to another post on the Mac H. - Creative website that I've written only to explain these five perception skills.

If you want to learn more about human proportions generally you should check out this article I've uploaded a few weeks ago. It's about 9 very basic but interesting facts about the human body and its proportions. Some of these tips were really unexpected things for me when I first learned about human proportions.

Small bonus video for you:

3. Space

Space is of course also something that is drastically being influenced by the effect of foreshortening. When you look at an object from upfront that has many gaps and spaces in between its entire gestalt you see something completely different when you would observe it from above or beneath it.

Take a chair for example. You could even take an actual chair from your surroundings right now. Maybe you are even sitting on a perfect chair with many spaces at this very moment of reading the article.

At first look at this cair from standing directly in front of it and perceive the spaces exactly. After that, you can either change the position of the chair or look at it standing very close to it so you see it kind of from above. Obviously, you see completely different shapes of spaces now right?

4. Textures

Textures are generally a mixture of shapes and lines and spaces, which lets us immediately draw the conclusion that textures are also clearly influenced by foreshortening. All of this can be hard at the beginning to pay attention to.

If you are cautious, however, and learn your perception skills it can be very easy to recognize and analyze so many foreshortened elements correctly. Many people often think that the drawing itself is difficult but I personally think that the art of perception is way harder and more difficult to master than making marks on a surface correctly.

Both are difficult, yes, but more importantly, both can be learned from anybody because drawing is not a gift. If you click on that last link you will be directed to an article covering the question of whether drawing is a gift or not in detail.

In case you don't know exactly what I mean by textures, let's go over an example now so you're not confused anymore. Just imagine a fish and a stone for instance. The stone's texture is very simple, even, smooth, and shiny maybe.

The fish's texture is uneven and has many scales. The feeling you have picturing you touching these two textures also plays into the definition of texture. Sliding over a fish's scales with your hands will feel rougher than touching an even stone from the street. If you want to learn more about texture check out this article on the 7 elements of art.

Concluding you can say that texture is simply also affected by the foreshortening effect because in a drawing it consists of lines and spaces and shapes which are also affected.

5. Gestalt

The gestalt or also called the whole or the entirety of your drawing is as the name already states everything combined that can be seen in your artwork. All the objects including your main subject all together form the gestalt of your image.

Gestalt is practically a combination of all of the elements we've talked about so far. Due to that fact gestalt is obviously also affected by foreshortening. The whole thing you put onto your paper looks entirely different—from an artist's perspective—when you change the angle you're looking at it from.

Gestalt is also a part of the basic perception skills you need to master to be really successful at drawing from life and in drawing generally as well. You can learn more about it and the perception of the gestalt here. I've put in a ton of work into these articles to give you the best possible value for your drawing progress.

II. Related Questions

1. Why Is Foreshortening Used?

Drawing foreshortened subjects serves the purpose of underlining specific attributes or particular sections of the main subject of the drawing or painting. For instance, animals are often drawn or painted in a foreshortened way to highlight their heads and to underline their cute look.

2. Who Invented Foreshortening?

Basically, foreshortening is a natural phenomenon that occurs when an object is being looked at from different perspectives. However, the first artist who studied the art of foreshortening in drawing and painting is called Francesco Squarcione who lived and worked in the 15th century.

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