UART Tip #53: “Perplexed by Perspective?” with Nancie King Mertz

”Venetian Crossing” 13×17 studio, Italy

Many painters try to avoid linear perspective by painting landscape only, with no man-made structures.  Perspective is in every scene, however, and a basic knowledge of it will help any painting “make sense”.

The first step is to determine your site line, or horizon line.  This is not where the earth meets the sky—it is where your sight, looking straight forward with chin parallel to the ground, sees the scene before you.  Imagine the following:  you could be high above a city and your site line would detect a very high horizon line, with all streets and rooftops converging UP to that line, with single, dual, or multiple (as in turning European streets) vanishing point(s).

“Up in Uptown” 12×18 demo, NYC

OR, if you’re viewing a hill with a building on top, your site line is still straight out from your chin, eyes parallel to the ground, and all lines from that building converge down to your site line.

“Monhegan in Sunlight” 11×14 plein air, Maine

If including figures in your work, as in a busy street scene, when you and the figures are standing (pedestrians), their eyes will be on your site line/horizon line, as we are essentially the same size.  If a figure is very tall, or seated, their eyes will be above or below yours.  This site line/horizon line rule is true for figures in the foreground and those in the distance, as long as the surface street is level.

“Happy Hour-Hyannis” 40×24 studio, Cape Cod

If you need guidance with perspective, or just a brush-up, join one of my 3-day classes around the country, or better yet!! Register for my 3-day UART sponsored workshop at the World-renowned Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford, right by our new Learning Center where we will start the day with a full breakfast and gather at day’s end for Happy Hour Critique.  You may stay in our Normandy-style home for a true European experience, or in a nearby hotel that is very cool and industrial.

Nancie King Mertz

Check out Nancie’s art at