Perspective Made Easy by Ernest R. Norling (book review).

I occasionally come across this book, ‘Perspective Made Easy’ by Ernest R. Norling in artbook bibliographies and pulled a copy last year, only now finding time to read it. Unusual for Dover Publications, this is a regular paperback sized book although this has more to do with its original 1939 release.

Like grammar, artists might get a couple art lessons on perspective at school and think they might remember all they need for the rest of their lives. This is a subject that needs revising over when you can because there’s only so much you can take in at one time. My best lessons with perspective came from Andrew Loomis’ book, ‘Successful Drawing’, as he showed how wrong it can go by not paying attention to the horizon line and how things recede into it in the distance. Norling does a similar thing here. You learn far more by seeing the mistakes and then how do it right and why it works that way.

Changing the height from worm-level to airplane-level still obeys the horizon line. Add on top of that different perspective directions and you realise the reason for people needing to understand using a set square than relying on freehand when laying out a page to make sure everything fits correctly.

Norling uses bricks and tubes as the basis for designing buildings showing how perspective builds up and in giving window and door placement and an acknowledgement to architects who make things even and how to apply perspective so size is relative. I love the way how he shows how to make an oval, an important usage for distorting a circle in perspective. I suspect some of you will look at this and say it’s easy to do with a distorting tool in digital software but you’re still relying on your eyesight to make sure you’ve got the right angle, especially when he shows how to get it wrong.

Bringing any shape down to bricks and circles comes into its own when drawing a car and applying perspective to get the right distortion to the shape. A far better lesson than just drawing the chassis and hoping you’ve got it right.

It is important to remember that perspective isn’t just used for landscape but following the lines is used for casting a shadow and reflections in water or mirrors. With these there is a gap and in you’re essentially seeing the same scene from a different angle. It means a lot more work but the results show a definite mastery of art.

I agree with other artists who say this is a good book. You get a comprehensive look at applied perspective and some practice assignments to see if you’ve got it. If you want your art to improve, then learn your lessons here.

GF Willmetts

February 2021

(pub: Dover Publications, 1939, 1967, 1999. 203 page illustrated paperback. Price: I pulled my copy for £ 5.75 (UK). ISBN: 978-01-486-40473-8)

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