Do you need to be a master in perspective to do figure drawing?

2:24 AM, Saturday January 7th 2023

'Bout to start the 250 cylinder challenge and i wanted to get philosophical, because i always had this question over my head.

Do you need to be a master in perspective to do figure drawing? How much knowledge in perspective should you have before learning to draw the human figure?

Obviously, i know that you don't need to know how to do a complex piece of machinery in order to draw the figure, but whenever i want to start learning figure drawing i always have the feeling that my understanding of the figure will always be limited by my perspective skills and if thats the case why not being a master in perspective before learning the human figure?

And its not only that feeling, but if you are not good at perspective by the time you reach figure drawing, then when will you be good at it? I mean figure drawing is an extensive subject on its own with things like gesture, anatomy, dynamic poses, etc, so you would be devoting all your time to study these subjects and so then when would you even have the time to go back and be good at perspective? at what point do you even say "you know what, i think my perspective skills ain't doing it, i think i will go back" how is that a viable way to learn?

This is why learning figure drawing before being a master in perspective feels counter-intuitive to me because i feel like your progression in figure would always be limited by your perspective skills, because if you do decide to learn figure before being good at perspective, you would have to go back to learn perspective creating a messy situation where you are stopping your progression halfway across both subjects.

So this goes back to the same question from the beginning, do you need to be a master in perspective to do figure drawing? How much knowledge in perspective should you have before learning to draw the human figure?

Is there something here that im not understanding? maybe its my way of thinking that its wrong.

What are your thoughts?

2 users agree
6:30 AM, Saturday January 7th 2023

I think it's important to describe what you mean by "master of perspective". Just having basic knowledge of how perspective works (1 point to 5 point, horizon line, vanishing points etc.) is honestly enough in my experience. Basically all the knowledge about perspective that drawabox covers is enough for figure drawing.

6:37 PM, Saturday January 7th 2023
edited at 6:39 PM, Jan 7th 2023

You are absolutely right, to be honest with you, I was being vague do describe what a “master of perspective” is on purpose, because my question originally was “do you need to be good at perspective” but I feel like that would be easier for people to say “no you don’t need to” because people often times think that knowing what a vanishing point is and putting boxes in perspective is already being “good” at perspective, so instead I put "perspective master" to let people know that this goes beyond very basic concepts.

In my opinion, being good at perspective means knowing things like

  • Vanishing points

  • Horizon Line

  • Depth measuring systems

  • Inclined Planes

  • Placing of the vanishing points and how that affects your scene or object.

  • Foreshortening applied to objects

  • Determining heights and widths

  • Drawing any object correctly in perspective (I think Dab covers this).

  • And the most important one Imo, knowing of to apply all perspective concepts to an environment or scene.

This is not really being “master of perspective” but I feel that by knowing these concepts you will be better prepared to study figure drawing, specially knowing how to apply all those concepts to an environment, because I feel like knowing how to put all your objects in a scene is having a good spatial reasoning and one skill that you are going to need when drawing the figure, for example if you want to put a character sitting in a chair, you need to know how those two objects relate to one another.

Things that are too technical or advanced are not necessary in my opinion, clear example being Scott Robertson book “How to draw” as I feel like that book is more for people who want to improve in a specific area of perspective.

edited at 6:39 PM, Jan 7th 2023
2:44 AM, Sunday January 8th 2023

So with that criteria, DaB covers 1 - 3, 6 (sort of), 8. I do agree with you that the most important part is how you apply perspective to a scene because I don't really see perspective as a skill. It's more like a set of rules that you choose to follow and you either follow them or you don't. If we take Kim Jung Gi for example, who you could argue was a "master of perspective" he followed the rules of perspective to near perfection all in his mind while drawing and there's an Ethan Becker video ( ) which breaks his art down.

Honestly for figures all you really need is knowledge in 1, 2 and 6 if you are focusing on drawing only 1 figure in a scene and you would need 7 if there are multiple. David Finch covers this topic really well so you should definitely check him out if you are interested.

2 users agree
3:46 PM, Saturday January 7th 2023

The short answer is no. But this is a good question though because it relates to an idea of "the proper order" of skill acquisition. That somehow you must master one area to move on to the next. Like any skill you try to acquire, learning a sport or new language, etc, you move from one area of the skill to the next. When learning a language, you don't tell yourself: "Cool, I have finally mastered verbs. Now I can do nouns". Perspective is just one skill on a list of skills that you will keep learning and relearning as you explore art. Think of the learning path like a spiral moving out. you practice skills like perspective, then figure drawing, then color theory, etc but eventually you will come back to perspective, but at a higher level. You spiral through the skills over and over again, constantly learning more or at a higher level of understanding. Is perspective helpful for figure drawing, yes. Is it required to understand perspective at a higher level, no. Hope this helps.

7:05 PM, Saturday January 7th 2023
edited at 7:09 PM, Jan 7th 2023

The problem that I have with this idea is that art professionals always put perspective as the holy grail of fundamentals of art, that you cannot move from it unless you get good at it , always saying things like:

"Perspective opens a world of possibilities”

“If you know perspective, you can draw anything”

And if you go to a lot of YouTube art tutorials about figure drawing, chances are you're going to find someone telling you that you need to know perspective, which goes back to how important this fundamental is and how much you need it to draw the figure.

I feel like the problem with perspective is that is kind of like basic math, you need to know basic math before moving to more advanced stuff, its not impossible to learn difficult subjects without the knowledge of basic math, but you are definitely going to struggle, I feel this way with perspective. I feel like perspective is the only fundamental in which you are required to be good at before moving to any other subject.

edited at 7:09 PM, Jan 7th 2023
9:29 PM, Saturday January 7th 2023

I hear what you are saying but I would say art is full of "fundamentals". Even only up to lesson 2 of DAB is enough to understand other art concepts. Uncomfortable cautions against grinding on one area trying to achieve perfection before moving on. I would say the same applies to perspective as a whole. He encourages (nay, demands) that people draw for fun 50% of the time. Many people try drawing people during that 50%, even when DAB doesn't have lessons on figure drawing. Art skills are interconnected and doing one thing can often help another. While doing DAB, I have also been learning figure drawing. The cylinder challenge was incredibly helpful when trying to draw a manniquinized figure or foreshortening a limb. But I am not done with DAB yet. I have much more to learn. I also am not done with figure drawing (maybe never done learning that). Perspective is really helpful but I don't think mastery is necessary before moving on.

0 users agree
8:04 PM, Sunday January 8th 2023

Probably a pretty good idea to have a background of perspective under your belt if you want to do it at a more professional level. I think what's ultimately more important that proportions or even perspective for that matter is the gesture, how you make the figure move around.

I once read in a book that it's actually more useful to get the gesture down first before you concern yourself with the proportions, which you can always fix while you're still in the planning stages.

0 users agree
3:25 PM, Friday January 13th 2023

I believe in drawing all fundamentals help each other.

You don't need to be master in anything before going to the next one and you need always to practice the basics.

You don't need to know perspective in a geometry deep level to start your study in anatomy.

You don't need to be a master physician to start gesture drawing.

You don't need 10 thousand hours of live model draws to finally try to put a human being in a composition

And so on with design, light and shadow, color...

I think it's a waste of time, not just because it sounds boring, but it trims your experimentation and if you don't try things you never know what you like.

Imagine after decades of persepective and anatomy you realize: "you know what! what really love is paint enviroment using reference, but it was 6th on the line. I am a perspective master, anatomy master, can name every single bone and muscle, best designer in world... but it's not my vibe"

What I think you should do is: do you think you are not advancing because a lack of perspective study? Study perspective and apply your new knowledges to body or a part of body.

0 users agree
6:20 AM, Saturday January 14th 2023

Perspective is a highly detailed subject and waiting for your perspective skills to complete before moving on to the figure is not right thing to do in my opinion. What will you do? Leave your pers. studies for a month after reach some level. You can focus only on 3d structor and perspective for a couple of weeks though.

However yes after studing pers., I felt much more comfortable in figure. Lastly, I think you can kinda feel when you need to revisit some of the lessons. Let me suggest you some learning resources related to pers. I'm sorry I only know popular resources. ^^''

  • Marshall Vandruff perspective course: Pretty detailed yet still easy to understand teaches the logic behind how things work really well.

  • Love Life Drawing 10 days fresh eye challenge

  • Proko robo bean and mannequinization exercises

  • If you have some budget new master academy's perspective course

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