How can I use ArtsConnectEd to teach linear and aerial perspective to high school students?

Q: How can I use ArtsConnectEd to teach linear and aerial perspective to high school students?

—Brittany, Art Teacher

A: ArtsConnectEd contains a number of resources for teaching the concepts of perspective. Here are some resources and approaches to try in your classroom.

Linear Perspective Vocabulary Tools for Students: The Artist's Toolkit contains an Encyclopedia dedicated to defining and illustrating the elements and principles of art. Dig into the element of "Space" for diverse examples of how artists organize parts of an image to show depth.



Historical Perspective on Perspective: Linear and aerial perspective are two of several organizing principles developed to convey the illusion of spatial relationships. Here are two instructional materials about seeing and understanding some traditional methods to represent depth and space:
  1. You Be the Judge: Use the Art Finder to select four Renaissance paintings. Together or in a group, students can use the worksheet to learn attributes of Renaissance paintings.
  2. Creating Illusions in Landscape Paintings: This worksheet suggests to search the galleries to identify different "space tricks" used by artists. Try using ArtsConnectEd's Art Finder instead.
Suggestion for Student Research: What about where the paper hits the paper, so to speak? Are there tutorials that demonstrate constructing images using linear perspective? At the time this answer is being written, there is nothing exactly like that within ArtsConnectEd. But tools to address that need can be developed and shared as students and teachers create Art Collector sets. For example, using the "custom slide" feature in Art Collector, a video from YouTube, such as this: http://youtu.be/adRWYWSw2XI, can be embedded within a set. Students could even generate and upload original content—for example, a screencast on Google Sketchup or a video recording of drawing with paper, pencil, and ruler.
Examine and Analyze Images in the Classroom: Use ArtsConnectEd's Art Finder to select works of art with linear perspective and/or aerial perspective. Display the images on a whiteboard (interactive or not). Either the instructor or student volunteers can trace and extend lines to find the vanishing point(s) and circle objects in the distance made indistinct as an effect of the atmosphere.
Viewpoints on Perspective: Once students have practice with the traditional methods of perspective, they might find it exciting to see these methods manipulated by modern and contemporary artists. Even though linear perspective can be a mathematically precise process, students can investigate with their own eyes to see how artists deviate from the 'rules.' Students can work in pairs, each pair assigned a different work of art. (In a media lab, provide links so students can view fullscreen images using ArtsConnectEd. In a classroom without computers, instructors can use ArtsConnectEd to select artworks and prepare handouts using ArtsConnectEd's printable view function.) Within the student pair, one will argue "Viewpoint A" and the other, "Viewpoint B."

Viewpoint A: The artist's intent was to give the illusion of depth. As proof, _____. (The student describes a detail of the image, demonstrating how the artist achieved the illusion of space.)

Viewpoint B: The artist's intent was to remind us that this is a flat image, not real space. As proof, ____. (The student describes a detail of the image, demonstrating how the artist broke the 'rules' of persective or chose not to create the illusion of space.)

Neither point of view is entirely wrong or right and students can learn to notice the nuance of artists' decisions. It might help students to have an "inventory" of methods that artists use to create the illusion of space. One by one, students can identify the method being applied or manipulated.

  • Linear perspective
  • Aerial perspective
  • Foreshortening
  • Varying size of objects
  • Overlapping of objects
  • Varying degree of detail
  • Shading
When instructors select images for this activity, it's key to try out both viewpoints to make sure there are valid observations on both sides. Below are two examples of artworks for this activity and student dialogues that might unfold. An alternative structure for this activity is for a group of three students, two to argue the viewpoints while the third student serves as arbiter or transcriber. The dialogue could even be captured on ArtsConnectEd as comments or as an Art Collector set.
IMAGE: Mervin Jules' A Hit

A: The stadium shows linear perspective because the lines made by the horizontal edges appear to converge as they approach the horizon

B: The green field looks the same in the foreground as it does in the background. The color or brushstrokes don't vary so it looks like a flat shape.

A. The players' sizes vary with distance. The closes man, holding the bats, is painted a bigger size than the third baseman.

B: The field feels like it's tipping up. The artist didn't convince me that this is a space I can walk into. Maybe the artist used some linear perspective, but he's distorted the proportions so the illusion is imperfect.

A. Look at the flags above the stadium structure. Going from left to right, the flags diminish in size.

B. The painting doesn't let me believe that there's a horizon behind the ball field. The sky looks like a flat shape with cloud texture rather than a deep atmosphere.

The Promenades of Euclid IMAGE: René Magritte's The Promenades of Euclid (Related resource:Fact 3 from Math in Art, the March 2010 issue of Teaching the Arts

A: The street's edges appear to converge in the distance, meeting at a vanishing point on the horizon.

B. But next to the street, the artist painted a conical tower shaped just like the 'street.' The artist is poking fun at you for believing that's a street.

A. Land at the horizon is pale, bluish, and without detail. That's aerial perspective used by the artist to give the illusion of distance.

B. But the artist wanted to remind us that we're not looking into the distance. We're looking at a painting on an easel. Most of the view is blocked by the painting.

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