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Framed Perspective 1 [Review]

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Recommended for:

  • “Storyteller” artists that want to be able to apply the rules of perspective to take their art to the next level
  • People who already know Perspective 101

Framed Perspective 1 by Marcos Mateu-Mestre contains excellent information for the comic or concept artist: someone who needs to create a believable (but not technically perfect) world, to add mood and atmosphere to their cityscapes or room interiors, or direct attention within a frame. It does so by teaching applied perspective.

While perspective is seen by some as somewhat dry and technical, this book presents a very compelling case for its study. Knowing the basics of perspective as it applies to composition it can be the difference between a tight suspense thriller and an awkward student film. Even better: this book provides practical knowledge — ways to solve problems that you will no doubt run into if you want to draw compelling settings with depth!

That said, I would definitely consider this book intermediate level. Though it does review many basic perspective tricks (like how to spin boxes or draw people at multiple distances from the horizon), it mostly does so in a cursory fashion, without much explanation. If you’re a beginner, you may end up memorizing a bunch of steps without any understanding of why you’re drawing a line from A to B to Z. And unfortunately, some of the more complex diagrams have misprints or strange editorial decisions — so if you’re a newbie, it can be doubly confusing to understand how “L1” can somehow be three different points in space AND a line.

Instead of trying to feel things out as you’re reading, I strongly suggest first learning the basics using a resource like the Perspective Drawing Handbook by Joseph D’Amelio, which demonstrates many concepts step-by-step using examples you can literally follow along with in real-life demonstrations. Afterwards, you can come back to apply those basics, and the rewards will be rich indeed. Framed Perspective 1 gives you all kinds of tricks to add to your arsenal — how to construct an overhead shot of a powerful-looking character watching his future victims, for instance, or build yourself a swooping moon bridge. There’s plenty of emphasis on practical usage and solving problems, the “next step” beyond learning what can be some pretty dry material if all you’re doing is placing boxes.

One caveat is that truly technical artists, like those interested in industrial design, will probably not be satisfied with this book. The author does an occasional bit of eyeballing or “good enough” approximation that is hugely timesaving but also most likely unforgiveable when measurements have to be exact. In this case, I would check out Scott Robertson’s How to Draw, (but again, not without some basic knowledge of perspective, because this book is much more technical).

If you’re not at all interested in drawing manmade settings (buildings, cities, corridors, rooms), you may not get very much out of this book; it’s entirely possible that the very basics of perspective will serve you just fine for landscape painting, for instance. However, I might then recommend Framed Ink by Mateu-Mestre, which focuses specifically on composition — something everyone can benefit from understanding!

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