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Digital Subscriptions > The Artist > November 2019 > Spatial awareness

Spatial awareness

Lucy Willis explains how to achieve perspective in your watercolour compositions in subjects including architecture, figures, shadows and aerial perspective

On my recent painting trip to Jerusalem with readers of The Artist it was pointed out to me that much of what we were painting was to do with creating an impression of space. Here, with reference to my Jerusalem watercolours, are some of the ways that this can be achieved, so that you can translate the depth you see onto the flat plane of your picture.


Jerusalem is a city full of wonderful architectural painting subjects, so a grasp of the laws of perspective helps enormously. Understanding onepoint perspective – where your lines converge at a single vanishing point in the distance – is a good starting place.

At the colonnade of Rothschild House (below) I was able to use the long arcade to explain the mechanics of perspective: where the vanishing point should be; which architectural lines appear to descend and which to ascend; how columns and gaps between them diminish in size the further away they are.

When trying to establish which lines appeared horizontal I pointed out that these would invariably be on the level of your own eyes. One member of the group was sitting at the far end of the colonnade (where I have painted a figure with a child) and I sat opposite her at the other end. Her eye level was the same as mine and our horizon, or eye level, was therefore established just above the tops of the column bases. Her head became my vanishing point and mine hers. The tops and bottoms of the columns on the right, if joined up with imaginary lines, would converge at this vanishing point, as would the floor and tops of doorways on the left-hand side.

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About The Artist

Welcome to our November issue. This month Hermen Pekel shares his strategies for creating depth and Lucy Willis explains how to achieve perspective, both working in watercolour, while Aine Divine demonstrates how she painted a watercolour portrait of our editor. James Hobbs urges you to share your sketchbook on social media this month using the #inktober tag and Robert E Wells explains how he uses his sketchbooks as a creative tool. Kathy Barker begins a new series on portraiture with a look at eyes, Paul Brown reveals how you can learn from your mistakes, Paul Riley demonstrates how to paint mountains in acrylic and Becky Thorley-Fox sketches and paints wildlife from life, in oil. And of course our regular contributors Geoff Hunt, Jenny Aitken, Paul Talbot-Greaves, Charles Williams and Soraya French share their knowledge of painting. There’s plenty to inspire you in your November copy of The Artist!