What is Perspective & Why You Might Use It in Your Art

October 11, 2018 1 Comment

As we celebrate the release of Michael Holter's video workshop 7 Step Watercolor Landscapes, we are going to dive into a topic near and dear to him and many landscape artists, perspective. Learn more about Michael's video workshop here.  



When painter Michael Holter stands in front of his class ready to talk about perspective, he's ready. 

"When you bring up perspective, a lot of people groan," says the signature member of NWS, and upcoming Creative Catalyst artist. "They think it's all about drawing lines and buildings."

Holter, an award winning watercolor landscape painter, knows that the lines are part of it. He also knows it's not all of it. Holter encourages his students to step back a bit.


"I start with the dictionary definition, and depending on what dictionary you use, the first mention is not what we think of as linear perspective [the drawing lines and buildings bit],” says Holter. “It's actually about ...how we perceive. That's what perspective really is."

Perspective is about how you as an artist experience the world. For landscape painters, that may be what you saw and how you felt standing on cliff overlooking a valley of trees. The trees are beginning to change color and you watch a river wind endlessly through the valley below.


Or alternatively, it’s early morning and you’re standing at the base of a massive column of granite. Looking up, it feels like this wall of stone dwarfs you and everything around it.

Those are two very different stories. And each artist may approach the telling of them very differently as well. Maybe not using perspective at all.

“Artists who pay little attention to accurate linear perspective are perhaps, more interested in creating folk art. Or they are non-objective artists. And that is OK,” says Holter. “We are talking about representational art here. So when I discuss perspective it begins with a personal way of viewing and portraying the subject.”

Before knowing if perspective is right for your paintings, ask yourself how you want to portray your subjects. Do you want to paint flatter images (think Carla O'Connor or George James) or do you want to paint more representational story (think Michael Holter, Dale Laitinen or Mark Mehaffey's landscape work.)

“The real goal of painting anything in representational art, is that you're trying to fool someone into believing that the two-dimensional surface has some depth to it,” says Holter. “That there's something there besides this flat piece of watercolor paper.”

So not only can perspective help you do just that, create visual depth on a two-dimensional surface, by doing so, you can share how a place made you feel with the viewers of your painting.

Understanding Perspective with watercolorist Michael Holter

Now that you know what perspective is and if you want to use it in your paintings, it’s time to learn what types of perspective you can add to your toolbox. Over the next few articles, we'll start diving into the various types of perspective including aerial (or atmospheric) and Michael's own, solar perspective.


Michael Holter’s7 Step Watercolor Landscapes video workshop is available now. Learn more here 

1 Response

Patricia Pilipuf
Patricia Pilipuf

November 27, 2018

Thank you for the series on Perspective. Looking forward to reading the it.

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