This illustration guide is an example of how to use perspective when drawing a city environment.
I like to start with my main subjects first. In this case, I have a couple walking down the street and a team of horses pulling a carriage. Since this is going to be 1860s-ish Europe, walking and horses are the most common choices for transportation.
The people seem larger than the carriage and that's because of a perspective trick I will explain a little later.
Perspective tricks are all about using space and thinking of things in layers. I've outlined in red where the buildings on the city block behind the carriage will go. I don't worry about straight lines when I'm sketching-if I don't like a line, I draw a new one over it.
The building closest to the couple is at a different angle. Oh my! Not to worry. With the power of perspective, we can keep our point of view on track. I've outlined the shape of the building behind the couple in blue and you can see that we're going to have some overlay. Overlap of your environment adds a touch of drama to bendy, oh-so-twisty city streets and boulevards.
Adding the farthest row of buildings is step four. You can of course make it any look or height you desire. Don't worry if your page looks empty. The details can be decided later. Once you have an idea of what you want your furthest background to be, we can start to fill in some extra people in step five.
I've decided that my busy city street needs more people. You can use perspective tricks here too. The people who are furthest away are smaller. Just like the wagon wheels, we draw our horses' hooves in line with the city street.
Now we get to have some fun with the details. Yay! If you are a precise pencil sketcher, now is a good time to use your ruler or straight edge. I am working fast and messy. There is no wrong way to get your ideas down on paper. You can always erase it and try something different later.
For example, I was going to make the chimney furthest in the background, but I changed my mind and decided to make it a "non-denominational" church bell tower instead. (see below.)
The mixup I'm going to put into this scene highlights Bavarian architecture, a little bit of woodworking that you sometimes see across the Baltic towns, and you can't go wrong with a small sample of mock-Victorian style.
Perspective key things to remember here are when items are high above you, the viewer sees their shadowed sides. When things are below you, then their top sides are visible.
This is the final step before I ink, so I have added all the little details. This is sometimes called the "Draw 50 things" step. I've worked in lamps, window details, the bell tower, some stone, brick, and wood highlights. A few shadows in pencil help me decide how I'm going to ink. I'm going for really strong shadows, which means the carriage and chimney shadows will be solid black.
Ta-da! We've done it. Our 1860s city in Europe looks ready for business. I've added shadows below the subjects we started with: the couple and the horses and carriage. Not bad for working fast with a Sharpie marker.
Sepia tone and glowing highlights added in Photoshop. I think they're cool and they contrast the strong shadows. But there would be lots of other nice ways to color and highlight this scene.
I hope you enjoyed this. Shameless plug alert: If you liked this tutorial and wanted more of this type of thing, try out my book How to Draw Historic Horses. It's packed with all sorts of horse drawing tutorials and goodies on things like anatomy and perspectives.
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