Art Center Information Discusses the Trouble With Ellipses

study for "Old Woodie"
"Study for Old Woodie"

Here at Art Center Information we ran into a situation that definitely needs a discussion.  How to properly draw ellipses.

The hardest part of my “Old Woodie” drawing was drawing the tires as ellipses in perspective that matched the angle of the car.  I literally had to dig out a really old art book to remember the technique (or formula) for this.

If you’ve been following my blogs, you’ll remember this is a large full-size (24’X36″) pencil study of a painting that now (finally) is in progress. (See blog post dated 1/19/2012 entitled Working on my masterpiece a step at a time.)  The picture to the left is only a small section of the drawing.

I spent almost as much time trying to get the perspective correct on the ellipses involved as I did on most of the rest of this large picture.  With the hubcap sticking out, it didn’t follow the perspective of the others.

The art book suggested that when it came to wheels on a car parked at an angle, draw a cylinder from the tire closest to the viewer to the tire on the opposite side.  Draw it in perspective with the cylinder getting smaller from perspective as it went out.  Even though the opposite tire wasn’t showing, I had to draw it to be correct.  I also had to draw an axle through the very center of  the ellipse that connected the two tires.  This wasn’t all, by the time the drawing was finished I had to draw a total of seven ellipses which included the opposite side of the tire, the near side of the tire, the wheel, the inside of the hub cap, the outside of the hub cap, and all the elliptical shadows included.

Also, the instructions were that the major axis of the elliptical end of the cylinder is always drawn at a right angle to the axle of the cylinder.  And since eye level is a little above the wheel, the axis and the ellipse was slanted to the left.

After I spent so much time drawing the ellipses in perspective, I took a toy model car and tried placing it in the same eye level angle and then “free hand” drew it.  It was amazing how close the two drawings came out to be the same.  I guess I should have tried the model instead of going through all the work.  However, if I hadn’t had the experience, I don’t know if I would have drawn it from the model as well.


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