City Streets in One-Point Perspective

  • 13 May 2009 05:39
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Teach Art

Lesson Plan:
City Streets in
One-Point Perspective

Grade Level: 5th grade and above

SummaryMany artists are very interested in making two-dimensional artworks look three-dimensional. During the Renaissance, artists used mathematics and close observation to invent "linear perspective"-a technique that helps artists make things look three dimensional. This lesson teaches the basics of drawing forms in one-point perspective. Students can then transform their drawings into a city scene. This lesson can be paired with the lesson plan "Fantasy Buildings in Two- Point Perspective" which covers much of the same content but the teaches two-point perspective techniques.


Online Activities
If you have a computer with Internet access in your classroom, you can introduce your students to one-point perspective online. Website offers online activities/tutorials about perspective and depth. You can also find helpful Technique Demos, ArtEdventures and Lessons which will reinforce the concepts and techniques taught in this lesson.

Students should understand the basic concepts of creating depth (overlap, size, position, detail and color). Students should understand how to use a ruler (or triangle) as a straight-edge. They should be familiar with vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines. They also may need to know how to do some simple measuring. You may also want to teach two-point perspective using Sanford's lesson plan "Fantasy Buildings in Two-Point Perspective."

Students will:
a) examine and discuss visual depth in 2-D artworks from different cultures and times
b) analyze the visual techniques that make 2-D artworks appear 3-D
c) observe and demonstrate understanding of basic one-point perspective
d) create a drawing of a city street demonstrating one-point perspective


  • linear perspective
  • one-point perspective
  • two-point perspective
  • horizon line
  • vanishing point
  • orthogonal
  • horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines



Teaching Materials/Resources

  • examples of "flat" and "deep" two-dimensional artworks from different times and cultures
  • example of an artwork showing two-point perspective (see end of lesson for artwork suggestions).
    ** Have it laminated, or make an overhead transparency so you can draw erasable lines on the surface.
  • Vis-á-Vis® overhead markers or erasable markers (check to make sure they erase!) for drawing on above artwork
  • ruler (option: triangle) or yardstick for working at board dry/eraseboard, chalkboard or easel to draw on and make notes
  • box or cube with each side painted or colored a different color to use as model. Label one face "FRONT FACE"

Student Materials/Resources

  • scratch paper
  • ruler (option: triangle)
  • Design® 3800 pencil
  • Pink Pearl® erasers
  • 9 x12" (23 x30 cm) or larger drawing page
  • one-point perspective student handouts showing step-by-step construction of one-point perspective forms
  • Vis-á-Vis® overhead marker or Expo® dry erase marker

Schedule: One or two class periods for perspective studies. Two or more class periods for final city scenes.


  • Gather and display examples of "flat" and "deep" artworks. Locate/print-out one-point perspective artwork and laminate it or create overhead transparency
  • Print out and collate one-point perspective student handouts
  • Gather teacher and student studio materials.
  • Arrange classroom furniture to create a discussion area to ensure maximum participation and ability to see visuals and models.

Background Information

The Renaissance (1400 - 1600) was a great rebirth of European learning and discovery. It ended 1000 years of superstition and ignorance that followed the fall of Rome. The Renaissance began in Italy and then spread throughout northern Europe. Art, science and literature all grew tremendously during the Renaissance, led by artists like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, scientists like Galileo, and writers like Shakespeare.

Renaissance artists concentrated on investigating and representing the real world. Artists continued to depict religious subjects but also began to portray the human experience. There was renewed interest in naturalistic styles and formal rules of composition such as perspective. The Greek classical ideals of ideal proportions (for depicting the human body as well as for architecture and painting) also regained popularity.

Important artists of the Italian Renaissance were Donatello, Piero, Raphael, Titian, along with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. In northern Europe, important Renaissance artists were Albrect Dürer, Hans Holbein, and Pieter Brueghel.

Linear Perspective
Perspective is a technique for representing three-dimensional space on a flat surface. Many artists around the world have employed various techniques for portraying depth. However, it wasn't until the Renaissance that artists invented a mathematical system to show depth logically and consistently. The system of linear perspective gave artists a powerful new tool for creating realistic art.

Linear perspective is based on the way the human eye sees the world-objects which are closer appear larger, and more distant objects appear smaller. To create this illusion of space, the artist establishes a vanishing point on the horizon line. Objects are drawn using orthogonal lines which lead to the vanishing point(s). In one-point perspective, the forms are seen face on and are drawn to a single vanishing point.

One-point perspective diagram

Objects seen at an angle would be drawn with two-point perspective using two vanishing points. Often these vanishing points are "off the page".

Two-point perspective diagram




Introduction: group discussion
Introduce or review the concept of depth in two-dimensional artworks. Have students consider your visual examples and decide which ones look deep and why.

Review the ways that artists make things look deep:

  • Size: objects appear smaller as they get farther away.
  • Position: objects appear higher on the page as they get farther away.
  • Overlap: Overlapping objects show which is farther.
  • Detail: Objects have less detail as they get farther away.
  • Saturation of color: Close objects are brightest and sharpest. Objects in the distance appear pale and washed out.
  • Atmospheric perspective: Objects in the distance may appear bluish.
  • Warm colors advance/cool colors recede: Warm colors may appear closer. Cool colors may appear farther away.

Introduce the Renaissance and the development of linear perspective. Be sure students understand that realistic portrayal of depth is not necessarily a superior development in art ("flat" does not equal lack of skill). Many artists and cultures have not valued the realistic portrayal of space. You could discuss why some artists have developed a realistic style for portraying depth while others have not.

Large group demonstration
Display/project your laminated/overhead transparency example of an artwork that uses two-point perspective. Explain that one-point perspective imitates the way our eyes perceive space as disappearing to a single point on the horizon. If you have taught two-point perspective techniques, explain the difference in point of view.

  1. Identify the horizon on your artwork. Use Vis-á-Vis® overhead marker or Expo® dry erase marker to draw (or have students draw) a horizontal line and label it horizon line.
    Horizon line Horizon line
  2. Draw (or have students draw) lines from objects to the horizon line until the vanishing point is clearly established. Identify and label the vanishing point.

    Vanishing Point
  3. Explain that the lines leading to the vanishing point are called are called orthogonals and label them.

  4. Explain that a cube in two-point perspective the front face of the form is seen as the closest point.
  5. Hold your cardboard box so the edge labeled FRONT FACE is closest to your students.
  6. Have students refer back to your artwork example and identify and label the front face of forms.

    Front Faces

The number of sides visible, whether or not you see the top or bottom of the box depends on the angle from which you view it. Place the box at eye level and have them describe which and how much of the colored sides they see. Repeat observations after raising it up, lowering it and moving it to either side. Have students explain the differences in the forms in your example artwork, examining how they are related to the horizon line and vanishing point. Continue until students understand the connection of the physical cube to your one-point perspective visual.

Drawing Demonstration
Explain that now they will learn to draw basic forms in one-point perspective. First you will demonstrate it, then they will try it step-by-step.

Orient your paper or draw a large rectangle on your board to represent a paper turned horizontally, or "landscape orientation." Draw a horizon line towards the top of the page and label it.

Turn your paper horizontal. Draw a horizon line.


Explain that every line they make in one-point perspective will be vertical, horizontal or an orthogonal line (irregular shapes and lines can be dealt with later).

Demonstrate how to make the end of the ruler (or side of the triangle) flush with the edge of the paper. This is one of the most important and most challenging skills! If lines are not exactly horizontal and vertical, your students' drawings will be skewed and they will get frustrated! THIS WILL BE THE MAJOR CHALLENGE YOUR STUDENTS WILL FACE IN THIS ACTIVITY!

Flush Ruler
Crooked Ruler
Flush Triangle
Crooked Triangle

Draw the vanishing point in the center of the horizon line and label it.
Make a vanishing point.

Now draw a square or rectangle and label it "front face". Draw it in one of the lower corners so you have plenty of room to add more forms. You can continue to relate the drawing to the physical box model as you work.

Draw a square or rectangle.

Now connect three corners of your rectangle or square to the vanishing point. These are orthogonals. Draw lightly so you can erase!

Draw orthogonals from shape corners to vanishing point.

Draw a horizontal line between the top two orthogonals where you want your form to end to make the top of the box.

Draw a horizontal line to end your form.

Draw a vertical line down from the horizontal line to complete the side.

Draw a vertical line to make the form's side.

Erase the remaining orthogonals.

Erase the orthogonals.

Guided Practice
Have students go to their work places. Distribute sketch paper, pencils, erasers and rulers. Walk them through the construction of a similar drawing. Have them label the different parts (horizon line, vanishing point, front face, orthogonals...) They can construct their first box following you step-by-step as you work on your board, or they can follow the instructions in their student handout.

Drawing from Life
Another option is to set up still lifes of boxes for students to observe and draw. Be sure each student has a front on view to see front faces squarely.

Final Drawing: City Streets
When they are comfortable with one-point perspective drawing, give students drawing paper to create a final drawing. Remind them to draw lightly so extra lines can be erased. Have them create a city street scene (see example in student handout). Once they have the basic forms done, have them add details such as signs, fire hydrants, sidewalks etc. to liven up their drawings.

Final drawings look handsome if left as pencil drawings. Other options include going over lines with Sharpie® markers and adding color with Foohy® colored pencils and Academy® watercolors.

Have students do an individual, partnered or group critique. See Tips for Successful Critiques below.

Tips for Successful CritiquesTips for Successful Critiques

Learning to critique or assess art is a vital part of an artist's growth. Teach your students how to critique themselves, with a partner, in small groups and in large groups. It takes practice and modeling to ensure respectful, beneficial critiquing.

Display the artworks. Pin or tape them to a board so you can get a good look. Be sure everyone has a good view. For a large group display you may choose to critique anonymously. Be aware that some students may be uncomfortable displaying their artworks. You may want to begin by invitation. After the critique process feels safe and friendly, more students will want to participate.

Set the ground rules for the style of questions, comments and suggestions that are courteous and constructive. Encourage positive phrasing and focus on each artwork's strengths. Be inclusive and try to address each artwork. Avoid words like favorite, the best... Focus on the objectives! Emphasize the learning process rather than the final result.

When you are first starting, have students brainstorm and practice appropriate phrasing. Use one of your demos to practice with. Here are some phrases that might help students get started.

  • What really caught my eye was__________ .
  • That artwork shows__________ really well.
  • I think__________would improve that artwork.
  • I'd like to see more of__________ .
  • That artist is really skilled at__________.
  • I am a little confused by__________ .

At first, you may spend more time on the critiquing process than the actual critique but it is essential to build an atmosphere of trust and encouragement.

National  Visual Art Standards The following National Visual Art Standards can be applied to this lesson:

Fifth-Eighth Grade


Except as noted, the standards in this section describe the cumulative skills and knowledge expected of all students upon exiting grade 8. Students in grades 5-7 should engage in developmentally appropriate learning experiences to prepare them to achieve these standards at grade 8. These standards presume that the students have achieved the standards specified for grades K-4; they assume that the students will demonstrate higher levels of the expected skills and knowledge, will deal with increasingly complex art works, and will provide more sophisticated responses to works of art. Determining the curriculum and the specific instructional activities necessary to achieve the standards is the responsibility of states, local school districts, and individual teachers.


Students in grades 5-8 continue to need a framework that aids them in learning the characteristics of the visual arts by using a wide range of subject matter, symbols, meaningful images, and visual expressions. They grow ever more sophisticated in their need to use the visual arts to reflect their feelings and emotions and in their abilities to evaluate the merits of their efforts. These standards provide that framework in a way that promotes the students' thinking, working, communicating, reasoning, and investigating skills and provides for their growing familiarity with the ideas, concepts, issues, dilemmas, and knowledge important in the visual arts. As students gain this knowledge and these skills, they gain in their ability to apply the knowledge and skills in the visual arts to their widening personal worlds.

These standards present educational goals. It is the responsibility of practitioners to choose among the array of possibilities offered by the visual arts to accomplish specific educational objectives in specific circumstances. The visual arts offer the richness of drawing and painting, sculpture, and design; architecture, film, and video; and folk arts -- all of these can be used to help students achieve the standards. For example, students could create works in the medium of videotape, engage in historical and cultural investigations of the medium, and take part in analyzing works of art produced on videotape. The visual arts also involve varied tools, techniques, and processes -- all of which can play a role in students' achieving the standards, as well.

To meet the standards, students must learn vocabularies and concepts associated with various types of work in the visual arts. As they develop increasing fluency in visual, oral, and written communication, they must exhibit their greater artistic competence through all of these avenues.

In grades 5-8, students' visual expressions become more individualistic and imaginative. The problem-solving activities inherent in art making help them develop cognitive, affective, and psychomotor skills. They select and transform ideas, discriminate, synthesize and appraise, and they apply these skills to their expanding knowledge of the visual arts and to their own creative work. Students understand that making and responding to works of visual art are inextricably interwoven and that perception, analysis, and critical judgment are inherent to both.

Their own art making becomes infused with a variety of images and approaches. They learn that preferences of others may differ from their own. Students refine the questions that they ask in response to artworks. This leads them to an appreciation of multiple artistic solutions and interpretations. Study of historical and cultural contexts gives students insights into the role played by the visual arts in human achievement. As they consider examples of visual art works within historical contexts, students gain a deeper appreciation of their own values, of the values of other people, and the connection of the visual arts to universal human needs, values, and beliefs. They understand that the art of a culture is influenced by aesthetic ideas as well as by social, political, economic, and other factors. Through these efforts, students develop an understanding of the meaning and import of the visual world in which they live.

Content Standard #1: Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes

Achievement Standard:

  • Students intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of their experiences and ideas

Content Standard #2: Using knowledge of structures and functions

Achievement Standard:

  • Students select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of their ideas

Content Standard #3: Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas

Achievement Standard:

  • Students integrate visual, spatial, and temporal concepts with content to communicate intended meaning in their artworks

Content Standard #4: Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures

Achievement Standard:

  • Students know and compare the characteristics of artworks in various eras and cultures * Students analyze, describe, and demonstrate how factors of time and place (such as climate, resources, ideas, and technology) influence visual characteristics that give meaning and value to a work of art

Content Standard #5: Reflecting upon and assessing the characteristics and merits of their work and the work of others

Achievement Standard:

  • Students compare multiple purposes for creating works of art

Supporting Resources

Choose art from other times, cultures and styles to contrast. Shorewood reproductions are owned by many schools or can be ordered from Shorewood Fine Art Reproductions, Inc., Sandy Hook, Connecticut.

Suggested Shorewood reproductions to show depth:
De Vlaminick, Maurice (1876-1958), Thatched Cottages
Evergood, Philip (1901-1973), Sunny Street
Ghirlandaio Domenico (1449-1494), The Old Man and his Grandson
Lawrence,Jacob (1917- ), Parade
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519),Mona Lisa
O'Keeffe, Georgia, (1887-1986), Ranchos Church
Seurat, Georges (1859-1891), Study for "La Grande Jatte"
Shoson, Ohara (1877-1945), White Birds in Snow
Stella, Joseph (1879-1946), Brooklyn Bridge
Van Gogh, Vincent (1853-1890), Bedroom at Arles
Vassarely, Victor (1908- ), Tridem K
Vermeer, Johannes (1632-1675), Little Street
Wyeth, Andrew (1917- ), Christina's World

Suggested Shorewood reproductions to show contrasting portrayals of depth:
Klee, Paul (1879-1940), Senecio: Head of a Man
Miro, Joan (1883-1890), People and Dog in Sun
Mondrian, Piet (1877-1944), Composition No. 2
Vassarely, Victor (1908- ), Zebegen

Another source for art images is ArtToday, a Web-based subscription image service at

Suggested images from ArtToday to show depth:
Van Eyck, Jan, The Virgin and Child and Donor
De Hooch, Interior of a Dutch House or Courtyard of a Dutch House
Hopper, Lighthouse at Two Lights or House by the Railroad
Leonardo da Vinci, The Last Supper

Eyewitness Art: Perspective, by Alison Cole, (Dorling Kindersley, 1992)
This is an excellent, visual-filled introduction to perspective great for students and teachers.

Leonardo da Vinci (Masters of Art Series) by Francesca Romei, (Peter Bedrick Books, New York, 1994)
The works of Leonardo da Vinci and lots of general information about the Renaissance. Packed with visuals and interesting blocks of text for upper elementary reading level.

The Art of the Renaissance (Masters of Art Series) by Lucia Corrain, L. R. Galante (Illustrator), Simone Boni (Illustrator), (Peter Bedrick Books, New York, 1997)
Fully illustrated, upper elementary reading level.

Behind the Scenes: The Illusion of Depth (also listed as Behind the Scenes with David Hockney (1992))
Hosted by Penn and Teller, this video gives an entertaining and educational summary of depth techniques. Upper elementary and above. About 30 minutes.

Masters of Illusion is an interesting introduction to perspective techniques of the Renaissance masters and how the same principles are used today in Hollywood's special effects. Using new technology, this video approaches old masters in an appealing way. 30 minutes

Web Sites:
Museum of Science, Boston has an online exhibit about Leonardo da Vinci. Information and activities about linear perspective and aerial perspective can be found here!

Art Studio Chalkboard is a resource for artists and art students that focus on the technical fundamentals of perspective, shading, color and painting.

Student Handout

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