2. It’s all about your eye level…

When I wrote my book on perspective in 2015, I came up with several unique ways of describing perspective terms and processes — things that I have seen no where else but are a product of my 25+ years of teaching perspective sketching and the crazy ways I explain things 😉

Here’s an example. Instead of using the concept of “Horizon Line” used in every other book or class I’ve ever seen on perspective, I use the concept of “Eye Level Line” or “Eye Line”. This is literally a horizontal line that represents the height of your eyes above the ground (shown in blue in the photo below.) Why use ELL instead of HL? Unless you are sketching at the beach or West Texas or from the second floor of Basilica San Marco in Venice and can see the horizon (where the ocean or land meets the sky), the concept of your Eye Level Line is more relevant to urban sketching.

Your EYE LEVEL = Horizon Line, but ELL is better!!

From The Urban Sketching Handbook: 101 Sketching Tips. You can see that my eye level aligns
with the actual horizon in the distance. You can also see that the vanishing point for the building
on the right is ON the horizontal line at my eye level, my ELL!

Now let’s apply it to sketching interiors. From lesson 1, you know how to use converging lines to find your Vanishing Point. Next thing to learn is that nearly all the vanishing points will live somewhere on your Eye Level Line!! This line is so important for so many things, I draw it into every sketch I make.

How do I find my Eye Level Line in my view? Here are a few methods:

  1. Hold your pencil or pen at your eye level in front of your eyes, and compare this horizontal line to your view. Where does this line hit something in the scene that you can use as reference?
  2. If you are sitting, find a door handle. You’ll notice my eye level is just about the height of the handle on the door to the left.
  3. Find where parallel lines that are receding away from you converge to one point, that Vanishing Point will be on your Eye Level Line.
  4. Horizon = Your Eye Level, so if you can see the horizon, use it! Keep in mind that your Eye Level Line is different if you are sitting (about the height of a door handle), standing (about 5′ from the ground), on top of a building or in a plane, just remember that the vanishing points will be on this line!
  5. Use the concept of Foreshortening. Vanishing lines ABOVE your eye level will angle down, receding lines below your eye level will angle up, and receding lines that appear dead flat are ON your eye level line! The example below shows the floor lines of an office building, but you can also see this when looking at shelves in your home. Where the lines of the shelves flatten out to a true horizontal line, that is your eye level!
  6. Reference other people in your view. If you are sitting, other people in the view who are also sitting will align with your eye level. Same if you are standing and the ground is more or less flat– the eyes of other people standing will be just about the same as your eye level!
From The Urban Sketching Handbook: Understanding Perspective.
From The Urban Sketching Handbook: 101 Sketching Tips.

The New Burke Museum, Seattle. Notice how when I’m standing, most everyone else who is standing has the same eye level as I do, provided the floor is pretty flat and they are roughly as tall as I am. This is true no matter where people are in your view. Knowing this can help me find my ELL and VP, and helps me to accurately add people to my sketches! In an eye level perspective view, heads will align!

Try taking some photos around your house of things like bookcases, drawers, horizontal wood siding, etc. to see if you can find where these lines flatten out to a horizontal–that will be your eye level line! Watch this line change as you sit or stand and how this change impacts other lines.

It’s really important to understand where your Eye Level Line is in your view and in your sketch… much more on that coming up!

8 thoughts on “2. It’s all about your eye level…

    1. Hi Catherine, I’ll talk about this more in the next post, but no, even if you are looking up or down, the VP does not change. It is directly in front of you at your eye level… GREAT question!


  1. Hi Stephanie, I am curious about the people height and eye level on the street, in the City drawing with tall buildings. I think all heads are on the same horizontal line and the smaller people are further away. But I can’t determine where you were standing when you drew the sketch.
    Where you on right or left
    Or in the middle. I believe the people on the left are smaller thank those on right and it confuses me. Is that because you are standing on the right? I look forward that that lesson…


    1. Hi Nora, WOW, you really looked carefully at this! I am in fact sitting on steps of the Chicago Art Institute with my friend Alane Simons, so my eye level is higher than everyone on the street in my view. That is why people in the distance are small and a bit higher in my sketch than the larger people you see in the foreground. So in this sketch, the heads do not align! I’m super impressed you noticed that, so glad you asked this question!! I have two pages on this concept in the new book, it’s Tip # 67…


  2. Thank you Stephanie, for ever so generous and giving. You are one hell of an incredible human being! love you from down under… Love Toto, Lulu and Rooi.


  3. Stephanie, this is like Good Bones Part Two. Thank you for doing this. The house of your friends where you stayed in San Antonio is spectacular.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Shirley, good timing, as some of this will be a review for you!!! And yes, the house where I stayed is beautiful, designed by rock star firm Lake Flato…not like staying at Hotel Emma ;), but super lucky gal am I!


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