A proper understanding of eye level goes a long way when you want to draw something accurately. When asked,”What is eye-level?” the common reply is, “It’s the horizon.” or “It’s where the horizon is.” Some say that it’s a sight line, station point, or point of view.
While the concept of eye-level is really not any of these exactly, each of these ideas relates to it.
Eye Level Is Based On Where You Are
In fact, eye level is simple to understand. It is the distance from the ground plane to your eyes. It is a very major contributor to your point of view, station point or sight line. We we always perceive the horizon at eye level, so that is why those two things are so closely associated. When we cannot see the horizon, we still have an eye level. It is the point from which we view the world around us. Eye level is always horizontal, never vertical.
Linear perspective is based on eye level. If the horizon (where sky and ground meet) sits at eye level and receding planes (converging orthogonal lines) meet at the same point on the horizon, then eye level is essential to how space and forms are depicted and understood. We know where we are in space because of eye level.
Eye level is not a fixed distance. It changes depending upon what we do. We lower our eye level when we sit, and raise it when we stand or climb stairs. Our perception of shape and form depends on our vertical distance from the ground plane.
If we are on high ground, our eye level in relationship to that ground remains the same as when we’re in the lowlands. Everything on that particular ground plane is perceived based on the distance from the ground at our feet to our eyes. If, in the panorama of our visual field we see things far below us, we’re on high ground, but the foundational “ground” is the original ground plane.
We see the bottoms of objects above our eye level, and the tops of things below it.
Whether above or below eye level, the closer an object is to eye level, the more foreshortening is perceived. A circle foreshortens to an ellipse as it approaches eye level from above or below.
It is only when an edge of something sits exactly on eye level do we see it and draw it as a straight line.
When we draw or photograph anything, we are creating or capturing that image at our own eye level, and everyone who views the drawing or photo will be forced to assume our eye level. We use eye level to control how we want people to see things.
How we use eye level communicates in an effective way. We make something seem small and insignificant or huge and heroic.
Try it. Draw or photograph (or both) the same object at eye level, from above at an angle and from below at an angle. Study your results and how your images communicate.
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