Other Indicators of the Angles of Planes

The shapes of cast shadows are what we most commonly use to identify and describe the angles of planes, and it is the major axis of a cast shadow shape that shows us the degree of a plane's incline. Depending on your subject, there are other visual clues. In the landscape, for example, look at the base lines of bushes, rocks, and tree trunks, lichen and moss on trees and rocks, patches of wildflowers in the grass, and even the color variations in the grass. In a dining room with a table set for dinner, where the ellipses of the plates, glasses, and bowls are all parallel to the horizon, the objects on the far side of the table will have slightly shorter minor axes than those on the near side. Wallpaper with a repeating pattern offers another opportunity to describe planes according to elliptical perspective, as do patterns in folded, draped, and wrinkled clothing.

Note the similarities between the angles of these cut cylinders and the cast shadows of the trees. In all cases, the major axis of the cylinder's and the cast shadow's ellipse is used to define the incline of the plane.

The cast shadows of the oaks serve to define the contours of these hills. When you draw, use cast shadows to describe your subject's surroundings.

In this illustration, the elliptical perspective of the sweater's pattern defines the internal contours of the woman's form. When drawing, use the repeating patterns you see in clothing, drapery, and the like to explain changes in the fabric's direction.

Here the elliptical patches of light within the cast shadows describe the curvature of the path.

In this illustration the cast shadows across the road describe its ruts and the contour of the land on either side of it.

There are at least ten uses of elliptical perspective in this drawing. Can you find them? (answers below)


  • The bottom of the clouds
  • Their cast shadows on the water
  • The wave shapes
  • The waterlines of the rocks
  • The shoreline shapes
  • The base lines of the the distant shrubs
  • The foregrounds tree's bark texture
  • The tree's cast shadows on the grass
  • The tree's inclined base line
  • The angle of the birds in relation to eye level
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