Anamorphic Art

green and white leafed plantsDistortion in Art

To distort is to pull or twist out of shape. Distortion is part of drawing and can make a subject look either correct or incorrect.

Think about a square. Adjacent edges form 90 degree angles. Now think of a cube. A cube is made of square-shaped sides. However, to accurately depict a cube in a 2D drawing, one must distort the sides. Look at the cube below. No two adjacent edges form 90 degree angles. Yet still, we understand the cube to have square sides.

Anamorphic Distortion in Art

Over time, a few artists have used anamorphic distortion in their art – not to better describe their subject but rather to obscure it. An anamorphic image only looks correct from one single vantage point. A fantastic example of Anamorphosis is found in the painting by Hans Holbein entitled, The Ambassadors. The stretched-out shape in the foreground is difficult to make out. However, when seen from the extreme lower left, the shape becomes a clearly rendered skull.

Anamorphic art has had a major resurgence in recent years and artists have used both photos and drawings to create incredible illusions. One such artist is known on YouTube as “brusspup”. Brusspup uses science to create illusions that can be categorized as art.

Here’s one of his videos that features anamorphic imagery…

How to Make Anamorphic Art

After seeing these images, you may think that creating anamorphic art requires some sort of wizardry. But, it’s easier than you think to create your own anamorphic images. Let’s take a look at how you can create your own amazing illusions…

To make an anamorphic image on a 2D surface you will need:

A pencil

An image, either a photograph or a drawing.

A ruler

A wide sheet of drawing paper or illustration board

A medium of your choice to complete the drawing (ink, color pencil, paint, etc.)

Step One

Draw a grid of squares over a preselected photo or drawing. The demonstration drawing is based on an iconic image of Abraham Lincoln. Using Adobe Photoshop, this image was simplified into value shapes. Don’t worry, if you do not have access to Photoshop you can still make an anamorphic image with a regular photo or drawing.

Step Two

Tape your image to the edge of your paper/illustration board. Extend the center line of your grid to four times the width of your reference image. Now draw lines from the top and bottom corners of your reference (points A and B) to the farthest point of your center line (point C).

Step Three

Finishing the distorted grid requires a few more measurements. First, draw a line from each grid point along the right edge of the reference to point C. Then draw a vertical line downward through point C. Make the bottom of this new line (point D) even with the bottom edge of the reference photo. Connect point A to point D with a line. Draw vertical grid lines (EF) where the (AD) line intersects the horizontal grid lines.

Step Four

It is advisable to draw light lines that bisect the grid-blocks diagonally, effectively putting an “x” in each block. The “x” helps us to know where the center of each block is, resulting in a more accurate layout. You can erase these lines along with the original grid as you develop the image in the next steps.

Step Five

Block by block, draw all of the hard edges that you observe. The Abraham Lincoln example is made of all hard-edged shapes. If you are working from a less graphic photo you may still want to draw a few extra contours that follow the shadow in your reference.

Step Six

Render your anamorphic drawing in any medium you choose or feel comfortable using.

Step Seven

Look at your image from straight on. Now, from right side of the drawing, look down your image at a severe angle. Its distortion through space should create the impression of accurately drawn proportions, but only from the correct angle.

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