As an art teacher , one of my favorite things to teach is linear perspective. For those not familiar with linear perspective, it is a system of drawing used to create spatially accurate relationships between forms (objects) and their environment. Linear perspective makes use of dots (called vanishing points) along an established eye-level. See the illustration below.
Linear perspective can be used in different ways. For more the different forms of linear perspective, check out these lessons…
To draw most objects, one starts with either a flat rectangular plane or an actual rectilinear form, i.e., a box. Usually, at the scholastic level, most perspective projects reinforce the basic rules of linear perspective by using subject matter that remains box-like. Examples include city buildings, houses, interior spaces (rooms) and standard stair steps. Often, drawing stairs represents the height of complexity achieved in an introductory linear perspective project.
Of course, when using linear perspective, one can draw anything, even curvy things. Sometimes, while helping my students draw the aforementioned buildings and interior space, someone will invariably ask “How do I draw a spiral staircase?”. Such are the questions that art teachers love to hear. Nothing is more exciting that working through a drawing problem with an eager mind.
The following tutorial demonstrates how to draw a spiral staircase. As you might have guessed, we’ll start with a box.
Drawing a Spiral Staircase
Before we begin drawing the staircase, study the illustration below.
If you can draw a square, then you can also draw a circle inside of that square by aiming a curved line at the center points of each of the squares sides.
If you can divide a circle in half, then you can also continue dividing the circle until you have equal eighths.
The two bullet points above are fundamental to drawing a spiral staircase. Let’s begin.
Step One – Draw a Box
Note: The following drawing was created on a tablet using Procreate. One can use a pencil and paper to complete the tutorial just as well. Drawing on the tablet simply makes the tutorial easier to understand. I used different color lines for each steps. In your own drawing, you should draw very lightly since most of the first few steps will eventually be erased.
Draw a tall box using one point perspective (if you are unable to draw a box using one point perspective, then practice that first and return to this article). Here, the vanishing point is near the middle of the box.
Don’t worry about the proportions of your box too much if this is your first time drawing a spiral staircase. You can make adjustment to the proportions of your stairs in subsequent steps. In fact, I will change the proportions of my stairs later in the drawing.
Step Two – Draw a Few Lines
Create a series of lines across the front of your box. The spacing of these lines determine the spacing between your steps, so be sure the distances between these lines are consistent.
Now, using the vanishing point, make a flat horizontal plane from each of the horizontal lines. Your drawing should look a bit like a book case.
These horizontal planes should feel as though they are squares and not rectangles. If necessary, adjust your original boxes proportions and refine the horizontal planes’ shapes.
Step Three – Draw a Few Ellipses
Now draw an ellipse inside of each of these horizontal planes. An ellipse is simply a circle that is tilted in space. As mentioned before, aim at the middle of each horizontal plane’s four sides.
Need help drawing ellipses? How to Draw an Ellipse
Only a small segment of each of these ellipses will later become part of a step. You will have a chance to refine these curves edges later in the drawing.
Beginning at the corners, draw an “X” through each of the horizontal planes. Doing so pin-points the center of each plane. Now we can draw a long vertical line through these center points, creating an axis for our steps to rotate around.
Later, we’ll thicken this line so that it looks like a substantial support capable of bearing weight.