Exercise: Simple Perspective in Interior Studies


Exercise: Simple Perspective in Interior Studies

Focus on creating an illusion of space. As this is an exercise in drawing with paint, keep your colours muted or within a very limited palette. When finished,  look at your painting critically and make notes in your learning log. Are any areas of your painting particularly convincing? Does any part of the painting look wrong? Why do you think this is?

Simple perspective in interior study - thumbnails

Simple perspective in interior study – thumbnails

Simple perspective in interior studies - painting in line Acrylic on A3 paper

Simple perspective in interior studies – painting in line
Acrylic on A3 paper

Are any areas of your painting particularly convincing?

The ceiling beams seem to work well, they give the impression of a low ceiling that recedes to the far wall. I am also happy with the general perspective, both of the units and the floor tiles. (In the photo above, the floor appears arched but that is the paper curling.)  I think the general scale is also fairly accurate.

Does any part of the painting look wrong?

I am not convinced on the doorway into the next room. I also feel the height of the dresser against the far wall is too tall.

Why do you think this is?

Looking at my thumbnail, the door appears to be the door in the opening but actually I now realise the door in the painting is another door to a room off the next room, so maybe it is correct! I do think there is something wrong in that this is not obvious.

As far as the height of the dresser is concerned, I did measure constantly, but a recurring problem when I measure is not returning to the exact same spot, so the measurements are off. I seem to be more successful by just relating lines and angles to each other as I go. They don’t move, I do.

Research Points: Interiors


Research the work of the Dutch Realist genre painters and choose two or three paintings that particularly appeal to you. Look at the devices employed to draw the viewer into the experience of the occupants of the room.

Johannes Vemeer (1632-1675)

A fairly obvious choice for looking at interiors, Vermeer was famous for his scenes of 17th Century domestic life.

The Music Lesson by Johaness Vemeer. The Royal Collection at St James' Palace

The Music Lesson by Johannes Vemeer.
The Royal Collection at St James’ Palace


Vemeer has used perspective to show depth and space in the room. His subjects appear to be unaware of his gaze and the interior itself is almost as important. The light from the window illuminates the figures and elevates them as the focal point, as does the tiled floor guiding the eye towards them. Adding in the table with its detailed cloth and jug, chair and cello gives a narrative to what could have been a static pose.





Pieter de Hooch (1629-1684)

A contemporary of Vemeer, de Hooch is not so familiar to me.  However, he also was known for painting interiors, with the specific device of looking through an open door.

Card Players in a Sunlit Room by Pieter de Hooch The Royal Collection, Windsor

Card Players in a Sunlit Room by Pieter de Hooch
The Royal Collection, Windsor


This painting is a realistic looking scene of a group of card players.  The light is expertly and convincingly painted from the outside to in, the sheen on the door and the cast sunlight coming in through the door on to the floor points to the room’s occupants. Again the chequered tiles draw the eye to them and also on out to the courtyard, introducing the advancing figure to the story. The offset placement of the key figures give it a realistic composition, with one figure standing adding to the scale of the room and its contents. The more I look at this the more I like it. Its colours are fairly neutral but for the few flashes of red to lift its impact.



Look at interiors that have been painted by various artists from different periods. Look especially at how illusions of space have been created, how doorways and windows form a part of the composition and how furniture and objects are depicted either as a central focus for the painting or as secondary to any human drama.

Mr & Mrs Clark and Percy (1970-71) by David Hockney (b 1937)


This painting is a portrait of the artist’s friends, however, it says so much more. It is well documented that the sitters were not getting along too well at the time and the placement of the figures in their setting does give the impression of division. The open door not only creates a barrier but seems to be offering a means of escape – if only for Percy the cat! Placing the figures against the light of the open door does not throw them into the spotlight but seems to make them become part of the interior being contre jour.



Robert Louis Stevenson and his Wife (1885) by John Singer Sargent (1856-1925)


Sargent has given a sense of space through open doors in this painting and then taken it away again by adding the gloom of the hallway and the seemingly unobtainable exit by the front door. The direction of the floor boards lead away into the dark, foreboding, hallway.  I always forget that this image includes Stevenson’s wife as she blends into the interior so well I think she’s part of the furniture – she almost appears to be hiding! The rug on the floor is horizontal and Stevenson is pacing (I imagine) back and forth deep in thought and has been caught mid ponder.