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In the Studio This Week – Perspectives (Ugh!)

In the studio this week, I focused exclusively on the Milan Art Institute lessons. This week was entirely about perspective and cityscapes. My husband has been encouraging me to do city scenes so I thought this would be a good opportunity to practice.

Reference Photo Selection

The program offered several different scenes to use as a reference. Many scenes were of Venice or other European cities. I asked my husband what he thought, and he homed in on this photo of the Flatiron Building in New York City. He is a native, so it seemed like a fitting choice.

Reference photo showing the Flatiron Building in New York City

Pencil Drawing

I began the process with a pencil drawing. I focused primarily on trying to get the building’s perspective correct. All those windows were a nightmare.  This was supposed to be worked up quickly in preparation for the next drawing. I spent longer than the suggested time just because of the difficulty with perspective.

Pencils Sketch of the Flatiron Building in New York City

Charcoal Drawing

Okay, I cheated a bit on this one! The lesson was to start out fresh and do the whole drawing again in charcoal. I was already behind schedule since I worked so long on the pencil drawing so I just did the charcoal on top of the pencil drawing.

A subtractive process was used where you apply charcoal and use erasers or other subtractive tools to “pull out” the highlights. I finished and felt well poised to start the oil painting.

Charcoal drawing of teh Flatiron Builidng in New York City

Flatiron in Oil Paint

I was nervous to start this. Elie Milan, one of the instructors, demonstrated how to do a cityscape using a taping tool to help with perspective. Of course, she whipped out a painting with seemingly little effort. This process also used a subtractive method to pull out the lines and windows. I spent too much time doing and redoing the windows and the eaves to get the proper perspective. I never did get it exactly right, but I know it was time to move on as it was already overworked.

I used the cold wax medium to give the effect of snow in the foreground. I have used various texture mediums with acrylic paint, but this cold wax medium is a new technique for me. I thought about splattering paint over the whole painting to make it look like it was snowing and maybe detract from some of the perspective errors. In the end, I just moved on.

Oil painting of the Flatiron building in New York City

A Crowd of People in Perspective

This was another exercise in subtractive use of charcoal. I found the crowd was difficult. The concept is to focus on the shapes and not the details, but there were so many details fighting for my attention. Here’s the reference photo and my attempt at blocking in.

Initial blocking in of a charcoal draawing of a crowd of people

I found this lesson hard, but I think I grasped the concept of a crowd in perspective. I chose to also move on from this exercise as I felt pressured to finish before the end of the week.

Charcoal drawing of a crowd of people at an outdoor cafe


When choosing reference photographs, I try to go with one that really speaks to me. The photographs I chose were probably more detailed than I should have chosen, especially knowing the trouble I have with perspective drawing. This would be a good training to revisit when I have a break from the Mastery Program.

Right now, I have a stack of oil paintings and untold drawings, most of which I consider incomplete. Some I plan to revisit, but some might be painted over to start fresh. How many canvases can one person stack up? 

Thank you for being here with me on this journey. I peeked ahead to next week’s lessons and the focus  will be portraits – something more in my wheelhouse!

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