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Drawing in Perspective – Bonus Video

Video Presentation – Part 2 of 2

By Vladimir London

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Drawing in Perspective

Video lesson by Vladimir London, Drawing Academy tutor

The tower has eight columns, two at each side. Although these columns look relatively small, each weighs 64 tons; this is as much as 16 adult elephants.

I’m using perspective lines to determine the position of the second tower that is farther away from a viewer.

The cathedral as it stands today is not an original design. It has been rebuilt four times since the time of Peter the Great. The current version of the basilica took 40 years to complete.

Every exterior column of this cathedral is a monolith, carved from red granite. With all the achievements of contemporary science and industry, today we still don’t have the technology to cut hard stones with the precision that is present in the St. Isaac’s Cathedral’s columns. The portico’s columns weigh 114 tons each.

At the top of the four bell-towers, there are gold-plated cupolas. They crown a larger dome, which we will begin drawing shortly.

The cathedral’s main dome is located centrally. You remember that we found its vertical axis using the method of diagonals.

Now it is time to depict the dome’s lower drum. It has a cylindrical shape, hence its architectural name—rotunda. I mark its width on the horizontal line. This horizontal line is the main axis of the oval that is a circular top plane of the drum’s cylinder seen in perspective.

I mark the height of this oval. The width to height ratio of this oval can be measured in life and replicated in drawing. There are also other geometrical methods of defining the width-to-height ratio, which I will present later in this video.

When drawing an oval, remember to keep its ends rounded. An oval is a circle in perspective and therefore cannot have sharp edges.

With one oval in place, we can now define the width-to-weight ratio of another oval, which is located at the top of the rotunda’s colonnade.

To do so, we draw two virtual tilted lines in one-point perspective that go to the vanishing point on the horizon.

Using these two lines, we now draw a square in perspective that inscribes the oval.

From the two edges of the oval, we draw virtual vertical lines going upward. At the top, there is a horizontal main axis of another oval that represents the top circle of the rotunda.

The intersections of the horizontal axis and vertical lines are marks through which we draw two more tilted lines in one-point perspective. These tilted lines go to the same vanishing point on the horizon.

From the four corners of the square defined earlier, we draw four vertical virtual lines till they cross the perspective lines.

Here is another square in the same one-point perspective, which gives us a cuboid with its bottom plane shaded in gray.

Using diagonals, we can check the correctness of the axis of the top square plane. This axis is the main axis of the second oval, which is the top circle of the rotunda seen in perspective.

Inside the top square plane, we draw the oval.

This oval is located higher than the previous one and farther from horizon; therefore, it appears noticeably fuller. How much fuller is defined by the cuboid built in one-point perspective.

At the top of the main drum, there is another one, which is smaller in diameter. I’m measuring its width with the pencil, making sure it is symmetrical.

Through the two red points that represent the width of the smaller drum, we draw two more lines in the same one-point perspective.

Using the diagonals of the top square plane and lines in perspective, we mark a smaller square (marked in red) in the same plane. It is equal in size to the smaller drum width.

Inside of this red square, we draw an oval, which is the footprint of the smaller drum.

With the base of the smaller drum in place, we can now depict its top oval. Its width is marked with red dots through which we draw two more perspective lines.

Once again, using lines in perspective, we draw a cuboid, the bottom plane of which is indicated in gray.

The diagonals of the top square plane help us to find the main horizontal axis of the top oval.
Inside of this top square, we draw an inscribed oval.

Because this oval is higher, it appears fuller than other ovals, which are closer to the horizon.

Above the top drum, there is the main cupola with a rounded shape.

The St. Isaac’s Cathedral dome is 22 meters in diameter and weighs 300 thousand tons. It is plated with more than 100 kilos (or 220 pounds) of pure gold.

The rotunda’s colonnade has 24 columns. They are located at the height of a 14-story building.

Drawing equally-spaced columns arranged in a circle presents a challenge, but I will show you how to solve it with precision. To simplify this demonstration, I will do 16-column rotunda instead of 24.

I’m measuring the radius of the rotunda and making several marks with that radius to build a semi-circle just beneath the rotunda.

This semicircle is split in eight equal parts. To draw a 24-column rotunda, you would split it into 12 parts.

At the end of each radius, I place a small circle representing the column’s footprint as seen from above.

Using vertical projection lines, indicated in red, I mark the location of every column on the rotunda.

These equally spaced columns appear in the side view with the necessary precision.

As an artist, you can draw such columns measuring distances by eye rather than drafting architectural plans.

The columns of the St. Isaac’s Cathedral are done in the Corinthian order, which means the columns’ height-to-width ratio is 10 to 1.

The Corinthian order has the most elaborate capital, which is too small to depict in detail in this drawing. In the Drawing Academy video course, I dedicated a separate video lesson to how to draw Corinthian order capitals.

There are two big arched windows on the cathedral’s façade. The right one is visible in our drawing.

There are 24 statues standing on the roof. I draw those statues as simplified shapes rather than describing them in detail. The purpose of this video lesson is to show how to draw a building in one- and two-point perspective. If you want to learn how to draw figures and portraits with the full knowledge of a human anatomy and correct proportions, you can enroll in the Anatomy Master Class.

The triangular pediment is decorated with the high relief sculptures. I’m giving only a suggestion of this decoration instead of drawing each figure.

With all main elements of the Cathedral in place, we can now render some tonal values to reveal its three-dimensional nature.

I suggest that the light is coming from the top-left corner and render the right wall in shade.

There is the cast shadow beneath the portico’s roof.

I’m rendering the cast shadow of the frontal portico together with columns to speed up the process. Traditional tonal rendering techniques are fully presented in the Drawing Academy video course.

Lighter value columns are drawn by erasing graphite hatching with a soft-kneaded eraser.

Even deeper cast shadows can be rendered between columns.

All virtual helping lines can be erased at this point, as they served their purpose well and are no longer required. This step is optional, and you may decide to keep those lines to make constructive drawing more interesting.

A wide hog brush can be used to wipe off eraser particles.

I continue rendering tonal values, gradually building up a required tone.

The same method of shading the entire area of the portico’s colonnade and erasing columns is used here once again.

While rendering the tonal values of the cathedral drawing, I would like to say a few more words about its design.

The design of this building is inspired by the architecture of ancient Greece and Rome. The simple rectangular shape of the building gets it magnificent look from such elements as porticos, the rotunda and the dome. For example, the octastyle design of the porticos is similar to the Pantheon in Rome and the Parthenon in Athens. The triangular pediment resembles many Greek temples. The Corinthian order columns are slender and glorious.

The columns of the St. Isaac’s Cathedral deserve a separate word. There are 112 red granite columns in total, including 48 at the ground level. Each column is cut out and erected as a single block. Each stands unsupported under its own weight, bearing the colossal weight of the dome and roofs.

The dome has a cast-iron structure and is the biggest in the world that uses such construction. It is decorated with 12 statues of angels that were not cast but electrotyped, which was a brand-new technology invented in Russia in 1838. These statues are 21 feet high, but the metal is only few millimeters thick.

There are many more interesting facts about this cathedral, including the biggest malachite columns in the world. Malachite is actually a semi-precious stone from the Ural Mountains.

Let’s come back to our drawing, which is almost complete.

I hope you enjoyed this video.

To learn traditional drawing techniques, enroll in the Drawing Academy course.


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