Where’s the Point?: Two-Point Perspective in Texas Bird’s-Eye Views
This lesson plan was written for grades 9–12.
- understand the Texas bird’s-eye view artists’ process for creating their views;
- investigate how the Texas bird’s-eye-view artists used two-point perspective to create their views and consider the directions from which the artists oriented their views;
- produce two drawings in two-point perspective from two different orientations;
- analyze how the changes in their drawings affect their impressions of the locations.
Materials needed are:
- classroom Internet access;
- bird’s-eye views of Texas cities projected for the class to see;
- drawing paper;
Note: Those without classroom Internet access may use the poster of the 1891 Fort Worth view to complete portions of this lesson. The poster is available through the Amon Carter Museum’s Teaching Resource Center.
1. Explain that bird’s-eye views, many of which are more than three feet wide, appear as something between a panoramic view and a map. In fact, they were drawn by hand using, most often, two-point perspective to produce a three-dimensional rendering. The bird’s-eye-view artists were usually itinerant, traveling from city to city. They used existing maps, as well as firsthand observations, to create their views, and once they had secured enough subscribers, they would send their drawings off to be turned into lithographs.
2. Have students learn about Texas bird’s-eye-view artists by reading their profiles. As students read the artists’ biographies, have them consider the following questions:
- How many artists are included on this site?
- Why are all the artists male? (Social restrictions made it difficult, if not impossible, for women to travel alone during this time, either journeying from city to city or sketching around each town.)
- Which artist produced the most views on this site? Who created the least?
3. Show students examples of bird’s-eye views to discuss two-point perspective. Two-point perspective is a technique artists use to make two-dimensional objects appear three-dimensional. The artist first determines the viewer’s point of view by placing a horizontal line called the horizon line; this line may be real or imaginary. Next, the artist proceeds to draw buildings and other objects using parallel lines that appear to converge as they recede and that will eventually meet at one vanishing point in one-point perspective and two with two-point. With one- or two-point perspective, the converging lines make objects diminish in size the further they are from the spectator. As students look at several bird’s-eye views, have them complete the following activities:
- Determine whether the horizon lines are real or imaginary. If they are real, have students locate them. How does the placement of the horizon line impact their viewpoint?
- Have students locate the two vanishing points in several views by tracing the parallel lines.
- Determine the direction from which each bird’s-eye view is facing. (This information is given in the text accompanying each view.) How would the view look different if the artist had used another orientation? (Views from Fort Worth in 1876 and 1891 are good examples.)
4. Have students produce two drawings in two-point perspective of either their neighborhood, the area around their school, or key landmarks in their city, making sure to include a horizon line. Each drawing should be completed from two different orientations.
5. Either orally or in writing, have students analyze their completed drawings. Have them consider answers to the following questions:
- Why did they place the horizon line where they did? How does this affect the audience’s viewpoint?
- Which landmarks or features did they choose to depict? Why? What do the features they chose tell others about their neighborhood or city?
- From which two directions did they orient their drawings? Why did they choose these orientations over others? How do the different orientations change their views?
- (1) Perception. The student develops and organizes ideas from the environment. The student is expected to:
- (A) illustrate ideas for artworks from direct observation, experiences, and imagination.
- (4) Response/evaluation. The student makes informed judgments about personal artworks and the artworks of others. The student is expected to
- (A) interpret, evaluate, and justify artistic decisions in personal artworks.
- (20) Culture. The student understands the relationship between the arts and the times during which they were created. The student is expected to:
- (A) describe how the characteristics and issues of various eras in U.S. history have been reflected in works of art, music, and literature.
This lesson plan was created by the Education Department of the Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas, to accompany the Texas Bird’s-Eye Views Web site and was made possible by a generous grant from Burlington Northern Santa Fe Foundation representing BNSF Railway Company.