Express Yourself

Your Imagination Isn’t Quarantined

A simple drawing exercise to help you rediscover the meaning of perspective

Seth Cameron
Human Parts
Published in
3 min readApr 9, 2020
A photo of poetic neon square light against a sunset sky.
Photo: Artur Debat/Getty Images

Everything is closed. Schools are closed. Stores are closed. Parks are closed. Museums are closed. But you know what’s easy to keep open for you and your kids? Your eyes.

Let me show you an easy way to open things up. But I want you to wait until your kids have gone to bed. I know you’ll be exhausted. (We’re all exhausted!) But this will be relaxing; this will be fun. No one is keeping score.

All you need is a pencil and a piece of paper. First, freehand a square in the center of the page. Small or big, it doesn’t matter. Take a second to look at it. Admire it. Okay, now give it some legs: From each corner of the square, drag your pencil to each corner of the page.

Now, before we continue, let’s get one thing straight: This is not a contest. You’re the only one here. Your drawing isn’t any better or worse than anyone else’s. In fact, don’t even show it to anyone else if you don’t want to. When you’re done with this, you can toss (I mean recycle) the paper immediately.

Back to your drawing. What is your square doing? Is it breaking the social distancing rules and coming toward you? Or is it pulling back, receding into the page? The four “legs” you drew to each corner are where the action is. They create perspective.

With a few quick marks, you’ve produced a composition that reveals the fundamental principle of art: space.

Space is freedom. Space is movement. Space is a story. What happens if you take your pencil and darken the square? What if you leave the square alone and shade the area around it? What if you grab a crayon and introduce color? If you’re still with me, experiment. See which hues seem to make the shape pop forward and which make it move away. What happens when these colors butt up against each other? Do they brighten? And what if you go back to those four legs and add lines straight across, not at an angle? Trust me, a few more moves like this and you can make your square protrude, recede, and flatten out all at the same time.

Even while confined to our homes, there’s no limit…

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Seth Cameron
Human Parts

Seth Cameron is a painter, writer, and the Executive Director of Children’s Museum of the Arts in New York City.

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