Exercise: Illustrating visual space

As it happens I’ve just done an illustration that encompassed the three elements here:

  • A Tree (several, as it happens)
  • A child running or walking (skipping maybe?)
  • A building (the baker’s house, of course)

Into the Woods Flyer Image

This is a flyer illustration for ‘Into the Woods’ – but I can use the elements within it for this exercise.


The above Girl, Tree and House are randomly placed. They don’t easily suggest a familar relationship as the smaller house looks like it’s in the distance but is also below the level of the girl’s feet and the tree base… normally more distant things are higher because we can’t see through the ground!


So I’ve put some ground in and raised the house. The girl could be going to the house in this layout. The tree is more textural. It is also balancing. There is more spacing between the girl and the house indicating a distance yet to cover.

The house might be uncomfortably close to the edge here.

The horizon that I’ve put in suggests elevation – the house is higher and might be overlooking a good view. The girl already has diagonals built into her shape that suggest movement – she is skipping (because she is actually little red riding hood). With a non-horizontal horizon more dynamic is added but it is still less than that portrayed by the girl – she is bigger, bolder and overshadows the horizon. She is also very much in the foreground with everything else being much, much more in the background.


Just to be provocative I swapped the tree and the house, scaling each accordingly. This has made the house into scenery – it is not in line with the girl’s travel and not even clearly where she came from. The lit window serves to suggest an occupant – perhaps watching the girl. It can’t be granny’s house.

The tree looks odd in the corner. The whole thing now looks non-sensical.


Now re-working the horizon. She is just passing.


I put the girl central and the house as where she has left. The tree wanted to be up where it is. This is like the Little House on the Prairy and she is Laura Ingalls at night. Although the girl is still the smallest element she is the focus of this layout. She relates the house to the tree – her pose is slanted.


Just for fun I aligned the tree. This made it look odd. There is an uneasy suggestion that the tree is not distant but is above – falling, therefore, on the girl. I don’t know why else it should seem odd – perhaps it’s too perfect.


In this arrangement we a challenged a little about what is upright, The girl is out and about on the roof and the tree grows out sideways from the mountainside. The house seems to have nowhere to stand – it is floating perhaps.


The house is no-longer floating – the edge of the frame has grounded it. But now the girl is no-longer upright – she is at the same angle as the tree and travelling along at the tree’s angle. There is a sense that the girl is on a journey to the top. Grandma is now living at the top I suppose.

It is interesting that this is acceptable. Perhaps there is enough separation between the girl/tree and the house for them to exist in different logical gravities.


This one makes no sense but kind of looks nice. The three elements have also left a diagonal space lower-right.


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