Isometric drawing is the principle method for conveying accurate, schematic information in three-dimensional drawings. As measurements are not distorted when the object recedes from view, complex, technical information can be conveyed without the danger of mistakes. However isometric drawing does have some limitations, which can be explored through drawing activities.
Develop isometric drawing skills in students by having them build some simple models from LEGOs. Get them to turn the shapes so that they are facing them diagonally and have them draw the model. When the artists are finished with this activity set up a "telephone"-style game. Get each person to make a complex shape and then pass it to the person on his left. This person must make an isometric drawing of the shape, take the shape apart and pass the drawing and LEGO bricks to the person on their left. This person must then try and reconstruct the model from the drawing. They should pass the finished model to the person on their left. This person must make a new drawing, take the model apart and pass the bricks and the drawing to their left and so on. This way students take turns between drawing from a model and reconstructing a model from a drawing.
Produce an isometric cityscape on a sheet of paper. Use only square- or rectangular-faced buildings. Then draw an enlargement of this drawing onto a large sheet of paper hung on the wall or even on the wall itself. To do this it would be easier to draw a grid of isometric dots on the wall in pencil before you begin. Construct the isometric grid by drawing a vertical column of evenly-spaced dots on the left-hand side of the wall. Four-inch intervals between the dots will work well. From the bottom dot measure an angle of 30-degrees to the right of vertical. Measure 4 inches along this angle and draw a dot to start the second column. Complete the second column by drawing dots at 4-inch intervals above the first dot. Repeat the procedure to make the third column and so on.
Isometric drawings are very accurate but they do have certain limitations, which can lead to confusing images. These limitations are capitalised on by artists such as M.C Escher to create visual illusions such as the seemingly endless staircases in "Ascending and Descending." Look at some examples and try making your own. A good example to try is the arrangement created by Oscar Reutersvärd. Draw four blocks in a line, receding from the viewer away to the right. Leave a space between each block equal to width of the blocks. Draw three blocks receding from the last block in the first row but receding to the left. Then draw two blocks positioned vertically between the ends of the two rows you have drawn. You will see the illusion appear. For an example of this and further ideas see the Resources section.
Use a large-scale topographical map and convert it into an isometric landscape drawing. Turn the map so that it is positioned in front of you diagonally. Select a small section of the map. Make a simple isometric drawing from the map. Simplify all the hills so that they are just arrangements of square blocks. Use the elevation between the contour lines to define the length of each side of each block. If the elevation of between contour line is 50 yards, for example, make each block represent a 50-by-50-yard section of land. A map showing flat land with a hill 50 yards high and roughly 50-by-50-yards in circumference, you would draw a flat sheet with one block in the middle. However, it is better to use a more varied landscape.
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