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Drawing Shutters

Perspective is one of those subjects that most people tend to run and hide from. It’s boring, technical and not much fun, but a little understanding of what goes on can make a big difference to your work.

We are going to look at shutters – they are great painting subjects but, because of their independent pivoting, often cause problems in paintings. Get them right and they are not really noticed, get them wrong and become a major distraction.

The simplest approach when drawing shutters is to swing them back against the wall and forget about the perspective. The further back to the wall the shutter swings, the less effect perspective has, provided we are square on to the wall.

Watercolor painting of window with wide open shutters

Moving Vanishing Points

This sketch shows a shutter pushed back against a wall. Our eye level is the middle red line and the two other red lines meet at a vanishing point somewhere on our eye level, or horizon line. In this case the vanishing point would be way off to the left somewhere.

Drawing shutter in perspective - shutter wide open




As the shutter swings out, our horizon line stays the same, but the vanishing point moves in along the horizon line towards the shutter.

Drawing shutter in perspective - shutter partly closed




The further out the shutter swings the closer the vanishing point moves along the horizon line towards the shutter. When the shutter swings to the point where its front edge is directly facing us, the vanishing point will have disappeared behind it.

Drawing shutter in perspective - shutter half closed




Because shutters are independently hinged, they will often be at different angles to the window. Both shutters will still have their vanishing points on the horizon line, but the position of the individual vanishing points along the horizon line will depend on the angle of each shutter.

Painting of shutters open at different angles




This sketch shows how one shutter , pushed almost back against the wall, has a vanishing point way off to the left. The other shutter, starting to swing closed, has its vanishing point on the same horizon line, but its much closer to the shutter.

Painting of shutters open at different angles
Drawing Shutters From A Low Vantage Point

The same thing happens if we lower our horizon line. In this case we are standing on the ground looking up at the window. Our horizon, or eye level line, in the illustration below is the horizontal red line below the window and our independently swinging shutters have their vanishing points at different positions along the horizon line.

Drawing Shutters in perspective from a low vantage point




In this painting the window sill is at eye level so the bottom of both the shutters will be almost horizontal, no matter what angle the shutters are at. The angle of the louvers increases the higher up the shutter they are and the angle at the top of the shutter increases as the shutter swings out.


The easiest way to come to grips with this swinging shutter, perspective thing, is to do a few simple sketches. At first it sounds complicated and confusing, but once you understand what is happening, it will give you much more control over what is happening in your painting

The same principle applies to doors, gates, windows – anything that pivots with a horizontal top and bottom, so it is well worth understanding just what happens when you are drawing shutters.




Sometimes though, the geometric simplicity of ancient closed shutters is enough to capture your attention. This quick little sketch was done in a hilltop village in Northern Italy. Years ago the rotted bottoms of some of the planks had been carefully cut out and patched. The boards had never been painted and 100 years of sun, rain and snow had turned them a beautiful silver color.


watercolor sketch of ancient closed shutters

See also Perspective 



Author: John Lovett

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