2D UNIT X: Depth Cues

Project XG  Fantastic Illusions (from a project by Isa Gordon)

To apply various methods of suggesting or denying spatial illusion or depth on a two-dimensional surface. To explore compositional strategies that help to organize pictorial elements across, into, and out from the picture plane.

To find visual equivalents for the feelings of a fantasy, dream, nightmare, or reverie.

Project Overview Your challenge is to plan and execute a photomontage that both creates a convincing spatial illusion and conveys the feelings of a personal fantasy or dream. Your focus should be on the effective use of depth cues deployed in a convincing perspectival space. Your final composition can be understood as an opportunity to give visual expression to your fantasies--whether of heaven or hell.

Project References


Cubism, Op Art, Surrealism




picture plane, depth cues, overlap, relative size, transparency, vertical location, relative position, aerial/atmospheric perspective, vanishing point, horizon line, vantage point, one-point perspective, two-point perspective, three-point perspective, multi-point perspective, amplified perspective, foreshortening, multiple perspective,



15 x 20" illustration board, x-acto knife, scissors, rubber cement or graphic arts paste, collage/montage materials (magazine images, prints, photos), ruler, paints and brushes, pens and pencils.


1. Before coming to class, review the thematic concept of Fantasy as found on the website. Also read the discussion on "depth cues" for Unit X.

2. You may want to work on some ideas in a diary or record your dreams.

Technical Exercise:

1. Look through magazines for full page photos, advertisements, and images. Select one that utilizes at least three (3) depth cues. Adhere the image to a page in your journal.

2. Place a sheet of tracing paper over the top of the page and secure it neatly to one edge.

3. Drawing on top of the tracing paper, diagram how depth was achieved. Label the elements that were used to achieve depth. Also label foreground, background and the horizon line and vanishing point(s) if possible. At the bottom of the sheet list the depth cues that were used.


1. Develop a series of alternative compositions using multiple thumb-nail sketches, remembering to focus on depth cues and spatial illusion (see vocabulary above).

2. Using magazine images, your own photographs, or computer printouts, create a photomontage on a 15" x 20" illustration board.


Critique Ideas


When you have completed your composition, divide into small groups and exchange artworks with another group from the class. Within your group, work together to respond to each print in turn. Consider the following

1. Describe the various depth cues your fellow artists used and explain how the illusion of three-dimensional space was achieved.

2. Point out any personal symbols the artist used to indicate a particular meaning.

3. Discuss ideas the artwork seems to communicate. After some sharing of interpretations, attempt to state the message of the composition in one sentence. (This artwork is about. . .)

4. Explain how the shapes, symbols, or other elements of the composition support its message.

5. Divide each group into two subgroups: viewers who role play that they agree with the artist and other viewers who role play that they are skeptical.

6. Describe how each set of viewers would respond to the artwork. Each student should volunteer to present an interpretation of one of the artworks basing that interpretation on the small group's discussion.

Assessment Examine the final artwork to determine whether the artist communicates an idea, whether they use depth cues effectively, and whether the image is organized (composed) effectively.

As students offer interpretations of their classmates' artworks, note whether they can identify a message and point to aspects of the artwork that support that message.

Items for a Fantasy Portfolio might include:
--a series of photomontages based on dreams
--written interpretations of surrealist prints and paintings from your local Art Museum

Return to UNIT X Overview