One Point Perspective Picture Book Houses

The one point perspective house is commonly when children draw when they first start drawing houses. Here’s an example from my own kid. I think they were about 8 years old when they drew this one.

Another reason this perspective can look childlike: The doll house effect.

Jane-Werner (1914-2005) and Cornelius De Witt (1925-1970) collaborated and produced this 1949 book called Words: How They Look and What They Tell
Faith Jacques, Tilly's House. Picture Lions-paperback 1981
Faith Jacques, Tilly’s House. Picture Lions-paperback 1981
The Dolls House Rumer Godden Cover

For more cutaway illustrations see this post. They were very popular in the 20th century and I have a theory as to why they’re not quite so frequently seen now.

The pop-up books of my childhood are also generally one point perspective illustrations despite being literally three dimensional.

Vojtech Kubasta pop-up illustration for Hansel and Gretel.
Vojtech Kubasta pop-up illustration for Hansel and Gretel. (For more illustrations of gingerbread houses see here.)

When illustrators create pictures aimed at children, they frequently aim to produce something young readers can recreate for themselves, or at least try to. Roger Duvoisin was an expert at creating beautifully naïve illustrations. The one point perspective house from The House of Four Seasons is the perfect example of a childlike depiction of a house.

The House of Four Seasons by Roger Duvoisin

The one-point perspective house is also, most frequently, the Dream House as described by Gaston Bachelard in his book The Poetics of Space.

The House of Four Seasons 1956 by Roger Duvoisin, whose palette was distinctive to him.
Oi doe-doe (1969) by Igor Yershov
Oi doe-doe (1969) by Igor Yershov
Oi doe-doe (1969) by Igor Yershov, they argued about a beetle
Oi doe-doe (1969) by Igor Yershov, they argued about a beetle
Eyvind Earle, concept painting from Walt Disney's Lady and the Tramp, gouache on illustration board, 1955
Eyvind Earle, concept painting from Walt Disney’s Lady and the Tramp, gouache on illustration board, 1955

Roger Duvoisin’s example is peak hygge, but one point perspective compositions are not necessarily benign. The example below promises excitement. The large area of sky helps with that (combined with the colour purple, which often foreshadows magic).

This contemporary children’s book achieves a similar effect.

The-Secrets-of-Winterhouse-by-Ben-Guterson

Black and white can do it, too. Here the camera has been lowered just a little. More eerily, the house has been elongated, turned into a giant of the night.

Joseph Mugnaini. The eerie Modern Gothic of the Rochester House in Los Angeles by Ray Bradbury 1952
Joseph Mugnaini. The eerie Modern Gothic of the Rochester House in Los Angeles by Ray Bradbury 1952

The following illustration is from a highly symbolic picture book, where the illustrator creates a dream scape. This is one of the less wacko pictures.

DER REGENBOGEN (1972) Marie Sarraz
DER REGENBOGEN (1972) Marie Sarraz (The Rainbow)

Note that the one point perspective rendition of a building isn’t limited to art aimed at children.

Pablo Picasso Landscape, 1928
Pablo Picasso Landscape, 1928

Here’s an example by Edward Bawden, though you could argue there’s a childlike quality to this one. The house itself feels flat, but the fence is 3D.

Edward Bawden (English,1903 –1989) Houses at Ironbridge, 1956
The Red House  Stanley Spencer, oil on canvas, 1926
The Red House Stanley Spencer, oil on canvas, 1926
'Great Lodge, Great Bardfield', Sheila Robinson, print from a cardboard cut, 1967
‘Great Lodge, Great Bardfield’, Sheila Robinson, print from a cardboard cut, 1967

Two of these houses are almost one point perspective. There’s a cosy vibe to the painting, helped along by the blanket of snow and the yellow lights in the windows.

Lawren Harris (1885 - 1970) Houses In Winter, 1920
Lawren Harris (1885 – 1970) Houses In Winter, 1920

Likewise, this illustration for Peter Pan is fairly realistic due to the fact that everything is in 3D. It just so happens the invisible camera is right in front of the house.

From Peter Pan by Mabel Lucy Attwell who lived 1879 to 1964
From Peter Pan by Mabel Lucy Attwell who lived from 1879 to 1964.

Then you have illustrations like this, which flatten everything. This style of art is especially well-suited to stories which present a narrative symbolically. Literally any arrangement is possible on the page. Illustrators of fairy tales frequently (but don’t always) make use of what we might call ‘kairos narrative art‘. (Don’t use that phrase, I made it up.) In this kind of illustration you can plonk anything anywhere, play with size and scale, embed decorative elements… You are completely and utterly free to make art which takes the viewer into a dreamscape.

Mikhail Bychkov - Puss in Boots
Mikhail Bychkov – Puss in Boots

Notice how Janusz Stanny has plonked a childlike house in the middle of a sophisticated fine art illustration? This is a great example of playing with size.

Janusz Stanny for “The Tinderbox” in The-Tales-of-Hans-Christian-Andersen
‘The Story of Zachary Zween’ 1967 written by Mabel Watts illustrated by Marylin Hafner (1925-2008)
‘The Story of Zachary Zween’ 1967 written by Mabel Watts illustrated by Marylin Hafner (1925-2008)

You can also fit a lot of story world into artwork which runs on kairos as its fourth dimension.

The Little House Virginia Lee Burton 1942

We can divide picture book perspective into two rough groups: Staged and cinematic. The staged compositions keep the viewer outside the action, as if they remain seated in an audience. There are generally plenty of long shots, and never any close ups. The one point perspective building clearly puts an illustration in the staged category. (But sometimes the illustrator zooms in as the story progresses, using the one point perspective house only as an introduction.)

Barbara Cooney (1917-2000)  illustrations for Mother Goose 1964 in French
Barbara Cooney (1917-2000) illustrations for Mother Goose 1964 in French

Houses are sometimes introduced directly, alongside the characters who live in the house. The following example is from a 1953 early reader.

Bucky Button by Edith S. McCall illustrations by Jack Faulkner, 1953
Bucky Button by Edith S. McCall illustrations by Jack Faulkner, 1953
Bucky Button by Edith S. McCall illustrations by Jack Faulkner, 1953
Bucky Button by Edith S. McCall illustrations by Jack Faulkner, 1953

American illustrator Barbara Cooney created beautiful illustrations with a folk art feel, a look which is very much in fashion again, though not so much in children’s books — as pieces people hang on their wall. (For some examples scroll down to the bottom of my post on Miss Rumphius.)

Barbara-Cooney-ships-houses-island
Barbara Cooney
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
We-Are-Grateful-Otsaliheliga-by-Traci-Sorell-and-Frane-Lessac-tree-house

Another thing this perspective achieves: It makes a house look accessible. You can walk right inside and make yourself at home.

Natalia Trepenok for a book of Russian folk tales. For more treehouses in illustration see this post.
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