The art building at Edmonds Community College boasts several visually engaging sites to draw architecture in perspective. I selected this 45-foot-tall stairwell as a personal challenge. Everything I'd ever learned about drawing from perspective failed. 

Initial draft: drawing "by the rules" resulted in a distortion.

This charcoal sketch renders the soaring ceiling and expansive space squat, dim, and distorted. Honest, the actual space feels like it just keeps going up. But even taking careful measurements didn't work. At the advice of a professor, I traced the stairwell on a large sheet of plexiglass and noticed, similar to a photograph, everything around the central axis curves slightly.

Plexiglass sketch with paper behind it (to make the lines more apparent).

To verify this observation, I went outside with a ruler and calculated my peripheral vision standing close to a large building. Sure enough, my eyes told me the perfectly straight roofline appeared to curve away from their point of focus. After weeks of drafts and debates with my faculty, I produced a much more satisfying, if M.C. Escher-like, result.

Elegant vaulted ceilings emerge through a fish-eye perspective.

This approach, willingness to shun convention in search of a better fit, resulted in more than a pretty charcoal drawing. It taught me the value of intuition-based research: when the old way doesn't work, find analogies elsewhere to illuminate a new path.

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