What are Ellipses?

Ellipses are notoriously difficult to represent but I can share a few tips that can help make them easier.  An ellipse is a collapsed circle and we have to draw and paint them often in still life.  Jugs, vases, cups, mugs, bowls all have ellipses.

The way we see the collapsed circle depends on where our eyes are:

Ellipses from different viewpoints
Ellipses from different viewpoints

Take notice of where your eyes are, are you looking down on the ellipse, is it at eye level or above?

Ellipse from directly above is a full circle
Ellipse from directly above is a full circle

If we were looking directly down on a pot or vase we would see a full circle like this one to the left.

This viewpoint is quite rare, because we don’t generally draw or paint objects from above.  Sometimes a vase on its side might look like this if we were looking directly into the vessel.  Generally however the circle is partly collapsed or ‘squashed’.

A more common view is the view below, a collapsed circle.  We often view vases, jugs, mugs, cups and bowls like this.

What is an ellipses?
A collapsed circle – an ellipse

You can observe what is going on with ellipses by getting hold of a metal ring and moving it into different viewpoints.

A metal ring can teach you about ellipses
A metal ring can teach you about ellipses
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