Yes, it is a method of drawing what we see around us. But it also is a personal philosophy or interpretation to how we see 'things' in our daily life. The first referred to as a visual perspective, whereas the second is cognitive. Then between the two there is that varying mix of both that plays to our creative ability.
Consequently, to answer the question 'what is a visual perspective?' we need to define four crucial points.
One being the 'thing' we see: This can be a tangible object such as a cup, boat, building or a landscape of numerable objects. Alternative, it could be something abstract such as an incident, emotion or philosophy. But whatever it is, it probably is open to interpretation. Consequently and most likely will never be 'seen' it quite the same way.
The second being the 'person' how is seeing the 'thing': It goes without saying that not everything is seen in the way and consequently, is open to interpretation.
The third is our interpretation of what we see. How we see things. Our point of view, or, what makes sense to us.
The final point being the presentation of our interpretation of what we see. This can either be the spoken or written word, or, it could be something more tangible such as a piece of art, a toy, vehicle or building. In fact it could be just about anything.
This obviously opens a vast array of channels that cannot be defined. But it does give us a threshold on which we can build a process to define and understand what is perspective and how we can use it in a way that is in line with our own needs.
To answer the question what is perspective we have to first look at the drawn perspective. Thereafter, we will review the artistic perspective and the artist.
The drawn, or technical perspective is structured on a series of standard procedures. Whereby the dimensions of the 'thing' or 'object' been viewed is shaped by its position relating to the number of prepared vanishing points. These are referred to as being 1, 2, 3 or multi point perspective. These are so designed to emulate the visual aspect of what is perspective, or what we see.
For a comprehensive run-down on how to draw a technical perspective see 'How to Draw Point Perspective'. Wherein you will be able to follow a number of step-by-step demonstrations on how to draw the following: An External 1-Point Perspective , a typical 2-Point Perspective , the intricate 3-Point Perspective , and finally the variations of a Multi 2-Point Perspective.
Therefore we could firstly answer the the 'what is perspective' by saying it's a visual technical drawing.
Another form of technical drawing is the 'Axonometric Projection' where instead of use vanishing points and regression the x & y (side) faces are drawn at a set angle depending on the type of axonometric projection been used. It is an effective method used in some forms of industrial design and computer generated illustrations. See Axonometric Illustrations.
The world of technical perspectives and axonometric projections is vast with many unanswered questions. To clarify some of these a FAQ . page has been compiled.
Then there is the modular e-book Point Perspective that explores the visual technical and the visual & cognitive artistic perspective. Including shapes, forms and figures in perspective and axonometric projection.
Here we do need to differentiate the purpose of a technical perspective from that of an or artistic perspective. The purpose of an artistic perspective is wide and varied and plays to the Artist's Creativity and intention. See Artistic Creativity . Where the artist can 'manipulate' the visual dimensions of the perspective to suit the composition of the artistic study. Whereas a technical perspective is more structured and tends the commercial or design purpose.
In both cases the purpose of the perspective generally hinges on two issues. Firstly, the perspective should reveal the strengths (or weaknesses) of the object. Secondly, the perspective could portray the object within an environment. However in art this usually has a more sinister purpose, which will be discussed later.
The technical perspective is usually informative where the purpose of the drawing usually determines what type of point perspective should be used. This ranges from an assembly or component diagram to an artist's impression of a new project.
For example: A decorator's presentation of an internal space would probably be a 1-point perspective. An architect's impression of a new housing project would most likely be a 2-point perspective. Then an ad for a new office building would be in 3-point perspective.
The importance of visual perspective in art is important but not essential. Other than the personal style of the artist, various styles of art employ the need for perspective differently. At one end of the scale a style such as naive art plays down the purpose of perspective. Conversely, realism and the like are at the other end of the scale. Then in surrealism the dimensions of perspective can be taken to new limits.
Consequently, the importance of what is perspective in art can be determined by the style of art.
Despite these differences, the visual perspective can affect the composition of a study. Beside the obvious standards of regression, horizon and focal point there is a hidden language in the composition that can influence our interpretation of what we see in an artistic study. Where we can be swayed to read the overall meaning in a particular way purely by the Arrangement and Movement in the composition of the study.
Here we are talking of interpretation, the way we see things, or the way we understand it to be. I think it is fair to say that there is more to an artistic study than what we can see. Logic can give us some satisfaction. But there comes a point where analogy must take the back seat and allow the unknown, mystic and unexplained beauty of the study to take over. It is that void of the unknown that is a Masterpiece's true strength.
Finally, we can say that the importance of what is perspective in art is not determined by the quality visual perspective but by the depth of the cognitive perspective. Where the Masterpiece is nor determined by logic bur rather by its mystique. See Masterpiece .