Studio Views – Upside-Down Drawing

Calla

Upside-down drawing is a simple, but amazingly powerful technique which helps to dispel the myth that one needs to be born with artistic genes in order to demonstrate any drawing aptitutde.

As a children’s art teacher, I have observed how the majority of kids seem to have both natural enthusiam and natural inhibition in art class. However there are some young students who come to art class with pre-conceived ideas and they are easily dismayed with the results in their sketchbooks.

With the “upside-down drawing” technique, the image is turned upside down and is then drawn upside down. For example if the image is a figure the picture will be turned so that the head is on the bottom and the feet at the top of the page. Flip it around and the drawing will be identical with the head at the bottom and the feet at the top.

In her book, “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”, Betty Edwards explains how our left brain process is logical, verbal and analytic while the right side of the brain is responsible for vision and perception. When a picture is turned upside-down, it forces the left side of the brain to stop naming recognizable parts it sees and allows the perceptual right-side to take over. The artist then focuses on shapes, how lines connect, and light. This technique silences the left brain chatter and shifts the brain to an artistic mode.

I teach upside-down drawing to all my young art students. I love the looks of amazement which comes with the completion of a drawing that was originally a challenge. It gives them confidence and encouragement in art rather than labelling themselves as someone who “can’t draw”. This happened just recently with a young boy who had not done a lot of art but he felt immediately successful when he drew upside-down. I love that moment of discovery and self-revelation!

Children are not the only people who benefit from upside-down drawing. Artists use this technique all the time and I found myself using it the other day when I was not happy with what was happening on the canvas.
Upside-down drawing successfully reduces mental conflict in art and is a technique anyone can use to develop strong drawing skills whether or not you were born with those artistic genes.

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