The "How to Draw" Series, Part Four: A New Way of Seeing and Drawing Upside Down

A New Way of Seeing

Honestly, so much of drawing is about seeing and looking.  The actual putting-pencil-to-paper thing is really just mechanics and a result of all that seeing and looking…

Here’s a funny little illustration that I made in order to show you how I “see” a face when I draw it:

No, I’m not just trying to be weird and make a strange drawing, instead I am trying to show you how I view proportion when drawing a face…  I think of proportion in terms of eyeballs.  While I am drawing the distance between two eyeballs, I am imagining an eyeball in between the two, because they are an eyeball’s length apart.  Does that make sense?

It’s like I am using the width of the eyeball as a measuring tool.

Here’s more weirdness:

Now there are eyeballs all over the place!  Again, I am only imagining these and using them as a measuring tool in order to figure out proportions.

I hope my strange drawings today will make sense and that they could provide you with a little peek into how I see things when I draw… 

You could even take a photo of someone you want to draw, print it out with your printer (black and white is fine!), then draw some eyeballs directly on the photo to illustrate proportion.  Or you could just imagine they are there…

Now, when you go to draw your subject, you have some references to help you figure out proportion and plan your drawing.  I hope that helps!

Drawing Upside Down

Ok, now let’s take that same photo you used in the eyeball exercise… Print it out again, but this time, don’t draw the eyeballs on it. 

Now set it up at your table upside down, like this:
You are going to make an upside down drawing of your upside down picture…  Here is an in-progress shot of me doing this:

Now here is the finished piece:

And the finished piece flipped over:

It’s not my best piece of work, but it’s certainly not bad for being done upside down.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by your drawing as well.  It never turns out as bad as you’d think an upside down drawing could!

Isn’t it interesting how, as you do these upside down drawings, you are looking at the object you are drawing in a totally different way: you’re viewing each piece of your subject as a shape.  Instead of seeing a dog’s mouth (as I would have seen if the dog photo was flipped the normal way), I see a slightly triangularly shaped dark object, and that is what I end up drawing.  Your brain is tricked into seeing the subject as a conglomerate of shapes rather than as an upside down dog head.  Sometimes, you end up seeing things more accurately this way, and your drawings could even turn out better than a drawing done of your subject the usual way (flipped right side up).

Try this with another photo.  Only this time, instead of flipping it over, do a drawing to the best of your ability with it flipped right side up.  Now do another drawing with our flip-it-upside-down method!  Which one is better?  Which one addresses proportion in a better way?  Which one is more realistic?  What would happen if you “married” the two drawings and turned them into one?

Leave a comment below and tell me how your drawings turned out!  I hope you had fun!


  1. love the eyeball trick... i've been trying to get back into art (it's been awhile)... and let's just say it's not like riding a bike! i am very rusty. will be trying this out tonight, thanks!

  2. Thanks for your comment! I agree, even if I stop drawing for a few days, it can be hard to get back into it - it's definitely not like riding a bike! I'm glad you found the eyeball tip helpful. Have fun drawing tonight! :)

  3. I learned to draw by memorization and once I got the eyes done, I was good to go. The spacing technique always seemed to throw me off. I tried the eye thing with the eyes and it made that so much easier, but the rest of the picture I slipped back to my old ways. When it came to the upside down drawing I realized I really needed the eye trick, because I don't often look at faces upside down and the face came out elongated and out of proportion.

  4. Thanks so much for your comment and for doing the lessons! :)

    I'm glad the eye trick helped with the upside down drawings too! It is a weird way of looking at things when you draw from an upside down photo, but it's so fun to see the results. Keep drawing, and have fun!! :)


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