Why Your Drawings Look Better Upside Down

Why Your Drawings Look Better Upside Down
Why Your Drawings Look Better Upside Down

Have you ever wondered why your drawings look better upside down? It's not so much that your drawings look better upside down, it has more to do with the fact that viewing your drawings upside down gives you a different perspective on your work. When you spend hours working on a picture, your brain becomes accustomed to looking at it, so when you flip it upside down, it's no longer recognized as easily. 

It goes from being something that you were drawing, to being an image that you are unfamiliar with. This is why your drawings seem to look better upside down. It's not that they are better, it's that your brain is tricked into seeing them differently.

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Why Turn Your Drawings Upside Down?

Should you flip your drawings upside down because they seem to look better, or is there another, more productive reason to do so? There is. When you flip your drawing upside down, your brain can process it differently. It takes the familiar drawing that you have been focusing on for a long time and turns it into an image that you're not familiar with. 

This lets you see it in a different way, which also helps you to spot any mistakes you have made. While this isn't a foolproof method for detecting errors in a drawing, it can be beneficial if you employ it properly. How can you use upside-down viewing to improve your skills as an artist?

First, if you are planning to finish your drawing to sell it or show it, make sure that you start it out using a light, hard type of graphite. Using hard graphite will put down lighter marks that are easier to remove. Why is this important? Well, the entire purpose of flipping a drawing upside down is to spot mistakes. So, if you spot those mistakes, what do you plan to do with them? You probably plan to erase them. Lighter, harder lead is more comfortable to remove than a darker, softer lead. Not only are lighter pencil marks easier to erase and then cover-up, but it's also less damaging to paper to erase lighter marks. Imagine how frustrated you would be if you spent a lot of time working on a drawing, flipped it upside down and spotted a mistake, then tore your paper while erasing it.

When flipping your drawing upside down to look for mistakes, you should do it frequently enough to avoid making a significant mistake then building off of it. For example, let's say that you're drawing a portrait, and you draw one eye higher than that other. If you don't spot the mistake, it's going to throw everything else in your drawing off. 

So, make sure that you flip your drawing frequently to look for errors, and always give it a once over before you start to add heavy rendering. 

A variation of flipping your drawing upside down that you could incorporate into your technique as well is to hold your drawing up to a mirror. This will also change the way that your brain interprets the image, giving you a chance to spot mistakes that might otherwise go unnoticed.

A Unique Way Of Viewing And Checking The Accuracy Of A Drawing

Just about any artist out there can recall several times when they've finished a drawing or painting and been thrilled with it, only to later discover flaws. As artists, we are our own worst critics. It's natural to pick at our own work and see what could be better. In most cases, artists are overly self-critical, and this is a flaw that takes time to overcome. 

However, there are other times when it benefits an artist to notice mistakes and work to correct them. Many artists tend to draw things off perspective or crooked. Once you start working on a drawing, you aren't going to be able to notice the mistakes that you're making because your brain is used to the drawing, and it's probably subconsciously correcting the mistakes in your mind. That's the problem with staring at the same paper or canvas for hours on end. 

You won't notice mistakes until it's too late, then you'll be upset at the hours you wasted on a failed drawing. Wasted time is probably too harsh of a term to use since even in failure, you learn, and as long as you take the lessons learned in failure and use them to improve, failing is okay. At least for a little while.

It's going to feel a little weird at first, but once you get used to flipping your drawing upside down, you'll see how beneficial that it can be. You'll notice mistakes that you didn't notice before, and you can correct those mistakes until you reach the point of no return. 

There's nothing worse for an artist that to devote countless hours to creating a fantastic piece of art, to then realize that their fundamental concept was flawed. At this point, all you can do is chalk this up to experience and move on. Or, you can be proactive and check your work for mistakes while you are doing the initial layout, thus preventing an error from ruining an otherwise fantastic drawing. Always remember that a fantastic drawing or painting should always be constructed on top of a solid initial drawing.

Benefits Of Viewing An Image From A Different Viewpoint

The main benefit of viewing your artwork from a different viewpoint is giving yourself a fresh perspective. If you can't see mistakes in your work, you can't correct them. If you have access to a scanner and computer, you might want to try scanning your artwork into a photo manipulation program so you can flip it around and look at it from different angles. You can also use guides in photo manipulation programs to compare perspective and ensure that your work is being built on top of a solid foundation.

Upside Down Drawing Exercise

Are you ready to start putting some of this newfound knowledge that you're getting to use? How about trying a drawing exercise that you've probably never attempted before. What you're going to do now is to try to draw something upside down. The best way to do this is to pick a subject that you're familiar with and use it as a reference to work from. It's going to feel a little weird at first, but trust me, it's going to be worth it. 

For this example, let's imagine drawing the human face, a subject that is very familiar to all of us. The human face is particularly challenging to draw since any mistake you make is going to be very obvious to anyone looking at your drawing. So, the human face is something that any artist can use additional practice drawing to master it.

The first thing that you'll probably notice when drawing a face upside down is that it no longer feels like you're drawing a face. Eyes, noses, mouths, and ears all look very unfamiliar upside down, which will force your mind to look at it differently. This is what you want. It's not going to be comfortable at first, but it's going to make you a better artist. When drawing something upside down, make sure that you flip the drawing around periodically to look for mistakes. 

Just because you are drawing upside down doesn't mean that you aren't going to make mistakes. By flipping your drawing around and looking at it from different angles, you'll spot those mistakes so you can fix them. I'm willing to bet that the first few times you try drawing upside down, you are going to struggle, and that's okay. Struggling means that you aren't good at something yet, which means that you are learning, and that's always a good thing.

Drawing From Photographic Reference Upside Down

If you really want to expand upon your skill as an artist, spend a lot of time drawing everything that you can imagine upside down. 

You'll need to use photo reference to do this, and it's going to be tough sledding at first, but it's an investment of time that will pay off by making you a better artist. Imagine trying to draw a cityscape upside down or a landscape.

Anything that you draw from a photograph upside down is going to challenge you because it forces you to draw what you see, not what you know. What does that mean? It means that when you are drawing objects, you are familiar with, you automatically make assumptions while you work. 

You probably aren't even aware of the fact that you're doing this, but trust me, you are. When you draw upside down, your brain doesn't have years of experience to draw upon to make these assumptions, which will force you to only draw what you see in front of you. This will improve your powers of observation, which will make it easier for you to draw realistic subjects in the future.

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Ian Walsh is the creator and author of improvedrawing.com and an Art teacher based in Merseyside in the United Kingdom. He holds a BA in Fine Art and a PGCE in teaching Art and Design. He has been teaching Art for over 24 Years in different parts of the UK. When not teaching Ian spending his time developing this website and creating content for the improvedrawing channel.

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