Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Do it Upside-Down!

OK- Get your mind outta there, 'cause I'm just talking about looking at art differently- upside down and even sideways to get a different view of the shapes that make up your subject.

Of course, the best known person for teaching this technique is Betty Edwards, who discovered this method while teaching one of her drawing classes, and who has written the well-known and excellent book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

In a nutshell, by turning a reference photo or a copy of an old master drawing upside-down, it is easier to replicate it, because we do not draw what we "know." We, instead, actually draw what we see. The example that sticks with me the most is one that she writes about in her book, where new artists tend to draw a bucket with a circle at the top (for the hole) and a flat bottom. This is because they know that the bucket is completely round at the actual opening, and that the bottom sits flat on the ground. They can't yet look at it and take the time to push the logic away, that when viewed from the side and looking down a bit on the bucket, it has an oval opening and a curved line at the base. This is really basic, but it is the beginning of learning to see.

For a complicated picture- a face where I want the likeness to really be close, or for a scene that has a lot of shapes that need to come together in a pretty exacting way, looking at the picture upside down or sideways can help you get something corrected that may look off when you are drawing and just can't figure out what the problem is.

I also use this method to help me figure out what I can bring out and accentuate in a painting. I can see certain things when I look at the scene straight ahead, but if I snap a few pictures for reference, and then use them in my studio to view upside-down or sideways, it helps me look at the scene in a new way.

Below, I will share one of my photos, taken in Laurel Grove Cemetary in Savannah, Georgia. Use it as you wish to interpret for your own art.

Notice how the shapes seem to delineate better, when viewing the photo upside down. Our brains stop trying so hard to understand the picture and can just look at it in terms of shapes, lights and darks- a much easier task to replicate and interpret for our art.

I hope that you will share your work and think about leaving a comment! I just created a yahoo group for this blog, and will soon be uploading the button for a direct link there. It will be easier for you to share your related work.

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