Learning to Draw, Day 3: Copying Upside Down

Yesterday I had about 30 pages of information about the brain and how it works and a short symmetrical vase (an optical illusion made out of two face profiles) drawing exercise to do. That took up the whole hour I set aside with only a few squiggly lines on a piece of paper to show, so I didn’t think it was worth a post.

Today’s exercise was 99% drawing: Copying Picasso’s portrait of Igor Stravinsky upside down to force my brain to see lines and shapes instead of a face, hands, etc. To shift your brain into a different way of seeing. I had to fight myself a few times when I was working on the hands and face, but I ultimately slowed down and focused in on the individual lines and shapes that composed them.

This exercise took me well over an hour and was very difficult. I almost gave up once when I spent 15 minutes drawing a detailed section, only to realize I had miscalculated and it was far away from where it needed to be. I’ve never had so much mental anguish over using an eraser.

Here is the upside down comparison:

And here is the rightside up comparison:

I know the proportions and spacing are pretty off in places, but I was surprised at how it turned out. It was much better than I expected. I’m glad I didn’t give up. (I really was close. I swore, pulled my shirt up over my eyes, and shouted about how difficult it is. Not my best moment today.)

Learning to Draw, Day 1

This month I’m learning to draw. This is a skill I’ve never had. I once thought that there are analytical people and artistic people, but I’m no longer willing to accept that. Just like swimming or writing is a particular skill that can be taught and learned, drawing and calculus are both skills that can be taught and learned. I already know calculus (all the way through real analysis), so it is time to learn to draw.

My guide this month is Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. I’m going to post my progress here.

Today was my pre-instruction drawings to establish my starting point and have something to gauge my progress against.

I had to do three drawings:

  1. A self portrait drawn while looking in the mirror
  2. Someone else (or a photo of them) from memory alone, nothing on-hand to reference
  3. My hand

Here they are:

My self-portrait. I framed it up correctly from my perspective. Impossible to get a photo of the same perspective.

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Amanda, with the photo I had in mind:

My hand:


I want to eventually draw illustrations for blog posts and pause to draw plants while I hike.

I have a long way to go, but I can’t get worse than I already am. The introduction to Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain emphasizes that learning to draw is actually more about learning different ways of seeing than it is about learning how to hold a pencil. I’m hoping to learn those different modes of seeing over the next 29 days!