Upside Down Drawing {Learning the Art Basics}

Upside down drawing

Lil and I are currently doing art together for an hour each day.  She is completing her Level Two qualification (Equivalent to a GCSE).  And I am doing all the exercises and learning along side her but I won’t be submitting my work for marking.  It’s fast becoming one of my favourite times of the day.  I had forgotten just how much I enjoy creating a piece of art work.  Welcome to our first lesson: Upside Down Drawing.

Upside down Drawing: Focusing on the left side of the brain

The first lesson is based on a supposition author and artist Betty Edwards came up with in the 1970s.  She was teaching art at around the same time Nobel prize winner Roger Sperry had discovered that humans have a left and right brain.  The left brain is all about facts, numbers and words, whilst the right side of the brain is the artist, more creative side.  Edwards believed that in order to think like an artist, and more importantly see things like an artist, one needed to train the left side of the brain to ‘shut down’ as it were, for the period of drawing and allowing the right hand side of the brain to take over.

Trying It Out

First, Lillie tried to follow the course’s instructions.  This included folding the picture into quarters and concentrating on one-quarter at a time.  As she could see the whole horse, Lil was very critical of her efforts.  So I suggested she try another way (which I had researched before we even started the lesson).  This time Lil covered up the whole horse.  She then inched the paper down wards as she drew the lines she could see.  This was much better because she could not see the drawing and therefore had nothing to judge her own against:

upside down drawing

My attempt:

Upside down drawing

Lillie’s attempt:

Upside down drawing

Both together to show just how similar and accurate upside down drawing is:

Upside down drawing

Reproducing a Pablo Picasso

We then tried to replicate a well-known contour sketch of Pablo Picasso called ‘A Portrait of Igor Stravinsky’.  This was such a messy drawing upside down that neither of us had a clue what we were drawing until we turned our own the right way up!

Here is Lillie half way through:

Upside down drawing

Mine half way through:

Upside down drawing

My final drawing, downsized from the original on account of my mini pad 🙂

Upside down drawing

And Lillie’s final drawing:

Upside down drawing

Our drawings together:

Upside down drawing

How unutterably cool is that?!

The whole upside down drawing fascinated both of us so much that I ordered Betty Edwards’ book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, so we could find out more:


Upside Down Drawing of a Self Portrait

Lil went to bed that night dreaming of all the possibilities of upside down drawing.  She was due to be drawing and painting a self-portrait as part of her Van Gogh project and decided to attempt to draw a self-portrait from an upside down photo of herself.  Here is the photo she used:


Here is the self-portrait:


And placed together:


We were all really pleased by her results.  Although it did not look as accurate as the line drawings we had done, Lillie felt it was one of the better self portraits she had done.  That said, she had taken the picture on her phone and had not printed it out, attempting the upside down self-portrait using her phone screen.  I think she may have found it a little easier if she had printed out the photo and done an upside down portrait in the same way she had the first two pictures.

My Own Attempt

So I thought I’d give it a go 🙂  Mine was a simple pencil drawing.  Here it is half way through:


And finished.  I showed it to Lillie and she said she liked all of it bar the lips, which she said made her look pouty.  It’s a selfie on a phone.  Need I say more?


But when I showed mum she agreed that something wasn’t quite right with the lips.  Lips aside, I was pleased with the whole process of upside down drawing.  This was definitely something we would be using throughout the next couple of years:


Creating an Art Journal

In order to be marked and receive feed back about her work, Lillie needs to create a notebook displaying her best work, or work which has taught her something and helped her to grow as an artist.  One of the most important things Lillie has to learn to do (bar of course the actual art) is annotate her work.  This is basically writing her thoughts about the process she used to do the art and her thoughts regarding it.  It is much more in-depth than that, but this is our starting point.

We have spent a long time chatting about the lay out of this week’s lesson; how she would like it to look; the best way to annotate it and what she would like to include or leave out and why.  This is stretching Lil more than the art, and I think it will be an ongoing process and very possibly a challenge for her.  I am loving the discussions we are having and am learning a bit more about how my eldest daughter thinks.  Here are her final note pages which she will be submitting to her teacher:












I’ve not got a clue what the teacher will say, but I am very proud of how hard she has worked this week and very happy with all that we have learnt together 🙂

For more art lessons click on the link below:

Art Page


  1. You two have talent! I love learning alongside my son. We’ll have to try upside down drawing. Tell Lillie I think she did amazing work.

  2. Mind blowing! Both of your replications of the different drawings are phenomenal! I am truly impressed by the skill you guys have shown! You both should be proud and pleased with yourselves! Lillie will be an awesome illustrator!

  3. My middle school art teacher used to have us do this! He explained that we were drawing what we knew not what we were seeing so he would have us flip the picture upside down and only drew what we saw. These came out amazing!

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