using the pencil to draw upside down

Using the pencil

Don't do this...

... do this.

Let's get re-acquainted with the pencil. I know you might use a pencil every day to write, but you may not use it every day to draw. Get your lap desk out and put a sheet or two of paper on it and get comfortable in front of your computer. Sharpen your 5B pencil. Now scribble on your paper. Yeah, I'm serious, scribble. Try not to make real straight lines with really sharp angles. Draw big circles and waves that go from one corner of the paper to the other. Draw arches and sweeping curves, and don't pick your pencil up off the paper, make one continuous line. Now, as you get used to doing that, as you make a downward stroke, press harder on the pencil to make a darker line. On an upstroke let up on the pressure to make a lighter line. Try and make the gradient from light to dark a gradual one. Draw a large circle in one stroke (it doesn't have to be a perfect circle, an oval will do), and try and make the bottom of the circle a dark line, and the top of the circle a light line. You're making this circle all in one stroke, right? This is kinda fun, right? Now try and make a pear shape that's darker on it's bottom. You can stop scribbling anytime you'd like, just do this for a few minutes.

Now that you're limbered up, this first exercise will get you thinking about all the drawing elements I listed and you probably won't even know it. Get your lap desk out and take your scribbles off, and clip on a few fresh sheets of paper and get comfortable in front of your computer. Sharpen your 5B pencil.

Click the drawing to see the whole thing.

Drawing upside down. Here's a drawing that has been turned upside down. It may not look like anything to you, but just try and replicate the drawing. Just DON'T turn it right side up. Here's the reason: since it's upside down and may not look like anything to you, all you see are lines and shapes formed by the lines. THIS IS USING YOUR VISUAL MODE! If you are able to see this drawing as only a bunch of lines and not what it really is, then you're doing good! Just replicate the lines and the shapes that you see. Take as much time as you need, and go ahead and erase any line you don't like. Keep in mind the distances between the lines you draw (space), and also where the lines fall in relation to the other lines. Can you see shapes created by lines that intersect? Then draw the shape rather than the line if you get my meaning. I would recommend starting from the top middle and work your way down the page, but you can really start anywhere you feel comfortable. Starting at the middle and working your way out may especially be challenging. Keep the drawing upside down until you are finished! You could just leave the drawing up on your computer monitor or print it out. But I would recommend just using the one on your monitor, because if you print it out you're more likely to turn it right side up and ruin the good, artistic, perception you're getting of it when it's upside down.

Are you finished yet?

Now that you're done, turn your drawing right side up. What do you see? How close did you come to the right side up version of the drawing you copied? I'd really be surprised if you were way off. Yes, yours may not look exactly like the original, but it's recognizable as a copy, right? What this exercise illustrates is a different kind of seeing. As you were drawing, you weren't thinking about drawing the nose exactly right, because you may have not known it was a nose. Hopefully you were thinking about making the curve that forms the bottom of the nose look similar to that same curve in the original drawing. This caused you to divorce yourself from your "logical and labeling" mode and not to categorize the nose as a "nose". Instead, you broke the nose down into a few lines that ultimately would give the impression of a nose. Cool, huh? What this exercise proves is that you can draw what you see without your logical mind taking over and attempting to make you draw what you remember drawing when you were younger.


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learn to




the pencil
seeing lines
shape & space
light & shadow
light quality