Day #031 – Drawing Picasso’s Igor Stravinsky Upside Down

Well that month flew by! I don’t know if I’m happy that I’m successfully completed the first month of the challenge or upset because one twelfth of one year of my limited lifespan has gone so quickly… You can’t help but notice time passing when you are posting a picture every day. That’s a good thing but for motivating a continued adherence to this drawing commitment but not so great for managing melancholy. That’s pretty pretentious right there. My apologies.

Got to the first drawing exercises in Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. The author, Betty Edwards, had us draw this Picasso drawing of the composer Igor Stravinsky. The twist? You copy it upside down!

Igor Stravinsky by Picasso upside down


The reason for this is explained in the book. Basically it’s to do with the two ways we view the world. When we are viewing it with our ‘left brain’ we see in symbols of how we think things ‘ought’ to look like which hinders us drawing things as they really are. On drawing upside down Edwards notes:

For reasons that are still unclear, the verbal system immediately rejects the task of “reading” and naming upside-down images. L-mode seems to say, in effect, “I don’t do upside down. It’s too hard to names things seen this way, and, besides, the world isn’t upside down. Why should I bother with such stuff?”

Well, that’s just what we want! On the other hand, the visual system seems not to care. Right side up, upside down, it’s all interesting, perhaps even more interesting upside down because R-mode [Right Brain] is free of interference from its verbal partner, which is often in a “rush to judgement” or, at least, a rush to recognize and name.

She talks about how her student’s drawings would instantly improve when drawing this picture upside down. Suddenly difficult areas like the crossing of the legs would look extremely accurate where right-side-up the foreshortening would often render the copy a very poor likeness indeed.

Here’s my effort (turned back the right way up, although I did not see the finished product this way until I’d completed the last line!) and I do think it looks pretty accurate which is definitely interesting. Without doing the same drawing the right way up, however, I cannot be sure to what extent this is improved over what I would have done. It definitely felt different though and I’ll be doing a few more upside down drawings over the next few days as instructed by the book.

This drawing of Igor Stravinksy was copied from the Picasso original turned upside down.

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