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It takes a long time for a man to look like his portrait - James Whistler

>> 3 February 2009

The first time I went to a drawing class I was supposed to draw a picture of a ballerina. Beautiful, skinny woman in a tutu. I thought 'Yeah right! I'm outta here'.

But then the teacher told us to turn the ballerina image upside down. Huh?
Yes, upside down.
Why? Because turning an image upside down turns the left side of your brain off. It stops recognizing features and does not double guess anymore. When the image is the right side up and your drawing the hand, your left brain says 'hand' and has preset concepts about what a hand is supposed to look like. And the result is all about those preset concepts and not about the hand in front of you.

When I turned the image upside down, I just got started on drawing the lines as they came along. I stopped worrying about the foot looking like a foot, the tons of details of the tutu, the delicate, fragile beauty of the woman.

We were not allowed to turn the image around and after we were finished I almost fell off my chair. The result was stunning. Ok, it was not Mona-Lisa-this-needs-to-be-in-a-museum quality, but it bore a resemblance I could not have dreamed of being able to draw.

When I try drawing something now, I know I need to switch the left side of my brain off. I need to focus on lines, areas, shadows, darks and lights. Anything human is very good to train on. And portraits are the most difficult.

As I am at home with a serious flu - sitting on the couch under a blanket with my notebook, surrounded by a cup of chamomile tea and a box of tissues - I am filling pages by copying 'human things' from a book:

Drawing on the right side of the brain
Learn to draw
Michael Gelb on How to think like Leonardo Da Vinci


Anonymous,  3 February 2009 at 19:41  

Stunning as always! I hope you feel better- Everyone I know got the flu this year including me, who has not been sock in 10 years. I am putting your badge on Inner Noodle! Take care Mimi!

Anonymous,  6 February 2009 at 10:52  

That's a very good idea Mimi! I've never heard of it before, drawing like that. And it has very good applications in real life as well like you've said, removing our preconceived ideas about a lot of things :)

Anonymous,  12 February 2009 at 14:35  

I am an artist myself, and to tell you, I have always been thinking about this thing. Though I am self thought, I love this idea. I will try it today. surely.

Mindful Mimi 13 February 2009 at 14:29  

@ Jay: Thanks for your support Jay!

@ Jocelyn: It's all about changing your mindset, your look on things, your thoughts, your habits, just a little, from time to time. It makes you discover a whole new interesting world.

@ Jaky: Glad to have spurred you on to do this. Let me know how it turned out.

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