This is something I drew recently —over the course of a few weeks— as an exercise, based on photo I found online. I don’t draw very often, and used drawing this blue jay as a way to take small breaks in the day, away from the computer screen.
The lines of the grid I made initially to get a hang of the proportions of the bird are still visible. They helped in getting a first rough draft done quickly. The other thing that helped was to draw while looking at the photo upside down. This idea was taken from Betty Edwards’s book Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain (4th edition, 2012), where she observed:
“Familiar things do not look the same when they are upside down. We automatically assign a top, a bottom, and sides to the things we perceive, and we expect to see things oriented in the usual way—that is, right side up. In upright orientation, we can recognize familiar things, name them, and quickly categorize them by matching what we see with our stored memories and concepts.
When an image is upside down, the visual clues don’t match. The message is strange, and the brain becomes confused. We see the shapes and the areas of light and shadow, but the image doesn’t call forth the immediate naming that we are used to”
In this case, drawing upside down allowed for dropping some of the recognition and naming processes used by the brain to identify things as “known” or “new”. In the context of drawing upside down, much more attention can instead be given to texture, tone, and form, without worrying too much about distinctions such as foreground/background, figure/ground or container/contained.
It’s also always a surprise to see what the hand and the pencil have drawn when, from time to time, the drawing is turned back to its original upright orientation.