mirror drawing; painting of pigeon and nest

pigeon and nest painted in the mirror

You may remember learning in biology class about the way our eyes receive images onto the retina that are actually upside down AND reversed, these are interpreted by the brain so we see what we think is ‘normal’. Mirror drawing plays around with this idea to help you see things with new eyes.

Various experiments have been done with special glasses to reverse things yet again so the brain perceives the world as upside down and back to front.

People take a few days to get used to this and then amazingly manage to function as normal in this looking glass world.

See this guardian article for more information about the experiments with the back-to-front world.

We have evolved like this because it improves our wider periphery vision – useful for avoiding predators or catching prey. We can also use this strange effect to have some fun and get creative….

Mirrors help you to see more clearly

charcoal face mirror drawing

face drawn in the mirror

If you feel stuck with a design or piece of artwork it helps to get a different perspective; try looking at it in a mirror, this will help you see areas that need changing.

It is true of most of us that we sometimes get into lazy habits when drawing – you get the knack of drawing in a certain way and keep repeating this, and after a while your work can look a bit tired and lifeless.

Printmakers need agile brains to imagine images reversed and work out the different stages needed to make this happen.  When making plates it is always good to have a mirror handy – even the most experienced printmakers still make the mistake of forgetting the printed image will be the reverse of the one on the plate.

This mirror drawing activity helps to break out of the familiar habit of drawing, it is a bit like re-learning how to use a pencil. Interestingly when children are learning to write they often produce mirror writing or letters upside down, perhaps writing in a mirror will help you reconnect with your 5 year old self!

Tickle your brain into action with mirror drawing

This exercise is about starting again (it certainly feels like that anyway) Like the people with the upside down glasses you will actually create a drawing in the mirror. Drawing is all about the connection between your eye and your hand so this is a great warm up to do before you start an ‘ordinary’ drawing.

It is fun, funny and also quite confusing….. you may find you burst out laughing as your brain fights with your own hand

cartoon of person mirror drawing

all you need is pencil and paper and a mirror

1 – Arrange a mirror so you can see your drawing     paper.

2 – Hold a piece of card above your drawing hand so you can’t see it.

3 – Only look in the mirror – start to draw something.

4 – What happens? How does it feel?

Looking at things differently encourages your spontaneity

You will always feel more creative if you ditch old familiar habits because your reactions will be more spontaneous, rather like when you go on holiday to a new strange place, everyday things seem exciting and inspiring.

coloured squares drawn in the mirror

squares are easy in the mirror – colouring in is more difficult!

By drawing in a mirror the marks you make will take on a lively feel because you are exploring a new way of perceiving things.

Keep experimenting
Once you have had a go at mirror drawing with a pencil why not try charcoal, paint, or even your fingers. You may find that some of your drawings can be starting points for new works showing off your rediscovered spontaneity.

Leave a comment to let me know how you felt when you were mirror drawing, did it make you laugh? (or is it just me chuckling to myself alone in the studio?)