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Drawing Lesson - Drawing from Photographs

Improving Your Observation -
Drawing Right Side Up, Upside Down, and With Grids

The concept in this drawing lesson is to help improve your power of observation and drawing skills. You will be drawing from a photo right side up and upside down.  The upside down photo will help with your preconception of what you think you see and have you focus on what is really there.

Exercise 1:

Draw the portrait photo below or any large portrait photo you have. If you use a photo that you have, you must make sure that it is large enough to see the detail and that you can draw a grid on the photo. If you don’t have a portrait photo of sufficient size or quality you can download the photo below (download and print).


Materials: 4B pencil, 11 x 14 drawing paper.


Exercise 2:

Now draw the photo upside down. This lesson will help to change your preconception and help you see what you are really looking at.  When you are drawing upside-down, your preconceived understanding of what is in front of you is shut off and you will only draw what you are actually seeing.

Materials: 4B pencil, 11 x 14 drawing paper, ruler.


Below are examples of a student’s drawing from the same photo and the upside down photo for you to review and evaluate. There is a noticeable improvement as the student changes the preconceptions of what was "seen" and begins to map what was "actually" seen.


Drawings by Student Artist; Margot Karney


In the example above of the student’s second attempt at drawing the same photograph, she is asked to draw the photo upside-down. You can see the improvement when she shuts off her preconception of the subject by drawing the photo upside-down.

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