We recently held an all day drawing session at the Otane Portrait Group beginning with a discussion on how each of us would begin a drawing working from this great shot of tennis player Rafael Nadal.
Each person explained how they would work and it turned out that everyone would begin in a different way. Some would sketch out a faint oval with indications where the features would go, a couple of us would begin with one facial feature and work our way out intuitively from there. The conclusion was that there wasn't one "right" way to begin a drawing. But then to throw a spanner in the works a couple of us mentioned how much easier it is to draw upside down. When you work from a reference photo turned the wrong way suddenly your brain has to work from its right side. A face becomes a series of simple shapes which you reproduce. Often for beginners the results can be extremely satisfying. Even for veteran pencillists it is handy to forget what you think you see and return to drawing simply what is there.
We spent a good thirty minutes facing Rafa's rotated photo on an easel and when we finally turned our drawings right way up we had a good laugh at the distorted features. But over the following half an hour when we drew from the righted photo it was fairly obvious that these pictures were no more interesting artistically than the so called "wrong" ones. It just felt as if it were easier to draw this way when in reality our brains were busy telling us "well an ear should be placed here, a chin should be there" rather than allowing us to reproduce what we saw.
I would honestly recommend everyone to try drawing wrong side up on occasion. Not only can you pick out your weaknesses but it's fun not being in control. With our little group it was a great leveler. Working upside down we were all equal in our sudden drop in confidence and in our ability to laugh at the results. Sometimes though something wonderful would result as in this lovely pastel.
And where is my finished masterpiece? Ah well both my upside down, inside out and round the right way sketches are like me- a work in progress.