Why do a lot of artists paint portraits upside down?


Why do a lot of artists paint portraits upside down?

In: Other

It’s so you have to see what’s really there and not draw from preconceived notions like when you first learn how to draw as a kid. For example, a nose really is just shading– no solid lines exist in reality.

Same principle used by people who forge signatures (I have a friend who is a master). If it’s upside down it’s just abstract curves to copy but right side up you can’t help but see the letters.

My 9th grade art teacher told us that when you turn the artwork upside down, it forces your brain to switch from logic side to creative side

It is an effort to stop you painting based on your preconceptions, rather than what you see.

When you ask a child to draw a face, you get a somewhat cartoonist, overdrawn picture – the mouth is a pair of giant red lips, the eyes are giant round balls and the nose is an arrow shape.
In reality this is obviously not the case, the features become less defined and prominent, and the shapes are much less obvious and blend in more.

As adults, we often still do this, and end up drawing what we think something should look like, not what it actually does.

By drawing upside down you lose the ability to draw from memory, as all the shapes and features become unnatural. This forces you to draw exactly what you see, and you tend towards a more faithful drawing as you don’t see a pair of lips as being lip shaped (and then start unconsciously altering them), you just see them as an abstract shape that is easier to copy.

The same works for things like signatures – trying to copy a signature normally, you will find your handwriting style and preconceived notions of the letter shapes will start influencing the copy. Copied upside down you are instead copying the shape and line of the signature, and paying no attention to what each letter represents.

I remember trying this as a kid with a horse drawing. I put the subject photo upside down and ended up with what looked like a tracing. None of my friends believed me! You should try it right now, just open a picture upside down and try and match the shapes and curves.

Because people have preconceived ideas of what a face looks like. If I want to paint a realistic face, if I’m trying to do so, I may not have the skills needed to decipher from how my brain believes an eye or a nose looks, and what is really looks like. If I paint upside down, then I just focus on where a shade is darker and what color is where, instead of focusing on the actual subject that I’m trying to paint.