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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Upside Down Painting...Yes It Really Works!

'Nantucket Nostalgia'           16x20          pastel        ©Karen Margulis
I like things simple.  Simple landscapes with big simple shapes.  But every once in awhile I am drawn to something that isn't really simple. Sometimes they are downright complicated. I would love to paint these complicated scenes but I am usually intimidated.  Usually when I dive into it I can usually work it out and simplify things but it takes me awhile to work up the courage.

I need to remind myself of the exercise of Upside Down Painting.  It really works!

my very busy photo turned upside down

You may have done some version of upside down painting at some point. Maybe you make it a regular practice. I have done it myself as an exercise a few times but forgot how effective it really is. It really does help you get an accurate drawing and painting of a complex scene.  Here is why:

  • Turning your reference photo upside down causes your brain to disconnect which helps you see the scene as a collection of shapes, colors and values rather than things. When you look at something and try to draw it...your brain wants to label it and give you the shortcut of symbol for that thing. The symbol isn't usually as interesting as the actual thing!  We need to disconnect the thinking brain so we can SEE better.
  • Make sure you don't try to figure out and label what you are looking at in your upside down photo. Describe things by shape, value and color as you block them in. For example: You aren't painting white flowers...you are painting a whitish shape with some blue middle values on one side.
  • Keep the photo upside down for as long as you can...the longer the better the results. For this painting I blocked in the whole painting with one layer of pastel before I turned the photo and painting right side up.

my block in done upside down!
I was skeptical that it would work but I was determined to give it a try. My block in done with the photo upside down  didn't look promising. But when I turned it right side up I was pleasantly surprised! The painting actually looked like a truck with flowers.  I only needed to make a few small corrections and then develop the painting to my satisfaction.

I will remember to use this exercise more often!  If you have something  complex you have been wanting to paint but putting off.....turn it upside down and get started!


Carole Scureman said...

I love this painting. Also a very good exercise to try.

Susan said...

Hi Karen,
This is such a great exercise. I did a sketch this way years ago and can't wait to try it with my pastels!
I love this painting.
Thanks for this helpful tip.