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Need creative 

Having trouble drawing? Use this exercise to improve your rendering skills.

Updated: May 3

The word upside down mirrored on a blue background

I believe everyone is creative and can draw. Yes, there are various levels of technical excellence when it comes to rendering, but whether you think you are good enough to draw, should never stop you from drawing.

I practice a lot of techniques to help cultivate my drawing skills. One technique I want to share is from Dr. Betty Edwards book, Drawing on the right side of the brain. The method is the upside-down drawing exercise.

Dr. Betty Edwards has spent her life's work understanding how to best teach drawing and shares many methods in her book that aim to access the right side or visual side of the brain. The upside-down method is simply drawing from a reference photo, but drawing from the photo turned upside down.

An upside-down person, for example, becomes difficult to recognize. When drawing something unfamiliar, the brain is forced to work with shapes and lights and darks instead of focusing on the familiar features. Look at Figure 1 to see how differently the brain perceives the same photo shown in A. compared to B.

black and white portrait of a young girl right side up and upside down

I like the upside-down method because I am always challenged in getting the proportions on people correct.

If you want to see how you would do drawing a portrait of the girl above, just use Figure 1B as a reference and do the following:

  • Print out Figure 1B

  • Get a piece of paper and a No.2 pencil

  • Set your phone timer for 40 minutes

  • Start drawing from reference Figure 1B

  • Move from line/shape to adjacent line/shape (try not to outline the whole figure)

  • Do not turn the photo right side up during the 40 minutes

  • Do not let the brain think of features, only shapes, lights, darks, etc.

After 40 minutes, turn your paper over and compare to Figure 1A.

How did you do?


The key to this method is to let your brain draw what it is seeing not what it wants to categorize as familiar.

The upside of the upside-down method uses the unfamiliar to channel the more creative, right side of the brain. The unfamiliar forces us to seek new solutions that we haven't had experience trying yet. This drawing exercise highlights this process.

How could you apply this method to other problems to tap into your creativity?


Julia Fletcher founded JEFS Storytelling Arts to use her unique research skills and artistic talents to create custom visual stories that help clients' increase engagement and promote the education of their audience.

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