Art Tuesday – Week 3: Upside Down (& REVERSED!!) Leonardo


So I sort of made a bit of a crucial error when I flipped Leonardo in last week’s assignment. Usually when you do an upside down drawing you rotate the picture so that when you’re finished and rotate it back to its right position it looks like it should. Well when I rotated Leo last week, I actually flipped him, causing everyone to hand in not only an upside down Leo, but a reversed Leo! So that was completely unintentional, but it’s okay because it actually secretly helps my case anyway. For the sake of all of these images, I actually properly rotated all of the Leo drawings so that they can be compared the way they’re supposed to be. Yikes.

Anyway, before I start, I must say that this isn’t the ideal way to do this assignment. Back when I was taking a drawing class in college, my Professor simply put what appeared to be a bunch of nonsensical lines on a projector. He just told us to draw what we saw. Everyone in the class thought what they were drawing was just madness, but when we were finished, he told us to rotate our books. It was there where it was revealed we were actually drawing a work from Pablo Picasso, the Portrait of Igor Stravinsky. It was an eye opening moment, we actually made something that resembled a drawing, we weren’t just drawing lines after all.

The point of this assignment is to force people to focus on drawing what they see versus what they know. Spending time with our drawing, it forces our mind to switch into a different way of thinking, accessing our right side of the brain (our creative side of the brain). I had everyone draw the same image (not something we did in class) so that we could better compare the nature of our thought process. Below are the results of this assignment. Don’t forget that next week’s assignment is at the end of the post! Anyway, enjoy!

Upside Down & Reversed (by Mistake) Leonardo Results

Leo Up and Down

These are the images I had asked everyone to draw last week. Naturally (in most cases) the picture drawn the right way will be better than the upside down one, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing to learn from the “not as good one.” Again, I’m not expert so my comments won’t be life changing, but they should at least help a little.

Also, all the upside images are on the LEFT of the screen while the right side on the RIGHT.

Emily's Leonardo

The first images I received are from Emily, who also took part in last week’s Scrooge McDuck assignment. She did a much better job on the right side up Leo, even taking some time to shade in certain areas, and then go the extra mile and make him riding a cloud with a bird in the corner. She was having fun with that one. That said, Leo’s foreshorten arm on the upside down version is closer to the original drawing. Surprisingly, she was more aware of the negative space between his lower arm and his leg on the right side one. That’s actually interesting! More on that later….

Russel's Leo

Russell Casse’s Leo is closer to the sort of thing I’m looking for here. Both drawings are actually very good, but I’d argue his upside down one is actually the better of the two. He nailed the shape of Leo’s head there, and the foreshortened arm is also nicer. Also, look at the hilt of his sword in the upper left of each image. It makes much more sense in his upside image when you compare the two of them. Clearly, Russel’s brain was working against him in the rightside up drawing, though not by much! Still, I think he got more right in the upside down one compared to the right side one.

LAdyDi's Leo

Art from a new person! This one comes from ladydi7557, and like Russel before her, I think her upside down one is the stronger of the two. She did a nicer job with the foreshortened arm in the right side one, but I think the overall shape of Leo’s body and head look better in the upside down one. Also, look at the shell on both of them. In the upside down one its properly curved, while in the right side one it’s very flat.

Spiker's Leo

Now PhantomSpiker’s Leo is what I’m talking about, THIS is what I want to see. In every single possible way, the upside down image is closer to the original image than the right side up one. Look at the space between the lower arm on both of them. The foreshortening of the arm, the shape of the head, the distance between the eyes on both, the arc of the shell. He nails it in the upside down version, but completely loses it in the right side up version. Spiker is the ideal candidate for someone that clearly uses their left brain while drawing. For the head and face he’s using what he thinks he knows about a head and face to fill in the details. He positions the eyes where he THINKS they should be, and in that drawing they work, but that doesn’t mean that is what the original version looks like. His right side Leo admittedly has a cuter face, but the other Leo is a closer representation of the original.

Spiker also noted on the forums when he posted this that he hates drawing hands, expressing he wasn’t happy with the hand on the foreshortened arm. I’m glad he mentioned this, because he did a great job with the hand on the upside down version. He admits to THINKING about drawing a hand on the right side version, and in the process he botches it. In the other version, he was drawing a hand, but it didn’t LOOK like a hand, so therefore he didn’t think about it the way he did in his second image. It is also worth noting that for your brain to “switch” its thinking that it takes someone a few minutes to get into a groove. Considering he drew this upside down, he started with the legs. By the time he made it to Leo’s arm (which would be one of the last things he’d draw) he was already in the right frame of mind. I imagine it didn’t even phase him when he made it down there. As for his right side Leo, that arm and hand was probably one of the first things he drew. He was NOT in the right state of mind, and the proof is on the page. The great news is that Spiker shows that he’s very capable of drawing when he’s in the right frame of mind. I love this one.

Demi's Leo

Next up is from my wife Demi. She is surprisingly the only one of us that put as much detail into her upside down version as she did her right side up one. Interestingly, like Emily, she also somehow did better with the negative space of Leo’s lower arm in the right side image. His hand should be touching his leg, where as in the upside down one it’s floating away from the leg. She also did the foreshortening better on the right side Leo as well. The shape of the shell and the belt are her biggest strengths in the upside down image. Because my wife has also had some previous training in art school (though years ago now!) she was well more aware of the concept of negative space compared to everyone else. She even drew bounding boxes around Leo in order to help herself better position where the top of his sword should be.

Phil's Leo

And finally, my Leo. I’m actually happy with both of them, though neither one is perfect. I botched his foreshortened arm on the right side version, again, most likely for the same reason Spiker did. It was THE first thing I drew on that one. Also, I had trouble with the shape of his shell on the right side one, you can see where I struggled with it, going over the area several times. I’m much happier with Leo’s face on the right side one, but I have the advantage of drawing Ninja Turtles for practically my entire life.

So what can we learn from these? Nearly all of us did worse on the foreshortened arm in the right side version. A sign that we were putting too much thought into how it should look, and how we think it should look, rather than actually just drawing what we see. We make assumptions about what we know, and that in turns screws us up and doesn’t allow us to concentrate on what is there. Also, a lot of us tended to have more fun drawing Leo in his right side position, spending more time shading him, fleshing him out, or adding other odds and ends. We had fun with the Leo we knew, but we were scared of the Leo we didn’t know. He felt like work where as the other Leo felt like fun. Though sometimes drawing isn’t about fun.

Next Week’s Assignment – Negative Space Link

Being that it’s The Legend of Zelda’s 25th Anniversary, I figured I would make Link the subject of our next assignment. This week we’re going to focus on negative space, the space between the objects we look at. That’s right, instead of drawing the object itself, we’re going to draw the shapes AROUND the object. In all honesty, I should have done this assignment BEFORE we did the upside Leo. What you’ll learn here would have helped in the above drawings, that said, I like that we didn’t know about negative space yet. People actually did better with Leo’s negative space on the upside images versus the right side ones (with the strange exception of Emily and Demi’s Leo images). To make it easier for you, I’ve already made a silhouette of Link so that we can just focus on drawing those areas.

Negative Space Link

So what you’re going to draw are the black areas. I advise making a bounding box so that you can mark points as to where your shapes are going to go. I counted and there will be five shapes you’ll be drawing here. Find those shapes first so you can better understand the subject (for example, the upper left by the shield is a shape), and then take your time and put together the image at your own pace. As always, you can put these images up on our forum or e-mail them to me at phil at

Have fun!

Previous Assignments:
Week 2 – Blind Contour Drawing of Scrooge McDuck
Week 1 – 60 Second Batman

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