Upside-Down Drawing

In contrast to the conflict generating “Vases and Faces” exercise presented in Battle in the Brain, “Upside-down drawing” is designed to minimize the mental conflict between the two processing modes, setting up conditions that support R-mode dominance.

The brain is not familiar with how things appear when they are upside down, making it more challenging for visual images to be itemized, categorized and compared to previously stored information, tasks at which L-mode excels. As a result, L-mode isn’t as interested and opts not to participate, allowing R-mode to take a rare lead.

The exercise involves copying an upside down drawing. (Both the drawing to be copied and the student’s drawing are left upside down for the duration of the exercise.) In an effort to sustain R-mode processing, the instructions encourage avoidance of naming the parts of the drawing that are still possible to identify despite the inversion, such as “face” or “hands,” and to instead simply view them as shapes.

The first drawing is a portrait of Igor Stravinsky drawn by Pablo Picasso, May 21, 1920.

Igor Stravinsky, by Pablo Picasso

"my" Igor Stravinsky

The task seemed overwhelming at first. I didn’t know where to begin. However, once I actually started, and relinquished my desire to wield a ruler and a protractor, I was able to relax into doing the activity and actually enjoyed myself.

For the most part.

Moments of crisis did arise. As the instructions would suggest, some of the most difficult parts to complete were the recognizable facets of the drawing.  I had a very strong urge to rip “my Igor” into many little pieces when I got to the hands and realized I had too much space.  And then, as per the instructions, I let go of thinking of them as “hands” and focused on their shapes and how they were interconnected with the whole. There was still too much space of course, but I wasn’t as concerned, and in the end, while by no means perfect, the outcome was acceptable by this beginner’s standards and I was grateful I hadn’t destroyed the drawing.

The second drawing is of a knight on a horse and is adapted from a sixteenth-century creation by an unknown German artist.

German Knight

"my" German Knight

Again, knowing where to start was daunting, but once the commitment was made, I became completely absorbed by what I was doing; I have no idea how much time it took to complete the drawing and felt the “calm excitement” described in Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain as characteristic of the R-mode experience.

Now, if one decided to play a round of “Spot the Differences,” no doubt success would easily be had, but I have to admit I am pleased with the results of these exercises. I am more aware of what R-mode processing feels like and although looking at the drawings now, it is hard not to be critical of the many imperfections, I cannot deny that these drawings are significantly more complex than anything I have ever drawn.

And seriously, I drew a horse.

And it didn’t look like this:

Or this:

Now, if only everything could be so easily turned upside down…