Drawing Tips - how to draw an eye

Use Your Eyes, Not Your Brain to draw better sketches

Upside down drawings.

I am an adult and I am meant to say sensible stuff, so when I am teaching cartooning to people and I say to "stop using your brain" I sometimes get some very funny looks.

But, when we draw things we often start to draw what we THINK we SHOULD be seeing and not what is REALLY there.

Let me give you an example.

We all KNOW what an eye looks like so we draw something like this.

bad eye

There is a round bit in the middle and then a top eyelid and a bottom one and some lashes.

However, look in a mirror and really take a good look at your own eye. Spend a minute or two and you will see that the eyelashes don't stick upwards. You will see that the pupil isn't plain black (there are reflections and highlights). in fact after a minute you will see that an eye is a complex thing to draw.

OK, so now here is my tip.

Get a nice big photo of an eye from a glossy colour magazine and
turn it upside down.

upside down eye

Now here is an exercise for you. You must forget that it is an eye. To draw it well, you must consider it as just a bunch of dark and light shapes.

Now get a pencil and paper and draw a copy yourself. Remember we are trying to use our own eyes and not our brain here so don't say 'Now I will draw the eyelashes.' Instead, if you have to say anything just try and say "This dark bit is attached to this light bit." Or "Now I will draw that dark curve in the bottom right corner".

It may seem silly, but the results will astound you.

Take a bit of time and when you are finished turn your drawing the right way round. You will be very pleasantly surprised by the result. I can (almost) guarantee it will be the best drawing of an eye you have ever done.

2 minute sketch

(I drew this upside down in 2 minutes based on the photo above)

Why is this important for cartooning? Well it is only when you can sketch an eye for real that you will be able to exagerate and add real expression to your cartoons.

Try it with anything, this tips is not just for drawing eyes. Drawing ANYTHING when it is upside down forces you to get rid of the ideas in your brain and DRAW WHAT YOU ARE ACTUALLY SEEING instead..

And if you do an upside down drawing that you are particularly proud of, email me a copy and maybe we can put it up on this web site to encourage everyone else.

Drawing Tip 2

2 minute sketches.

Take a pencil and paper and a stopwatch out into the garden. Set the alarm for 2 minutes and then give yourself until the alarm sounds to sketch something.

You will probably not be happy with the finished (or much more likely unfinished) picture, but keep it and reset the watch. Now draw something else but again only allow yourself two minutes.

2 minute sketches teach you to be quick with the pencil, which is really useful for capturing ideas as you have them. All artists who are good at drawing sketch regularly and their drawings are better as a result.