Drawing Lesson - Drawing From Photographs

Improving Your Observation -
Drawing Right Side Up, Upside Down and With Grids

The concept in this drawing lesson is to help improve your power of observation and drawing skills. You will be drawing from a photo right side up and upside down.  The upside down photo will help with your preconception of what you think you see and have you focus on what is really there.

Draw the portrait photo below or any large portrait photo you have. If you use a photo that you have you must make sure that it is large enough to see the detail and that you can draw a grid on the photo. If you don’t have a portrait photo of sufficient size or quality you can download this high quality photo (pdf) and print it out.

Exercise: 1

Materials:  4B pencil and 11 x 14 drawing paper.

Drawing Lesson using a photo for portriat

Crow Quill Pen Nibs and India Ink and nib holder.

Exercise: 2

Now draw the photo upside down. This lesson will help to change your preconception and help you see what you are really looking at.  When you are drawing upside-down your preconceived understanding of what is in front of you is shut off and you will only draw what you are actually seeing.

Materials: 4B pencil and 11 x 14 drawing paper and ruler.

Portrait Drawing Lesson from Upsidedown photo

Exercise: 3

In this exercise you will draw the same photo using a grid. The idea of using a grid is to make it easier to draw the image you are working on larger.  Draw a grid on the photo then draw a larger grid of the same proportions on your larger paper.  You will then be able to use each box to draw that section of the original on a larger scale. Now you can map each box of the original, one at a time and build your drawing very accurately.   Here the artist has drawn a grid on the original photo with 3 boxes across and 4 boxes down.  They then drew a grid at a larger size on their larger paper; the boxes are bigger however they have the same number of boxes across (3) and down (4). Create a grid of equal size squares, 3 units across and 4 units down.  Extend the heavy tick marks across the photograph to form a grid.  Now draw the details of each square, notice where shapes cross the grid lines.  Use the grid lines as a measuring device to transcribe or “map” each section of the grid.

Materials: 4B pencil and 18 x 24 drawing paper and ruler.

Drawing From Grided photograhs to improve your observational skills

Below is an example of a student’s drawing of the same photo and the upside down photo. 
Below are drawings of this exercise, from a beginning drawing student, for you to review and evaluate. There is a noticeable improvement as the student changes their preconceptions of what they are seeing and begins to map what they actually see.

Student drawing from a photo Lesson by Ed Burke Photo used in Drawing Lesson - From drawing and painitng lessons

This is an example of student’s first attempt at this problem drawing from a photo.

Upside down drawing form a photo lessonphoto used of updide down drawing lesson

Drawing by Student Artist; Margo Karney

In this example of student’s second attempted of drawing the same photograph they are asked to draw the photo upside-down. You can see the improvement when she shuts off her pre-conception of the subject by drawing the photo upside-down


The fourth drawing you will create the drawing from the same photo with a grid drawing on the photo. You will need to create a proportional grid on your drawing paper that matched the grid on the photo. You will draw or map the portrait by observing where the image crossed each line of the grid box by box. The final drawing should be the most accurate. However it may not be the most interesting. 

Drawing from a photograph with a grid Grided Photo for Drawing lesson form DrawingAndPaintinglessons.com

Drawing by Student Artist; Margo Karney