Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tools of the trade: Mirrors

Almost all artists occasionally back up from their work to look at the piece from a distance. You can more easily see the painting as a whole, making judgments on value, composition and the overall success of the piece. I use this technique frequently.

But anyone who has seen me work knows I also use mirrors. Instead of backing up from the piece all the time, I use a hand mirror to view the work at double-arm distance. In addition, the mirror also flips the piece, making any mistakes instantly visible. You can see if the composition is falling off one corner, if a piece of architecture is asymmetrical, or if the impact of the color needs fixing.

Usually, I have been looking at the painting for a long time, so to see its flipped version makes my mistakes immediately clear. Since I work alone, it's the only way I have found to get fresh eyes on the piece without consulting other artists.

For example, here's my 2008 painting, Red.

Everything looks normal. But view it flipped:

Pretty different, but everything looks correct, including her face and anatomy. After a few moments, this flipped image starts to feel normal. If that happens, I know that I'm on the right track.


  1. Great tip. Wonderful painting as well. Was this for a book cover?

  2. reminds me of Mirror, Mirror on Radiolab!

  3. @Kim: Thanks! Not a book cover, just a portfolio piece.

    @Todd: Loves me some Radiolab!

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