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"Vase/Face" for Ears


Using the "Vase/Face" exercise to draw 
left and right features


In the first three sections of drawing ears, all the illustrations you drew were of the left ear. That was for a reason. I wanted you to get one ear pretty well memorized. Yes that runs counter to "seeing as an artist", but the thinking here is this: there's so much to see when you draw a human face, I think you need to be able to sift out what are the things common to everybody. So memorizing isn't all bad - as long as you combine it with R-mode observation: ie, drawing what you see. (Your powers of observation are growing constantly. By drawing anything you're reinforcing them.)

Quick review

I know you've seen the "vase-face" illusion before. (Sure you do, it was way back in lesson one.) We're going to springboard off this lesson, so a rapid review is in order.

The essence of lesson one was to get you familiarized feeling the shift into R-mode - the artistic mode. One way of tricking your brain into doing this is by presenting it with something that can be interpreted in more than one way. This picture can be seen as either two faces going "chin-to-chin", or you may have seen it as a vase. R-mode is invoked when you start switching back and forth between the two interpretations.

Now go ahead. Look at the illustration. Get it switching back and forth between the vase and the faces. You'll feel the switch of perception.

The famous Vase/Face drawing

Did it? Good! That's a simple warm up and a nice segue into this next exercise. And don't worry, this is a pretty short one - a grand total of three steps. In this exercise, you're going to be drawing the right ear - by "facing it off" with the left ear.


Step 1


Time: 15-20 minutes

Materials: 1 Pencil; Several sheets of 8 and 1/2 x 11" paper: cut in half, into top and bottom half's (so you're cutting through it's horizontal center.)

Draw a left ear - from memory - to one side of your paper.

It doesn't matter which way the ear points, it doesn't matter what hand you draw with. It will be a little easier if you draw the ear on the right side of the paper if you're left handed, on the left side if you're right handed. That's only for convenience - so you don't have to look through or lift your hand every time you make an observation. You might want to draw this exercise on a half sheet of 8 1/2" by 11" paper. Here's a "Southpaw" doing the assignment:

Draw a left ear from memory 
(Left hand example)

If you're right-handed draw a left ear - (the same as the ear in the illustration.) You've been practicing left ears in all the earlier exercises, so you're going to build right on top of that. The tiny penciled in scribble at the top of the illustration says "Middle of the paper".


Step 2


Here's the fun part. Draw the mirror image of the ear. That is, copy the ear you've just completed but do it in reverse. Start at the top of the drawing and work your way down. When you're done, you'll have a completed pair of ears.

Now draw the mirror image of 
the ear you've drawn


Step 3


In Step three, just repeat the first two steps a half dozen times. You don't have to do them all today - but I bet you can. With the firm foundation you've built doing the previous exercises, you've got the depth to run right through this. Don't be afraid of drawing less than perfect ears! This is not the point. The point in this exercise is to get back into left to right brain shifting. (But I bet your ears are really shaping up. )


Little signals and hints from your brain


Drawing the mirror image profile will be different from the first profile you did. Why? Because you'll be drawing it from the R-mode of the brain. In Betty Edwards words "this is right-hemisphere mode drawing".


When you're done...


Did you feel any conflict or confusion?

(Note: This is copied directly from the first lesson - everybody, even seasoned artists who've taken a break from drawing - go through this adjustment. I'm putting it here for you as a reminder that it's perfectly normal to go through these phases while drawing. Don't despair!)

In drawing the second profile, the mirror-image profile, did you experience any of the conflict I predicted you might feel? Any confusion?

How'd you get past it?

To get past this, what did you do? Did you find yourself scrambling for another way to approach the task? Some students say they had to picture the completed composition in their heads before they could "see" how to take the next step. Did you find yourself looking back and forth between the different parts of the ear? Comparing, measuring sizes and distances, reckoning angles? If you finished the picture and it look something like a symmetric pair of ears, then you were doing it!

The point of this:

That your drawing looks like two ears, symmetric and all, is not the point here. If you found yourself making measurements and estimations, if you found yourself making statements like "this curve goes out like this, and the other one goes in the opposite direction over here like this, this line angles away in relation to that one going in", then you were in R-mode. Correct representation will come.

Students comment they entirely forgot they were drawing two ears. They were just caught up in going back and forth, comparing one section of line to its opposite section on the other side of the drawing.

Just for fun: Cartoon ears

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