Drawing a Mirror’s Reflection

I am often amused by the strange processes that seem to govern how I decide what to draw. Personality-wise, I tend to be a planner and a creature of habit. I like routines in life and in drawing, and tend to seek a predictable path to art however I can. That’s probably noticeable just from browsing through any sample of my recent drawings; it’s not hard to see a trend. Head-and-shoulders portraits everywhere! If I can find a comfortable groove to drawing, I will pretty easily settle into it. This is true for every step in the process…except, apparently, for actually deciding on what to draw.

Even though I collect ideas and try to plan ahead to some extent, it often seems that the actual decision is spontaneous and based on very little. It somewhat explains why, on many posts, I describe my “plan” for what to draw next over and over. For example, in several consecutive posts I mentioned how my next project would be a Stargate drawing. Yet, I kept sharing different drawings and working on different things. This post is case in point; since finishing my series of The Witcher drawings, I had been thinking about a couple different projects. But I was suddenly smacked by an urge to try a person reflected in a mirror (I believe after seeing an article on Twitter). That random interest was apparently powerful enough to take over all of my artistic focus, and I just rolled right into it. And that seems to be often how it goes!

So, on to discussing the concept. Drawing a person reflected in a mirror is actually something that I’ve never tried before. In fact, I don’t think it’s ever something I’ve even considered. Perhaps that’s why I was so taken with the idea when it jumped into my mind. It’s a challenge for sure, but how much of one? Obviously the subject and the subject’s reflection need to match – mirror each other, if we want to be cheesy about it. A deceptively tricky aspect of the matching issue though is accurately reflecting angles and non-human aspects. For example, the borders and trim on walls or doors; if the “real” side is angled upward in an image, does the mirror show downward? Of course, having a reference image as I did removes most of this mystery. But there are still some inherently tricky concepts.

Now, to discuss the drawing itself. It turned out surprisingly well I think. Overall, the reflective aspect is pretty solid in terms of placement and basic arrangement. I am surprisingly pleased with the job I did on the subject’s hair; some good color gradients, reflection, and lines here that improve on previous efforts. The blending and background work is solid enough as well, and I think I did a pretty good job with textures. At least, better in a relative sense compared to my usual partial fill-ins.

As always, I have a few nitpicky things to critique. Although I think it’s technically correct because she’s looking at a centered spot, the pupil placement feels sort of weird. Also, the likeness to the original subject is not particularly strong. Although I like this one just looking at the drawing in a vacuum, I did not do a great job of maintaining a resemblance. If this were an actress or fictional character, you may not recognize them from this drawing. Another aspect I’m unsure of is whether the mirror person matches the regular person completely, especially when it comes to her mouth. It’s close, but hard to say if I’m satisfied there.

And above I’ve embedded another YouTube time-lapse video. There aren’t a ton of responses yet to the poll I shared about preferred styles for these progression videos. But so far, it seems the “one minute” videos are the favorite with 60% of the vote. Although it’s a small sample size, I stayed true to the results and made this one of the easy-to-consume, very short videos. I like these quick ones the most because it’s not a huge investment of time to watch them. The downside is that you can’t get any feel for techniques at this speed, so they aren’t great for learning. But it’s interesting to watch these portraits fill in so fast.

So, what am I planning next? Well, I do have some things in mind…but we’ve pretty well established that I’m probably going to ignore those plans anyway. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the next thing I draw isn’t even on my radar right now.


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  • Interesting drawing of your subject reflected in the mirror!!

    • Thanks Shawn, it’s something I’m glad I attempted! Sometimes I have to talk myself into trying something new, so it’s good branching out worked out in this case

  • You’d think it would be a double challenge as you’ve effectively got to draw two people, without a photo reference I think you’d have to be exceptionally skilled to imagine the side and back of someone’s head in perspective.

    My daughter is doing a media course at the moment and it’s surprising the lengths they go to when filming mirror scenes, to the extent of filming it twice and ignoring the fact there’s a cameraman in the reflection.

    Then you get tricks like this one I drew last year. Obviously I used two reference images for it but even with that in mind it was harder than I expected it to be. The hand for instance is reflected normally.


    • Oh man, yes I can’t even imagine trying to do it without a reference. I would have no clue! It might be interesting to try, but I have a feeling my version may look like an insane dream or something.

      That’s a cool one you linked, very well done there indeed. The techniques you used almost makes it feel like there’s motion in the piece to some extent.

      Also, that’s quite interesting about filming mirror scenes – I figured they used some cool trickery, but I just filed it away in my brain as “movie magic” and left it there. Of course, that’s assuming it’s not a low budget flick set for MST3K or Rifftrax, then they are very likely not to even care

      • It amazes me just how much time and effort goes into film making, it’s no wonder the list of credits is more like a phone directory these days rather than a readable list.

      • So true – not to mention money! I truly don’t understand the economics of the whole enterprise. It seems impossible to recover how much money they spend on some of these movies

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