Improve Your Paintings! Today’s Tip

I thought that I would start to share some of what I’ve learned over 13 years of painting in oil and almost seven years of picture-making as an illustrator through a new on-going series, Improve Your Paintings!.  We’ll start today with…


There really isn’t a better or faster way to check your drawing or composition for accuracy. Almost any decent mirror will work. I happened to have an old full-length mirror that I found for $15 at a yard sale many years ago. I mounted it onto my old easel, which lets me roll it to different positions and also out of the way.

A mirror is particularly useful when you have to get two sides of something that are similar to match up and need an “extra eye” to evaluate it. Do those butterfly wings match? Are the eyes of that wolf lined up properly?

It is also very valuable for checking the overall drawing. Do all the parts fit together accurately in that 3/4 view of the mountain lion’s head? Have you compensated correctly for the foreshortening and flattening effect in an image of a bighorn sheep, also in a 3/4 view? Is the body of that horse too big for the head or vice versa? In the example below, I’ve used my mirror to get a fresh look at the relative value pattern between the horses in the foreground and the background landscape.

Do you use a mirror? If so, what do you find it most useful for?

(And yes, you’re getting a sneak preview of my newest painting, “Mongol Horse #5-Afternoon Romp”. It’s almost done and I’ll post it next Friday)

Coming up soon! North Coast Open Studios. I’ll be doing Weekend 2, June 12-13.

One thought on “Improve Your Paintings! Today’s Tip

  1. hello! love your work, great t ip, I find even turning it upside down too helps. I always tell me animal portrait students to go to the bathroom with me ( as a joke) to check it out in the mirror. nice painting!!


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