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Mirrors Never Lie

Posted by: Elizabeth Lane on 01/27/2013 - 11:54 PM

I have known about this "trick" forever and a day. And used it with great success in the past.
There was something out of "kilter" with my latest painting I could not put my finger on. So, I took it over to a mirror in the house and held it in front of the mirror, and looked at the reflection of my painting. Then discovered all it's flaws and where I need to make corrections.
It will reveal problems with composition, depth, proportion problems with figures and animals in a piece of art work. I have always found this to be "the critic's eye".
Why this is I do not know, but it works well.
Perhaps other members would enlighten us as to the "science of mirrored images".
Other-wise, a helpful tip to pass along.


Oldest Reply

Posted by: Larene Warren Compton on 01/28/2013 - 12:08 AM

what a good idea !!


Posted by: J L Meadows on 01/28/2013 - 12:23 AM

Ahhhh, yes...the old mirror trick. I started using it when I was a kid, and what's funny about it is that I thought of it all on my own, and felt very guilty doing it, like I was cheating or something. Finally, with great trepidation, I approached my art teacher and hesitantly confessed. He said casually, "Oh, that's an old painter's trick" and a student standing next to him added, "Turning your drawing upside down and looking at it works too." Was I ever relieved!


Posted by: Michael Hoard on 01/28/2013 - 12:23 AM

Hello Elizabeth, when you view a piece of art, you perceive it as your brain relays what it is you are looking at. Same thing applies no two people see the exact image. But when you see your image reflected back to you, your brain registers what you perceive it to be. Example we do not see ourselves as other see us. but when we look in the mirror we perceive ourselves differently. We look at ourselves since we are able to remember when we first saw our own image in a mirror, as we get older we see the our bodies have changed. We can not viiew our actual brain. I once saw Oprah speak to some scientist and and described our bodies are our space suits, the outer skin ages, our blood remains the exact as the day we where born. Our brains remain the same. Its the thoughts that get older. Sorta like time lapse photography we don't witness time because we are a part of it...And something else just as color is merely a de-fraction of light. The image we view in a mirror is a reflective image.A professor here in New Orleans once spoke in his class because of theory, if you stood on the highest mountian and looked forward you would see your own image. So when you turn the image toward the mirror you are now looking at it as if someone else would see it. That was simple.


Posted by: Thomas Young on 01/28/2013 - 12:32 AM

Very interesting concept and quite the explanation Michael.


Posted by: Michael Hoard on 01/28/2013 - 12:33 AM

Thank you Thomas


Posted by: Murray Bloom on 01/28/2013 - 2:13 AM

Elizabeth, sort of on the same track as Michael, the mind perceives each part of a scene differently. It's usually about formal balance and weight. We give most weight to what's in the lower left, and the eye expects it. You can have a lot of stuff there without unbalancing the image, but try that in the upper right and the image wants to fall over. This is true of mass and color, and there are other reasons that a picture's formal elements (composition, mostly) shouldn't be judged in a mirror.


Posted by: Paul Cowan on 01/28/2013 - 5:26 AM

Do people who read from right to left also give weight to lower left or is it a learned thing? Does it also apply to left-handers (I seem to have quite a lot of images with the bulk of the content in the lower right quadrant, judging by whats on my walls).


Posted by: Elizabeth Lane on 01/28/2013 - 7:20 AM

Thank you all for your responses. I'm delighted to have explanations as to the "why's", from Michael and Murray!
Now I must get ready to go to the "day job".
You all have a great day!


Posted by: Mike Savad on 01/28/2013 - 8:12 AM

try it in a funhouse mirror....

i tend to just look at it really close to find things in it.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: John Ayo on 01/28/2013 - 10:24 AM

Pop quiz!

Why do things seen in a mirror look reversed left-to-right instead of top-to-bottom? :)


Posted by: Roy Erickson on 01/28/2013 - 11:17 AM

John - because our eyes are not on top of each other but side by side.


Posted by: Janine Riley on 01/28/2013 - 12:32 PM

As the winter progresses every mirror is beginning to look distorted like a fun house mirror.

What about Left eye/Right eye dominance - that should help to explain the noticed discrepancies in the reverse image.


Posted by: Roy Erickson on 01/28/2013 - 12:45 PM

Mirrors always lie - to me - I look into it every morning - and I keep seeing this young person - and I know better.


Posted by: Lena Auxier on 01/28/2013 - 1:00 PM

Normally, I'll stand back about 15 feet and I can see things that need to be fixed, but I have done the mirror trick also.


Posted by: Tony Weatherman on 01/28/2013 - 5:16 PM

They do too !! I ain't as old as the old man looking back at me !!


Posted by: Michael Hoard on 01/28/2013 - 6:37 PM

Hello Paul, that is a good observation, it may be your sight is different in both eyes are do you have perfect vision, when you close one eye look at an image, then close the other eye it gives the illusion the object moves closer and or further back. this is because we have two eyes, and the focal length of focus is dead center straight forward. When I discovered something was major wrong with my eyes. The symptom was on a day with lots of glare or especially at night, the moon, lights traffic lights especially everything was going double but it was going double vertically. A traffic light as I saw it for quite some time was the spectrum layers upon layers of of light in a vertically line. Years prior people would go blind, but thanks to modern laser surgery this is pretty much obsolete. Imagine seeing a moon and a half at night. Imagine trying to focus on a photo when what you are seeing is vertical. The focus on a camera is horizontal. not vertical.

Janie, that was a good laugh, and you are correct about left eye, right eye dominance,

Lena, you are correct about your comment, the further back you get everything comes into focus, a very good example would be a billboard, the closer you are its distorted the further you get our eyes balance the focal plane. Pretty much to say if you are near sighted or far sighted. I pretty much now have just about 20/20 vision. I did notice over the course of time spending so much time working on my photos on the computer, could have caused or stressed my issues with my sight.

Now, does anyone know why when we dream everything is focus....

thank you Elizabeth for a great discussion. Hope you had a great day at work.


Posted by: Shasta Eone on 01/28/2013 - 7:29 PM

Something that helps also is when doing a painting in color, is to shoot it in black and white when you are done. This will show up flaws in contrasts if they exist and you'll be able to correct them. The black and white should read much like a good black and white post card.


Posted by: Xueling Zou on 01/28/2013 - 7:32 PM

Thanks for sharing your trick, I will try it too :)! Happy paintings !!


Posted by: JC Findley on 01/28/2013 - 7:46 PM

So true....

Photography Prints


Posted by: Cathy Lindsey on 01/28/2013 - 7:59 PM

Also try turning it upside down, that works for me!


Posted by: Murray Bloom on 01/28/2013 - 8:03 PM


Boy: I'll see you pretty soon.

Girl: You mean I'm not pretty now???


Posted by: Elizabeth Lane on 01/28/2013 - 10:54 PM

Oh.....mirror, mirror on the wall who's the funniest artist of them all?? Lol!
And yes, I do step back and look at my work, and look at it upside down........I have this nifty device I have yet to use, one of those (rare for me) impulse purchases when ordering from Cheap Joe's. It is on open square, covered in red film......sort of a view-finder gizmo. And one uses this to detect contrasts. I am far too embarassed to say what I paid for this.
But now that it was brought up, I might just dig it out and use it.
Unleash [more of] the "mirror jokes"........ :)
Thank you, Michael.......I had "a" day at work.......but hey, I can buy more art supplies and enter juried shows with the day job.


Posted by: John Ayo on 01/30/2013 - 7:43 AM

@Roy: Nope! Have you noticed everything flips the same even if you close one eye?

It's actually because that's the way you turned the thing to look at it in the mirror. Write on a card, flip it over top-to-bottom to face the mirror and that's how it will appear flipped, not side-to-side.

In truth, it actually flips things front-to-back. Look in the mirror and point up, down, left, right, forward, and backward. For which directions did your reflection point the same way, and for which did it point the opposite?

(Credit to Richard Feynman)


Posted by: Janine Riley on 01/30/2013 - 12:30 PM

Thanx for the reminder !
Used the turning upside down tip today to balace a few highlights.


Posted by: Elizabeth Lane on 01/30/2013 - 9:26 PM

One thing I picked up on using the mirror trick is in the painting, I have human figures as subject matter. On one rendering I noticed a leg of one figure is a bit forward of the other leg supposedly. The mirror reveals the leg further from the viewer is in fact been painted as in the fore ground. It is in shadow and so conceals the discrepancy from view.
The mirror helps out with those "Ooops" discoveries, IMHO.
The up-side down method is very useful, as well, Janine.
A lot of good logical explanations of what's behind the method(s) has been offered here and I thank those for their in-put. It has been very interesting.


Posted by: Shawn Dall on 01/30/2013 - 9:58 PM

an interesting trick to see how mentally or spiritually strong you are. Turn on a light outside a bathroom, and then close the door of the bathroom and turn off the light in the bathroom, so only the light is spilling in under the door and you can only see your silhouette in the mirror. Then simply see how long you can stand to look at yourself in the mirror without actually seeing you - your mind will generate a building sense of terror of what might be in the mirror and most people usually have to turn on the light after a very brief time. It's interesting how the mind works.


Posted by: Michael Hoard on 01/30/2013 - 10:02 PM

Hello Elizabeth, having art training since 6th grade in grammar school, I remember a device used, to duplicate an image small and you could in-large the image or transfer to another sheet. what was that called. as you traced over the orignal it would inlarge the duplicate.


Posted by: Michael Hoard on 01/30/2013 - 10:08 PM

Shawn that reminds me of a horror movie or a bad, bad nightmare. I remember waking up one night I thought I heard a nose coming from the front of the house. Living in a grand Victorian in the lower garden district in New Orleans. Well, the house had a long narrow hall and a parlor to the left, I checked in that room first and saw nothing. At the time I did not have the 14 ft. shutter up to the two windows to the parlor or the front door. As I came out of the parlor or music room where my baby grand was, I went to the hall towards the door. Well the hallway light was on dimmer control and I stood there looking out of the window onto the porch and street, and when I refocused. and the reflection of the person was standing behind me. I screamed and woke up out of a


Posted by: Shawn Dall on 01/30/2013 - 10:43 PM

haha wow.. yeah dreams can be crazy - I just had one the other day where I was whipping through some miami-like futuristic town setting trying to blast someone's head off with a blunderbuss of all things.


Posted by: Judy Kay on 02/01/2013 - 9:45 AM

Am I the only one not getting the mirror trick? When I view a painting in the mirror I see no differentiation!


Posted by: Elizabeth Lane on 02/03/2013 - 9:37 AM

Can't say, Judy. I use it if upon first visual inspection, from a little distance (like across the room), and see something "out of sync" in my painting. I hold it in front of a mirror, look at the reflection in the mirror and then pin-point the flaws. Then I know what needs to be done to correct them. And I use it as well to check my progress on a particular painting.
A great tool to use, I might add and has probably been around for a long time........I remember my 7th grade? art teacher telling us about it.


Posted by: Judy Kay on 02/03/2013 - 11:14 AM

I tried it again from a distance, absolutely looked the same...not one iota different?


Posted by: Kathy Stiber on 02/03/2013 - 11:36 AM

Ha yes, I've done that too. Thought it was just me! I also turn it upside down or sideways..
Thanks for sharing.


This discussion is closed.