Mirror Drawing Notes

Notes on a classroom handout

This fun, challenging activity is appropriate for young children all the way up to adults. It is trickier than you might think to mirror someone else's motions, especially when they make curves and diagonals. Encourage students to draw slowly, so one person doesn't get too far ahead of the other, and have students trade who leads and who follows from time to time.
     I have designed this handout to fit on an ordinary 8.5" by 11" sheet of paper, but it works better if you use larger sheets of paper. Large sheets of newsprint, available in art classrooms, work especially well.
     The resulting drawings are often quite beautiful. I often have students walk around the room and look at what each other has drawn, or post the results on a wall. When I give this activity in the context of inversions many students try writing words, which are quite difficult to follow in mirror drawing.

Here are some related activities.

TWO-HANDED WRITING.This activity makes a good warmup for Mirror Writing. Each student needs two pencils or pens, one in each hand, and a large sheet of paper in front of them. Notebook paper will do, but larger paper is better.
     Stand up. Following the teacher, move your hands in small circles in the air, being careful not to hit your neighbor. Follow the teacher as he or she makes different patterns in the air as if conducting an orchestra: circles one way, circles the other way, zig zags, smile arcs, rainbow arcs, and figure eights. Feel the sensation of moving your hands in mirror symmetry.
     Now lean over and let the tips of your pencil drag along the paper as you continue to move your hands in opposite directions. Don't worry about what your drawing looks like; just enjoy the motion.
     If you are right handed, place both pencils at the center of the page. If your are left handed, place your pencils at the left and right edges of the page. Now with both hands, at the same time, write your first name in opposite directions. Your normal writing hand will write your name forwards and your other hand will write it backwards.
     This may sound impossible to do, but it is easier than it sounds. You may find that cursive is easier than printing. You may also find that it is easier if you don't look at what you are writing, but instead focus on the movement of your hands. Don't be disappointed if you are not able to do this, for some people this exercise is too hard. But many people find this exercise much easier than they expected. You can check your work by holding your paper up to the light and looking through the back of the paper.

DRAWING AROUND A POINT.This activity makes a good followup to Mirror Drawing. The idea is the same, except the two students draw in rotational symmetry about a point instead of reflective symmetry about a line.
     This is a game for two people. Each of you needs a pencil or a pen. One of you will lead, and the other will follow.
     Draw a dot in the middle of the page. Pretend this is a tree growing out of the page. Leader, place the tip of your pencil on the paper somewhere near the dot. Follower, place the tip of your pencil on the opposite side of the dot, and at the same distance, as if you were trying to hide from the other person behind the tree.
     Leader, slowly start moving your pencil. Follower, follow the leader, making sure your pencil always stays on the opposite side of the dot, and at the same distance. Leader, draw anything you want, being careful to move slowly. You can trade who leads and who follows if you like.

THREE-PERSON HANDSHAKE.Have students stand in groups of 3, facing each other. Groups of 4 are also okay, but groups of 2 are too small. It may help to push desks to the edge of the classroom or move to a bigger space. Ask each group to invent a handshake for all people in the group to do together in which every person does exactly the same thing. For instance, if one person croos right arm over left, then all three people must cross the same way.
     Have each group perform their handshake for the rest of the class. It is easier for people to see if everyone sits down except the performing group. You will be pleasantly surprised by the variety of handshakes that students invent.

Copyright 2000 Scott Kim.
All rights reserved.