Lesson 1: Reflections and Refractions

Three Spheres II, 1946 - M.C. Escher

The process of reflection has fascinated artists throughout the ages. In his painting ‘Las Meninas’ Valásquez has put us in the shoes of his sitters…

Diego Velázquez 021.jpg

If you look closely at the painting above, we can see the sitters appearing in the reflection in the background. Did you spot it?

Las Meninas mirror detail.jpg

A reflection is always incident to the object in front of the reflective surface, whatever distance the object from the reflective surface. When the reflective surface is water, generally the reflection is below the object being reflected. With reflections you can often see another side to an object from the point of view of the spectator, this is often simultaneous.

Task 1

You will need: A mirror, an object smaller than the mirror, pencils and paper

Lay the mirror flat on a table or surface. Place your chosen object on the mirror. Draw what you see. Make sure to pay attention to the distance that parts of the object are from the mirror. Try to choose an object that will give you an interesting reflection.

Task 2

You will need: A pocket mirror, pencils and paper

Choose a feature of your face, whether it be a single eye, your nose or mouth, and draw it in as much detail as you can. Your drawing should at least be twice as big as the feature you choose to draw.

Refraction photo.png

Refraction is the process by which a transparent object will bend light in different ways. This is due to the way the speed varies as it passes from one medium to another. Getting an accurate representation of refraction is necessary to really portray transparent objects.

Task 3

You will need: A jar or other transparent container, some water an object bigger than the jar and pencils and paper

Pour the water into the jar to half way, place the object behind the jar from where you are sitting. Try to draw what you see through the jar. The water and the jar will vary the distortion of the object behind it. Try drawing the jar and the water first then work on the object behind it after.

Task 4

You will need: a sink or bath, pencils and paper preferably a hard surface to draw on like a book or piece of board.

Fill the sink or bath with at least 5cm of water. Take out the plug and observe and draw the way the water drains down the plug hole. You should see a mini whirl pool as the water drains out. This will involve drawing quickly to capture the whirlpool in one go. As a tip, draw the plug hole lightly multiple times and then draw how the water distorts the plug afterwards.

Task 5

Bring it all together. Produce a drawing that produces an original visual solution that conveys the phenomena of reflection. Consider how we interpret reflections (culturally/symbolically, the reflective state of mind, the mirror, ‘mirror mirror on the wall’ it’s use by artist such as Valasquez or Escher etc) Be inventive, think laterally, think of different ways you could communicate a response on the page.