Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain: Orientation

I had heard of this book on drawing, called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. I still can't remember where I heard about it, or when. But I noticed the library has it, and thought I'd check it out. Guys. Guys. OMG guys.

If you have ever wondered why some people are good at drawing and others aren't, or why almost all adults say they hate or aren't good at drawing, or how it is that artists see the world, or what it would take to learn to draw, this is the book.

Now you wouldn't know it to look at me, but I actually have an aversion to learning. It's pretty specific, and very annoying. Basically, if I think I *should* know something by now, I am very averse to taking the necessary steps to actually learn it. (Which would entail admitting that I don't understand it.)

I'm going to take a big step towards combating that tendency by doing the exercises in Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Oh that's right- in addition to answering some very big questions about art, it's also a workbook with exercises taken from a 4-day course teaching adult beginners how to draw. The before and after drawings by the students (included early on in the book for encouragement) have to be seen to be believed.

The first exercise is pre-instruction, and Betty Edwards (the author) is mainly just establishing a starting point. It's broken into three parts: draw your non-dominant hand from life, draw a person from memory, and draw a self-portrait using a mirror.

(My apologies for the fullpage gradients, which are a result of my scanner. I didn't want to fix this in photoshop however, because I wanted a true representation of the relative greys in my sketches.)


My hand. It went okay.


This is supposed to be a drawing of my father-in-law, done from memory. As you can see, it sucks. (And also looks nothing like him.) I am conveniently illustrating one of the first points in Edward's book, which is that when we are in doubt we fall back on a symbolic visual language we all developed as children. The drawings of adults often look 'childlike', because they are still using a representational rather than realistic visual vocabulary. I don't recall my father-in-law as exactly as I would if he were sitting in front of me, so instead of drawing 'the curve at the bottom of his face' I draw what I know people will understand to be a chin. Which doesn't necessarily look like a chin at all, and certainly doesn't look like his chin.

My self-portrait is actually pretty good, although my husband insists that I am wearing 'serious face.' I view it as a compliment and a good sign that it is not only recognizably me, it is recognizably one of my faces.

Here I was using a mirror, and so did not need to fall back on my representational vocabulary. I was in what Edwards calls 'R-mode': I am drawing the line because it is the line, not because it is my chin. (Incidentally, right brain thinking is emphatically present-tense. The characteristics of right-brain thinking are covered fairly early on in Drawing, and you can find independent confirmation of them from brain researchers such as Jill Bolte Taylor.) I was still suffering from a few perceptual errors however, including the 'cut off skull' error, which Edwards tackles later in the book when talking about proportion. I could also stand to spend a little more time evening out the intensity of my lines, but sometimes when your tea has gone cold you just have to take the hint and stop drawing.