Saturday, June 2, 2012

Sorting out your brain for drawing

"An individual's ability to draw is... the ability to shift to a different-from-ordinary way of processing visual information – to shift from verbal, analytic processing to spatial, global processing. (Betty Edwards)"

My favorite book about drawing is Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. If you really want to learn to draw the very best advice I can give you is to buy this book and use it.

I will be suggesting some of the exercises from this book, but you really need your own copy. You won't be sorry.

Dr. Edwards explains that the brain is divided into two sides that house different kinds of thinking processes. The left, most commonly accessed half of the brain is the analytical part, and also includes language. The right, less-used side of the brain is the intuitive side and also where the functions of space perception lie. Her theory is that in order to draw effectively you need to access that right half and suppress the left side functions—at least while you are drawing. You, of course, need to figure out how to access that part of your brain and how you will know when you are doing it! Here is an exercise she suggests to feel the difference between the two ways of thinking as you draw:

Begin by drawing a simple silhouette of a face on one side of your paper (left side for right handed people, right side for left-handers.)

This does not need to be beautiful or even terribly realistic, but as you draw think about what parts of the face you are drawing, naming them as you go—forehead, eyebrow, dip where the eye goes, nose, etc. etc. This is the left brain approach of using language and memory of what a face looks like.

Now move to the other side of the paper and draw a mirror image of the first silhouette. This time concentrate on the position of the line, the angle, how long that angle goes until it changes direction. You are not thinking of a face, only following the contour of the line. Now you are working in your right brain.

When you have finished both silhouettes you can connect them, if you like, to form a goblet or candlestick shape.

Try it again, adding more detail to the silhouette by making it a grotesque face, like a witches face. Again, as you draw the first silhouette, name the features as you move your pencil.

Then draw the mirror image again, concentrating on the shapes and angles only.

Could you sense a difference in the way you were creating the second drawing? This is a great exercise to continue to work on until you can really tell you have made a transition from one part of your brain to another.


Lisa Flowers Ross sent a lovely flower drawing.

Kristin La Flamme, in the moving process, says everything is packed up. She must now draw from memory.

Janet Burns drew a shoe. I think she has done this before!

Drawing is like handwriting. Everyone's style is unique.

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