Many of you whom I've met or taught in my art classes know that I often refer to 'Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain'. Maybe you've heard of it before, maybe not. Here's a short summary of why it's important to me in my art teaching and art preparation.
The concept of "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" was first introduced by artist and teacher Betty Edwards in her classic 1979 book of the same name. Through her teachings and book, Edwards popularized the idea that people could learn to draw better by consciously shifting mental processing from the logical, analytical left side of the brain to the more intuitive and visual right side.
As an art teacher, Edwards had noticed that her students struggled with some symbolic and abstract elements of drawing. She began studying research on brain hemispheres and realized the right side of the brain processes visual and spatial information more effectively. She developed exercises and techniques to essentially "shut off" the left side of artists' brains so the right side could take over.
Her book became an international bestseller, proving these methods worked for thousands seeking to improve their drawing ability. By focusing on perceiving shapes, spaces, relationships, and angles more intuitively rather than getting bogged down in details and symbols, aspiring artists gained the skills needed to translate three-dimensional objects and scenes onto a two-dimensional page more accurately and proportionally.
To this day, Edwards' core teaching shows that you can shift your views toward visual processing to help unlock your creative potential. In this video below, the instructor demonstrates the process of drawing a self-portrait using the "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" technique. The key concept is to focus on the overall shapes and negative spaces rather than on the details. The instructor starts by lightly sketching the basic outlines of the head, then gradually adds more detail, paying attention to the proportions and overall balance of the figure.
Here are some pointers I still use today:
- Focus on the overall shapes and negative spaces. Don't get bogged down in the details.
- Use light, loose strokes. Don't press down on the pencil too hard.
- Work from the general to the specific. Start with the big shapes and gradually add more detail.
- Pay attention to the proportions and balance of the figure.
- Don't be afraid to erase and redraw as needed.
These innovative exercises can absolutely help you draw the world around you with a new perspective, proportion, and ability. With practice and patience, you'll be able to unlock the artist within!