Book Reviews · Events

Book Review: Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

drawing right sideThis week City College is celebrating the Big Draw, the world’s biggest drawing festival, with a week of drawing activities. Keep your eyes peeled as you walk around campus, as there will be plenty of opportunities to get scribbling!

This week we are featuring a fantastic book on drawing called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards (BOOK ZONE 741.2). Have you ever felt that you wanted to try drawing but every time you did, you ended up with something that looks like a child drew it? Well, Betty Edwards teaches drawing to people who have barely picked up a pencil since they were at school.

Originally published in 1979, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is a psychological approach to drawing written by an art teacher who developed a revolutionary theory. Betty Edwards based her methods of teaching on research into how the brain stores memories of objects (like houses or faces) so they can be recognised and remembered in the future. This research shows that the brain is divided into two halves, which interact with one another but handle different processes and kinds of memories: the right brain, and the left brain.

PrintThe revolutionary bit was how she applied this to teaching her students to draw: she found that people who had not drawn faces since they were children tended to draw faces in exactly the same way as they had when they were at school. Her theory is that when we are children, we are encouraged to draw faces and objects so we can learn to recognise them, but as teenagers and adults, unless we study art, we don’t have particular reason to draw. The mental codes we learned when we were children for how to draw faces and chairs are still the same ones we use as adults, so when we draw a face, we access the codes stored in the left brain and draw noses as two lines with nostrils at the bottom. When we try to draw more accurately to what we see, it becomes confusing because our brain is telling us what a nose looks like rather than allowing us to draw the light and shade in front of us.

Edwards’ method of breaking this habit is to teach her students to view the subjects of their drawings as abstract lines rather than facial features or whole objects, meaning they draw what they see rather than what they think they see, using their right brain. It’s a fascinating way of changing your thinking about what you see and it shows how powerful the things we have believed for a long time can be. When I first tried out one of the exercises, I was really surprised by how accurate my drawing suddenly was!

One of the best things about Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is that it’s designed to encourage people who haven’t drawn since they were at primary school to give it a go, and it produces pictures that learners never thought they’d be able to draw almost straight away. If you’ve always wanted to try drawing or sketching but have been discouraged by the results, try Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. It has step by step lessons and loads of activities, as well as plenty on the theory behind drawing from the right side of the brain. Because it changes your way of thinking rather than trying to throw you right in at the deep end, you’ll probably surprise yourself!

If you want to learn more about drawing…

Try another new approach with Rapid Viz: A New Method For the Rapid Visualization of Ideas by Kurt Hanks and Larry Belliston (held as an ebook on Ebrary). Where Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain focuses on sketching from life or copying, Rapid Viz focuses on drawing from the imagination and getting ideas down on paper visually.

Replace some of those learned codes with How to Draw Anything by Mark Linley (BOOK ZONE 741.2). This is a much more traditional learn-to-draw book, but it is designed to help budding artists learn to draw lots of different things by reducing them down into basic shapes.

Put your newfound skills into practice with your favourite art style. If you like comic books, try How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way by Stan Lee and John Buscema (BOOK ZONE 741.5). If you prefer Manga, look up Draw Manga: How to Draw Manga in Your Own Unique Style. If you love cartoons and caricatures, learn How to Draw Caricatures by Lenn Redman. (All found in the BOOK ZONE at 741.5).

And don’t forget to scribble for the Big Draw!

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