A New Way to See
The pencils are sharp. The eraser is ready. “Pre-instruction drawings” are complete, (and will be posted soon.) I’m eager to put “Operation Learn to Draw” into effect but first a little about the theory underlying the method…
It turns out that drawing ability is far less about how you handle a pencil and more about how your brain handles information, which I suppose isn’t too surprising when you actually stop to think about it.
Our brains have two fundamentally different modes of processing. When Betty Edwards first published Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain in 1979, she referred to these two distinct modes of processing as “left brain” and “right brain,” as the research at that time postulated that each mode took place exclusively in either the left or right hemisphere of the brain. Although the concept of two modes is generally still accepted, later research indicated that the occurrence of these modes could not be so neatly differentiated by right and left hemisphere locale. In later editions, to avoid the “location controversy,” and still reflect two distinct modes, Edwards changed her terms to “L-mode” and “R-mode,” pointing out that ultimately, for her purposes, location was not important.
In Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Edwards presents exercises aimed at supporting the student to make a cognitive shift–from the verbal and analytical L-mode processing to the visual and perceptual R-mode required for drawing. Unlike most activities, which require contributions from both modes, drawing is a task that relies almost solely on R-mode. By teaching the brain to disregard preconceived L-mode expectations and ideas, and perceive reality in R-mode, it is possible to alter how visual information is processed and “see” the way an Artist sees.
Although I was familiar with many of the characteristics associated with L-mode and R-mode, as the concept has become somewhat mainstream, I appreciated the informative comparison of the two modes included in the book, which can be viewed here.
In addition to facilitating the necessary mental shift, the exercises in Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain are geared towards teaching the five component skills, notably all perception skills, that enable anyone “with average eyesight and average eye-hand coordination” (that includes me!) to learn the global skill of basic realistic drawing:
- the perception of edges
- the perception of spaces
- the perception of relationships
- the perception of light and shadows
- the perception of the whole, or gestalt
Two additional skills are identified, “drawing from memory” and “drawing from imagination,” that are required for more creative and expressive drawing, but these can only be used effectively after the five basic skills have been acquired (and are not taught in the book.)
Perhaps, I’ll consider exploring these skills once I’ve mastered the first five.