Friday, 21 June 2013

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

6th March 2013

I have recently re-established contact with my mother after a long period of estrangement. (It's complicated - we have our ups and downs. I was brought up by my father from the age of 4). Anyway the reason I mention her here is that since we were last in touch (about 7 years ago) she has become a pensioner and has also completed an honours degree in painting.

My mum recommended 'Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain' by Betty Edwards as she said she found it quite helpful in her first year of college. I thought I'd take a look as it appeals to my 'science geek' nature with it's references to research into left and right brain functions and the experiments performed to ascertain the functions of the different sides of the brain based on work with patients who had surgery to sever the Corpus callosum (the link between the left and right hemispheres) as a last resort procedure in the treatment of refractory epilepsy.

The book is quite interesting although I do think it takes some liberties and makes some sweeping generalisations and assumptions based on little evidence. I did, however decide to suspend my over-critical and very left-sided thinking to have a go at some of the exercises!

I tried the 'upside down drawing' exercise. the theory behind this is that you want to achieve a switch from left brain to right brain mode. Turning an image upside down is supposed to stop the brain from identifying what the image is, naming it and then drawing what it knows rather than what you actually see. You are supposed to make a conscious effort not to name the parts of the body in your head whilst drawing the upside- down picture of a person.

I didn't find the exercise entirely successful. One reason for this is that turning the picture upside down did not prevent me from seeing what the image was. I found it very difficult to push away the tendency to name things in words in my head and describe them in words in my head and the exercise- if anything made this more pronounced. The exercise stated that the reading of an image upside down is difficult and that reading text upside down is difficult. I've always found that reading text upside-down is quite easy. Does that mean the book is inaccurate or does it just mean that I'm so left-brain dominant that learning to draw will be very difficult ?!!?

Although this particular exercise wasn't helpful, there are some exercises further on in  the book which look like they might be useful- in particular the exercises on negative space as I did struggle with that in the last section of the course. I fully intend to dip back into this book at a later date.

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