Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

When I was in elementary school, my art teacher was all about a book called, “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” by Betty Edwards

This relatively new (at the time) book pioneered the idea that people who “can’t draw” don’t lack drawing ability – they lack observational abilities.

Or rather, their observational abilities are being micromanaged by an overbearing left brain.

It’s like this.

You’re looking at a hand.

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But while you’re trying to see the shapes, lines and spaces in front of you, your C.S. Pointy Head left brain is busy TELLING you what a hand looks like.

“IT HAS FIVE LONG FINGERS! IT HAS A BIG THUMB STICKING OFF THE SIDE!”

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And while you’re putting pencil to paper, there’s this internal miscommunication and what likely comes out is a messed up hybrid of conflicting imagery.

Before you can draw accurately, you have to observe accurately.

One of Ms. Edwards’ teaching methods is to simply flip a picture upside down.

This creates a minor disruption in our left brain’s ability to insert assumptions, “OH THAT’S A HAND!!!!!!!! THAT’S A FACE!!!!! THAT’S A HOUSE!!!!” and we’re more apt to actually SEE the shapes in front of us.

And TAH DAH! Students draw with more accuracy.

This happens in all aspects of our lives, not just art class. We look. . . but we don’t necessarily see.

Our deeply ingrained assumptions TELL us what’s there. They are our blind spots.

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THIS is what an upholsterer looks like! This is their business model! This is their client! This is their school!

While we’re busy trying again and again and again to draw the picture we expect to see, we can’t begin to draw what’s actually there.

We can’t build viable solutions until we see honestly what’s in front of us.

So how do we flip this picture over? How do we get clear eyes on the situation?

Because there ARE opportunities, and solutions and possibilities.

But a hand doesn’t always look like five long fingers and a thumb.

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If you’re interested in learning more about Betty Edwards, her work, or seeing a gallery of before and after student drawings, check out her website here.

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