My Dad was, among many other things, a talented artist. He used to paint in oil and draw in charcoal, and growing up, I kept hoping that I had inherited this wonderful talent (my brother did!) and it was just hidden inside me somewhere, and would suddenly magically appear. Well, it didn’t (not yet..).
But when I was in photography school many years ago, I discovered the mind altering book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards which gave me a glimmer of hope. It was on a list of recommended reading that we got the first day of school and it completely changed the way I look at shapes, light and shadows. It is by no means a new book: it was first published in 1979 and is now on its second revised edition, AND has been translated into 13 languages. Many of you have probably read it already, but if you haven’t, and share my hope of harboring an inner artist, you have to give it a try!
Start from the beginning (no leafing through and reading ahead!), and when you get to the exercise where you’re supposed to copy a drawing upside down and not look at it the right way up until you’re done – do it. You will be amazed. After I had gotten to that point in the book, I was hooked. I drew everything I could find (both right side up and upside down), with, if I may say so, pretty impressive results.
Below is a drawing done by me, as an adult (yeah, I know, pretty pathetic) before doing the “upside down exercise” and a few done afterwards (free hand – I looked at pictures but didn’t trace them).
The books talks (among many other things) about how we perceive shapes, why some people just “know how to draw” and others have to learn, proportions, perspectives, how to draw people step by step, and the “Zen of drawing”, how to develop your inner artist. Betty says “drawing is a way to quiet the chatter in your brain” and she is absolutely right. Whenever I sit down to draw, I completely lose myself in it; hours can go by without me noticing. It’s a meditation of sorts, and one that is much easier to stay with (for me anyway). I’m useless at regular meditation, my brain just won’t stop, but when I focus on a craft or art project, it’s suddenly still and calm.
Give it a try – not only will you produce works of art, you will give your brain some much needed downtime.