Who Says I Can’t Draw?

I’ve never been good at drawing. My mom is, and my little sister is, but me–no. My people look like deranged cartoon characters, and I have no sense of scale or depth perception. It’s pretty ridiculous. Ever since I’ve gotten back into embroidery, I’ve really wanted to design my own patterns, and I have tons of great ideas, but my hands refuse to draw any of them in a way that even comes close to what I picture in my head.

I had always assumed that drawing is something a person just either can or can’t do–that it isn’t a skill you can learn if you aren’t good at it, that people are just naturally able to draw or not able to draw. This is actually a pretty stupid assumption, when you think about it. Is there really any skill that a neurotypical, fully abled human being just CAN’T learn to do? Like, I would never say, “Oh, I just can’t ride a bike. I’ve tried, and I just can’t do it.” Or, “I can’t learn to swim. I was just born with an inability to swim.” So what makes me think I can’t learn to draw? When I really interrogated myself (okay, truth: when Pritts interrogated me) on the subject, I decided, “Hunh. Who says I can’t draw? I’VE GOT THIS.” For whatever reason (Gemini), my self esteem swings wildly back and forth between completely worthless asshat and queen of the known world; there is no in-between setting.

So in my quest to learn to draw, I’ve borrowed this book:

drawing book

It’s very, very cool so far. The premise of the book is that one can learn to draw by learning to see as an artist sees, by shifting responsibility for the task of drawing from left brain to right brain. It’s pretty common knowledge that the left and right hemispheres of the brain function differently, and that the right hemisphere generally controls the left side of the body, and the left hemisphere controls the right. As it turns out, the science of the brain is not nearly that simple (who’d have thought? lol), but there IS scientific evidence to suggest that the left hemisphere of the brain works in a way that is more analytic, verbal, linear, and logical, while the right hemisphere works in a more relational, spatial, intuitive manner.

Edwards takes the science of brain function and uses it to teach readers to consciously make a shift from left brain thinking to right brain thinking while drawing. So in simple terms, rather than thinking to oneself while trying to draw a face, “This is the eyebrow. This is the nose. Now I’m drawing a mouth,” one should be thinking in terms of lines, shapes, dark and light, etc. The left brain wants to label and name things while the right brain is more likely to focus on the relationship of lines and shapes to one another.

None of this probably comes as much of a surprise to anyone trained in art. To me, it was a revelation.

Some of the book’s first exercises involve drawing preliminary drawings, so one can refer to them later in order to see progress. Here’s one of my “before” drawings:

drawing pritts

Don’t laugh.

No, I’m kidding, laugh it up. How could you not?

That’s my rendering of Pritts. He looks like a sexy Jesus.

Here’s another exercise I completed where I had to copy Picasso’s Portrait of Igor Stravinsky, but draw it upside down (while looking at the original upside down). The upside down-ness is supposed to help you make the shift from left to right brain cognizance.

first drawing exercise

I’m not saying I’m expecting to be the world’s greatest portrait artist by the time I finish the book, but…I’m expecting to be the world’s greatest portrait artist by the time I finish the book. 😉

You can find several version of the book via Amazon, if you’re interested:

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

They’ve got a newer edition than what I was able to borrow from my local library, and they’ve also got the text packaged with a workbook. Also, that’s an affiliate link, so if you click and buy, I get pennies. (Just so ya know.)