Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain-book review.
Self portraits above drawn by Fia aged 8.
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In 1995 a Mum and her daughter approached me wanting to learn how to draw. I had a degree in Graphic design but I hadn’t taught art lessons before (my teaching experience was limited to Sunday school and student Bible study groups). So I went to our local book shop and small library in Kimberley, South Africa and eagerly searched the shelves for some inspiration.
THIS is the book I discovered way back then called ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’ by Betty Edwards:
I was intrigued by Betty Edwards’ bold assertion that ANYBODY can learn how to draw. Like riding a bicycle, there are a few simple techniques that can be learnt which will improve anyone’s drawing ability. I was also impressed by her unconventional exercises and was eager to try them out on students! They made perfect sense and I wondered why I had never tried these before through all my years of studying art at school at Uni.
This book is based on the principle that the right half of our brain is more intuitive and artistic. We are far more accustomed to utlising the left hemisphere of our brains in modern life with its emphasis on all that is linear, analytic and digital. The exercises focus on trying to quieten the critical left brain and encourage the visual right brain.
So I complied a six week course and worked through the book with the Mum and her daughter. It’s hard to describe that moment on the last day when the Mum looked at her final artwork and her whole face lit up with delight and exclaimed “I drew that!” That moment got me hooked on the book as well as teaching this course to others.
Since then we have moved house, cities, countries and even hemispheres a few times (about 10 times – I think!) We have finally settled in Ireland and once again I looked for the book but as it wasn’t in our local library or book shops I ordered this version off the internet:
Since practicing the exercises myself as well as teaching summer art camps to kids for the past six years I can assert that these exercises really work! I still get such a buzz from that exciting moment when students compare their work from the beginning to the end of the course and can’t believe their own improvement.
This book is aimed at adults but I have had success with kids too, depending on the child. Because the book talks about the processes of the mind as we draw, I have found that the older the student, the better the results! Some of the concepts may be tricky for younger kids to grasp (although not always as you can see in the work of the 8 year old above). The exercises force one to draw in ways that one may never have before and I find adults are usually more patient. They also seem to ‘get’ the logic behind the exercises.
The most recent edition of this book looks like this:
If you can’t find this book in your local bookstore, you can still find all of those versions online today by clicking on any of those images.
Here’s the blurb from the back of the book.
“Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is the world’s most widely used drawing instruction book. Whether you are a professional, a student or enjoy art as a hobby Betty Edwards’ practical set-by-step guide to drawing will give you greater confidence in your ability, deepen your artistic perception and provide a new way to appreciate the way you perceive the world around you, a shift to the right side of the brain that utilises its more intuitive and artistic aspects of thinking. This definitive revised and expanded edition includes: A new introduction. Updates based on current groundbreaking research about the brain’s plasticity and the emerging significance of right-brain functioning. New tools for identifying and broadening everyday problem-solving and creative skills with the visual-thinking skills drawing can teach. A new emphasis on using the strengths of the brain’s right hemisphere as an antidote to the life-brain emphasis in modern life escaping all that is linear, analytic and digital. New reproductions of classic drawings from the Old Masters throughout. This life-changing book, now fully revised and updated, will continue to inspire generations of readers.”
Do you draw? What other drawing books do you recommend?
Do you want to learn how to draw or improve your drawing skills?
Using the book as a guide I have since worked the exercises into an easy to use more developed 12 session format and provide online support as well as feedback on your work.
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These are the products that I use and I would recommend for their quality, all of them are of the highest standard and, if cared for, will last many years.
And to finish, I also highly recommend this book ‘Drawing with Colour’ by Judy Martin. Filled with beautiful work and helpful tips in a range of media, it is hard to read this book and not feel inspired afterwards: