A learnable skill Learning to “see” in a special way A special state of consciousness A path to creativity A risk. Becoming an artist will only work for you if you are willing to try. Do not be concerned or embarrassed about the early outcomes. Every mistake becomes something to learn from and gets you closer to seeing like an artist.
Draw a person without looking at anyone. There are no specific directions for this, only the general task of “drawing a person.” Draw a picture of your own hand. If you are right-handed, draw your left hand. If you are left-handed, draw your right hand. Draw a picture of plant or flowers in a vase. Draw a picture of the house you grew up in.
The function of language is in the left hemisphere for most people Scientists discovered this by observing people with brain injuries Left hemisphere is usually dominant because speech and language are related to thinking, reasoning and higher mental functions.
Scientists used to think that the right hemisphere was less-evolved. It is connected to the left brain by a thick nerve cable, the corpus callosum, which allows communication between the two. Each half of the brain works in a complementary fashion for different modes of thinking.
In one test, two different pictures were flashed for an instant on the a screen, with a split-brain person‟s eyes fixed on a midpoint so that scanning both images was prevented. Each hemisphere received different pictures. A picture of a spoon on the left screen went to the right brain; a picture of a knife on the right screen went to the verbal left brain. If asked to name what had been flashed on the screen, the confident, articulate left hemisphere caused the patient to say, “a knife.”
Then the patient was asked to reach behind a curtain with his left hand (right hemisphere) and pick out what had been flashed on the screen The patient picked out a spoon from the group of objects that had a knife and a spoon. If the experimenter asked the patient to identify what he had in his hand, the patient looked confused for a moment and said, “a knife.” The right hemisphere knew the answer was wrong but did not have the words to correct the articulate left hemisphere causing the person to shake his head asking out loud,”Why am I shaking my head?”
Research suggests that ability to draw may depend on whether you have access to the capabilities of the “minor” or “sub-dominant” right hemisphere and whether you are able to “turn off” the dominant left brain and “turn on” the right. How does this help? The right brain perceives, processes visual information, in the way one needs to see in order to draw, and the left brain perceives in ways that seem to interfere with drawing. The key idea is that there are two ways of knowing. Think politics: people analyze good and bad points about an issue and finally vote on their gut feelings.
THE RIGHT HEMISPHERE THE LEFT HEMISPHERE Uses intuition and leaps of Uses logic, Very sequential, insight. a = b = c. Has moments when Analyzes and draws some “everything falls into place.” conclusions It is intuitive, subjective, Categorizes and names. rational, holistic. Does not sequence but looks School is designed to at the whole problem. cultivate the verbal, rational Is a dreamer, an “imagineer” left brain. and operates in a time-free The left brain attends to mode not valued by society. time management. Deals in spatial relationships.
Imagine this R larger orImagine this L as smaller and attachlarge as a high-rise functions of personsapartment building drawing, painting, playingor the pyramids. melodies, sculpting andNow think of the L in dreaming with a sense ofthe context of timelessness. Since theseletters, numbers, images are less concrete, itequations, diagrams, may tax the power of yourmaps, books, and imagination. How do youwith images of attach an image to non-lawyers, time? Perhaps like Dali‟smathematicians and melting clocks. How do youscientists. Touch the imagine “Ah-Ha”? Takeleft side of your time until you can call up ahead and imagine picture, then touch thethat you are placing right side of your head andit inside your head. place the image inside.
Now, shift the images to the opposite side. The mathmatician, the scientist can move across the corpus callosum to the R-mode in order to imagine and dream of new inventions; the artist and musician can migrate to the L-mode to analyze aesthetic problems. Do this shift several times. Practice making this mental shift will help you during the drawing exercises. Imagine connections between your left and right brain as tubes or wires. Imagine the pathways in color going from left to right. Now switch to the right brain and imagine connections going to the left. Now imagine the whole system and its crossover potential.
Speed is one consideration. Which hemisphere gets the answer the quickest? Motivation is the other. Which hemisphere cares the most or likes the task, and conversely, which hemisphere cares the least and like the job the least.
Drawing is a right-brain function and to do it well, one must keep the left-brain out. The left brain is dominant and speedy; it is quick to rush in with symbols and words taking over jobs it is not good at. It prefers not to relinquish tasks to its “dumb” partner unless it really dislikes the job, either because it takes too much time, is too detailed, or slow. To learn to draw, we must find tasks that the left-brain will turn down.
The left brain has no patience for careful observation of stuff it already has a symbol for. The left brain is impatient with careful observation and attending to the subtleties and nuances of drawing a leaf, for instance, in the exact way you see it. It says, “I have a symbol for a leaf. Here it is. Now let‟s get on with it.” Left brain symbols are like computer icons.
Draw a profile of a person‟s head. Draw horizontal lines on the top and the bottom of your profile Go back and trace over the profile saying the names of the features to yourself. Name the forehead, nose, upper lip, lips, etc. Naming is an L-mode task
Next start the drawing at the top and draw the profile in reverse to complete the vase. Watch for faint signals from your brain that you are shifting modes of information processing. You may be confused but note how you solve the problem. You will experience that you are doing the second profile differently. This is right- hemisphere-mode drawing. Now do the drawing.
The first profile was probably drawn quickly then you went over the drawing naming the parts to yourself. This was left- hemisphere processing, drawing symbolic shapes from memory and naming them In drawing the second profile you may have experienced some confusion or conflict. In continuing this drawing you had to find a different way or process. You probably lost the sense of drawing a profile and found yourself scanning back and forth in the space between the profiles, estimating angles, curves, inward sweeping and outward curving shapes and lengths of line in relation to the opposite shapes, which now become unnamed. You were drawing by checking where you were and where you were going; by scanning the space between the first profile and your copy in reverse. You were not drawing symbols from your left brain but actually seeing spacial relationships.
Draw a profile of the oddest face you can imagine. Again name the parts of the face to yourself including wrinkles, warts, moles, and double chins. Add the horizontal lines at the top and bottom. Now draw the other side to make a baroque vase.
The complexity of the second form can best be done, and maybe can only be done, by shifting to right-hemisphere mode. The point of this exercise is not the drawing so much as feeling the shift from left-mode and right-mode. Trying to draw a form using the left-mode is like trying to use your foot to thread a needle. Learning to draw means learning to block out the behaviors of the left-brain especially if it is sending interference signals like making you impatient or prompting you to talk, or especially, to giggle. These are distraction tactics when your dominant left brain tries to “take over.”
The first drawing by Tiepolo was so confusing that it was almost impossible to decipher when it was upside-down. The mind just gives up on it. Frustrating the left logical brain like this will help with your drawing. It will force the wimpy right-brain into action. Now you will try to draw a complicated image upside-down. You will force your right brain to notice all the lines and spaces. First, let‟s read all of the instructions.
Get your head in a quiet place. You may listen to music but nothing with words. As you shift into R-mode the music may fade out. Give yourself at least 30-40 minutes but your goal is to forget about time. If you find yourself wanting to glance at the clock, it is your left brain trying to take over. Do not turn the drawing right-side up until you have finished. That may only allow the left-brain to intrude. Look at the drawing for a minute to see all the angles, shapes, and lines and how they fit together. Look at the shapes between the lines and how they fit together. When you start to draw, start at the top and copy each line, moving from line to adjacent line. Don‟t name the parts that maybe you could name. Just think this is not a h-a-n-d it is just a line that curves this way; this other line crosses over and is at that angle, compared to the edge of the paper. Think of it as a jigsaw puzzle. Once you start, you‟ll find yourself very interested in how the lines fit together. Your L-mode will have turned off because this is not the kind of task it likes; it‟s too slow and too hard to identify things. Remember that all you need to know is in front of you. Don‟t make it complicated; just copy the lines and form the shapes. Begin your drawing now working from line to line.
Once you are finished, you will probably be quite surprised at how well your drawing came out. Compare it to your pre-instruction drawing of a person from memory. Most of these will be at the ten-to twelve-year-old level which is typical of adults in our culture who have not studied drawing. Two important things come from your upside- down drawing. First is becoming aware of the left to right shift. The second is your awareness that making this shift enables you to see in the way a trained artist sees.
Did you notice that you were somewhat unaware of the passage of time? Did you notice that you were so absorbed that you did not listen to any whispers or chatter? The R-mode is pleasurable because it releases you for a time from the verbal, symbolic domination of the L-mode, and that‟s a welcome relief. The enjoyment may come from resting the left hemisphere, stopping its chatter, and keeping it quiet for a change. This may explain centuries-old practices such as meditation. It is a break from what you do in school most of the time. It is why art class can often fly by so fast when you are really engaged in your work. I think it is a right-brain vacation. Next, let‟s review your childhood drawings and how you learned to make symbol drawings so we can set them aside and move on to the adult level of perception needed for drawing. You are ready.
In our culture, most adults draw like children. Check out these drawings that were completed by a young, professional man who had just completed his doctoral degree at a major university. He drew a bit; got restless, tense, and frustrated. He said he hated drawing, period. We say students who cannot read have dyslexia. You might say this man has dyspictoria or dysartistica. Many adults would like to learn to draw better but they stopped because they thought they could not learn to draw.
Adolescence often marks the end of artistic development. Children are confronted with an understanding of how they would like to be able to draw and their current ability level. People can make insensitive remarks about their drawing ability and sometimes children will just quit. They conclude, “I can‟t draw,” just because of someone‟s insensitive remarks. If students do not learn to draw in the early or middle grades, they rarely try to learn later on.
Making marks on paper, or walls, or in story books, begins at age one and a half. Imagine the wonder of a child experiencing a black line emerge from the end of a stick. Most drawings emerge as circular movements. Children discover that a drawn symbol can stand for something. It is a big discovery. It is “Mommy” or “Daddy” or whatever.
At 3 ½ a body is attached to a head. Arms may grow out of the head or from the body. At 4, children are aware of details of clothing. They show the number of toes or fingers as well. Children draw and re-draw these images over and over until they develop a special image, a symbol, that stays the same. In this image, the features are the same for each figure. The cat even has the same hands.
This is the beginning of a family portrait drawn by a shy five- year-old whose every waking moment was dominated by his older sister. Using his figure system, he drew himself.
Then he added his mother using the same configuration, or symbol, but making adjustments for long hair and a dress.
Headded his father who was bald and had glasses.
Then he added his sister. Even Picasso could hardly have expressed a feeling with greater power than this. The child had given form to a formless emotion showing how he copes with his overwhelming sister.
At five or six a child has developed enough symbols to create a landscape. Perhaps you can remember yours. Usually it had windows, maybe curtains, a door with a doorknob to get in. It had a sun, maybe in the corner, flowers, and maybe a tree with maybe a swing. Stop for a moment and draw the home you used to draw. Recall the pleasure this drawing gave you and how you needed all the symbols to be part of it – that nothing could be left out or it would be unfinished.
THE STAGE OFCOMPLEXITY During this time you add more details hoping to make your drawings more realistic. You care less about where things are and more about how things look. Girls draw sweet things – flowers in vases.
Girlsdraw fashion models with big hair, lots of eyelashes, and often hands behind their backs because they “can „t draw hands.”
When drawings don‟t “come out right” and look realistic, children become discouraged. Say a ten-year-old wants to draw a cube that “looks real.” The child knows in his left brain that the cube has square sides so he tries to draw like this.But what he “knows” is not what he sees. This is when the child decides that he cannot draw.
Sometimes a teacher solves the problem by showing the student how to make it look real. Some children stumble upon how to make it look real. If you do not discover the R-mode of seeing things, the left brain takes over. It says, “I have a symbol for a box or a chair, don‟t bother looking, and it works very well most of the time.”
Adult or adolescent students do not usually see what is in front of their eyes. By learning to recognize the right-hemisphere mode, you are beginning to know how to see more clearly. To review: In R-mode there is a seeming suspension of time. Second: You pay no attention to the spoken word. You hear sounds but do not decode words. If someone speaks to you, you have to “come out of it” to understand. Third: what you are doing is intensely interesting. You feel energized, confident, and “locked on” to what you are doing. It is a pleasurable task that leaves you feeling refreshed nit tired. Our next exercises will try to get you to increase your control over the cognitive shift so you can place yourself into R-mode at will.
Find a place where you can be alone and uninterrupted. Set a timer or let Mrs. Phillips tell you when 20 minutes is up. This is so you won‟t be trying to keep track of time, an L-mode function. Tape a piece of paper onto your table so it won‟t move. You are going to draw your hand.
Face all the way around from your paper and look at the hand you are going to draw. Be sure to support your hand against your body so you can hold the pose Focus your entire attention on the visual information in front of you and remove all attention from the drawing which might trigger your childhood symbol=patterns of “how to draw a hand.” The impulse to look will be strong so turn all the way around from your paper.
Focus on some edge of your hand and very slowly, a millimeter at a time, begin to draw every variation and undulation of the edge. As your eyes move, also move your pencil at the same pace on the paper. Be convinced in your mind that what you perceive with your eyes is simultaneously recorded by your pencil which registers everything you are seeing. Don‟t turn around and look at your drawing. Don‟t be concerned with how it looks; be concerned with the process of seeing something as it actually is in front of you. Match the movement of your pencil to the movement of your eye. Do not let either get ahead of the other. Do not pause but stay at a steady pace. If you panic, it may be your left brain sensing that this is a serious threat to its dominance. It kind of says, “Stop this stupid stuff right now. I don‟t need to look anymore. I already have a symbol for this. I‟ve already “named” everything, even small things like wrinkles. This is boring, if you don‟t stop. I‟ll give you a headache.” Persist and ignore. For most students, this produces a deep shift into R-mode. There is a loss of time and the slowness of the drawing pushes away the L- mode. If this did not happen, continue to try. Eventually you will be able to suppress the L-mode at will.
Modified contour is just like contour, but you allow yourself to glance at the drawing for the purpose of repositioning your pencil or judging angles. This time look at your hand and imagine a horizontal and a vertical line next to your hand. Imagine the angle as though it was drawn on paper. Draw moving from contour to contour, form to form. Don‟t draw the outside and move to the inside. Do not talk to yourself and name the parts. Just concentrate on what you see. Look at your paper only to locate a point or check a relationship. Ninety percent of your time you should be looking at your hand. When you come to the f-i-n-g-e-r-n-a-i-l-s- draw the shapes around the nails. Sense and observe what is in front of you because everything you need is there. Fit things together like a jigsaw puzzle.
At first when learning to drive, you learn to brake, accelerate, signal, watch ahead, behind and at the sides. It takes coordination and practice. Drawing is the same way. The more you do it, the easier it gets. The next assignment will give you more practice.