Jan. 22nd, 2017

spindas: (raccoon)

Drawing is a skill I've wanted to develop ever since I was a kid sketching out imaginary video games in the backs of school notebooks. I never really "got around" to putting time and effort into formally studying it, until last year, when—according to Amazon—I purchased a copy of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards, along with a big green sketch notebook and a set of art pencils.


At the time I resolved to make time in my schedule for regular drawing practice, an hour or so a day, a couple of days a week. Reading stories from others around the web who taught themselves to draw, the most common advice I've seen is to just keep sinking time into it on a regular basis until your brain crosses some threshold of practice and starts to get better at the task. If I'd spent that year plugging away at this, maybe I'd have reached that point by now; unfortunately, apart from one or two initial sessions, my new supplies just sat on a shelf collecting dust.

I still want to learn to draw, though, so when 2016 became 2017 I told myself that I'd start that weekly regimen over again, Monday-Wednesday-Friday, and this time I'd commit to it. Of course it's now nearly the end of January and today is a Sunday, but "better late than never", or something.

I spent today's session working my way through the first two chapters of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, which form an introduction to the background, approach, and teaching methods of the book—so the pad and pencils sat untouched for this first hour. The author makes the case for learning the basics of drawing as a matter of building up perceptual skills, and that these skills can transfer to problem solving and reasoning in other areas beside art for art's sake. One page includes a series of sketches of mechanical designs, process diagrams, and so on excerpted from the notebooks of well-known scientists and engineers: this reminded me of how I'd struggled to come up with similar visualizations when trying to communicate design ideas to my high school robotics club, and how useful some basic sketching skills would have been.

Edwards emphasizes an instructional approach geared toward turning down the verbal, rational, explicit "left side" of the brain and shifting the task of drawing to the "right side", which handles visual perception and more intuitive, not-completely-conscious skills like riding a bike. I'm uncertain of the scientific basis for allocating these functions along an exact left/right division, but the notion works as a metaphor either way. She also downplays the idea of an innate, fixed level of talent and states, repeatedly, that her book is targeted toward "absolute beginners" with "low-level drawing skills and with high anxiety about their potential drawing ability"—which I find reassuring, because that's a pretty good description of me approaching this work.

Monday's session should involve some actual drawing exercises, but for now, here's a quick "before" doodle of a dragon and an owl.


January 2017

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