Sunday, 28 February 2016

The right brain/left brain myth and drawing

"I'm so creative and right-brained"


left brain
Just ignore this and take your time.

There are many social media memes doing the rounds that perpetuate the myth of brain hemispheric types. They should be treated in a light-hearted fashion as a bit of fun and I suppose they satisfy the need people have to find easy ways of categorising personality types.

It's easy to google the evidence that demolishes the theory, but here is a more straightforward article from the BBC covering this:
Left brain right brain myth

The otherwise excellent series of books on painting or drawing using the right side of the brain has helped to popularise the misconception amongst artists, but more so with those starting out. I get the impression that those who think about the process more and do it more are a little more circumspect.

I'll leave you with an excellent quote from a contributor to Will Kemp's superb art website on this very subject. I couldn't agree more.

I've made small changes to the layout to ease reading.


painter33 March 22, 2013


I discount all talk about the left brain-right brain mumbo jumbo because it can provide a hiding place for those who make excuses for not going slowly enough to allow the learning process to occur. “Oh, boo hoo, I’m just too left-brained to draw”. Phooey! When one is drawing from observation, “what” something is might be the most irrelevant element, whereas, “what does it do?” (structurally and literally) or more specifically, a series of questions that have a hierarchical order from the large to the smalls elements of forms must be constantly asked (internally) to begin to understand what is seen. 

Knowing the questions in advance is actually absurd, just like believing that one has already seen something once therefore it will be the same every time, is naive at best and ignorant at its worst. Preconceptions can short-circuit the drawing process faster than stopping before beginning; that’s pretty much what’s happening by thinking that one brings more to a drawing situation than one needs to know/learn. An on-going dialogue of describing vertical and horizontal alignments, spatial distances, proportions, perspective (if you understand how to use horizontal and vertical determinants, perspective can remain a cosmic theory instead of poking its head into one’s head). In foreshortened forms, the perspective theory is trumped by how seeing (and measuring) how little one sees forms behind other forms as they “pile forward”. 

Most people mistakenly believe that they can’t draw when, in fact, they don’t know what to look for or how to organize their questions. Every question has answers, usually the questions and answers are very literal – e.g. in drawing the figure, “how does the acromian process vertically line up with the right limit of the patella?” Answer: “It’s slightly to the left/outside of, or right on a vertical line drawn to touch that rightmost point of the patella”. Questions and answers have to be literal, but the drawing, a synthesis of information, doesn’t have to be a photographic reproduction and shouldn’t aspire to do so- it’s better, because spaces between forms are considered for their placement, relative sizes, distances, etc. yielding a better illusion of form or forms in space than a flat photograph. 

Anyone can learn to think; drawing is an intellectual exercise more than it is one of the hand. A drawing is a graphic manifestation of thinking, clear uncluttered thinking, analytical and precise. Forget about “art” and concentrate on the reality of form in space. 

I have opened up scientists and medical doctors to the ideas of analytical questioning, they do it naturally so that helped, and they have made remarkable drawings as a result, much to their surprise but not to mine. It’s pure joy to learn how to think one’s way through drawings, over and over the course of a lifetime. The “poetry” is in the honesty and humility before nature, not in some ultra sensitive (and often faux) “expression”. There are some rules however: only use one damn pencil, don’t erase anything until you’ve corrected the problem (“Those who choose to ignore history…” and all of that), go nearly into a trance by asking questions, and make sure to have fun!

 No one dies from making a bad drawing, and everyone makes bad drawings (sometimes). Sorry for the length, but drawing well is hard, drawing is not, and it shouldn’t be portrayed as mysterious or only for those who’ve been sprinkled by fairy dust. It takes hard work, not talent, to be successful in any endeavour."

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