Skills of an Artist

I’ve been looking for a hobby that doesn’t involve looking at a screen, since it feels like most of my waking hours are spent staring at glowing rectangles. So I decided to try learning how to draw.

I had heard good things about Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and now I know why. I’m a couple of chapters into the book and I’ve already gone from terrible stick-figure-style art to this drawing of my left hand.

Picture of left hand in the V for Victory sign

V for Victory

This is a huge, huge improvement over my previous skills, let me tell you.

The trick is: draw what you see. It sounds silly, but it’s not. The brain translates what you see into symbols. If you look at a chair, your brain does not spend a lot of energy processing details about it unless something is odd or out of place. It just says “that’s a chair” and moves on.

When you try to draw that chair, you likely will have trouble because you’re trying to draw the mental shortcut for a chair (“well I know a chair has four legs, so I’ll draw those…”) rather than imitating the lines and curves of the object in front of you.

The exercises in the book are designed to short-circuit this symbol processing so that you can more accurately draw what you see. For example, one of the first exercises is to copy a drawing from the book after turning it upside down. This makes it much easier to see the actual lines rather than seeing eyes and a nose and a mouth.

If you want to learn how to draw in a realistic style, you could do a lot worse than this book.

Posted on
May 25, 2013 4:38 pm

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