Sunday, March 13, 2011

Betty Edwards

The left hemisphere has no patience with this detailed perception, and says, in effect, "It's a chair, I tell you. That's enough to know. In fact, don't bother to look at it, because I've got a ready-made symbol for you. Here it is; add a few details if you want, but don't bother me with this looking business."

                                                                          Betty Edwards

Art educator, Betty Edwards was born in 1926, roughly contemporary with Pop artists like Andy Warhol, not to mention cartoonist and Mad Magazine founder Harvey Kurtzman. She graduated from UCLA in 1947, and would have crossed paths there with the first vets returning to college from Europe and the Pacific on the GI Bill.

Edwards is the author of the standard drawing instruction book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Drawing's thesis is that, while language and analysis are functions of our brains' left hemispheres, good drawing is done by the right hemisphere. Our untrained impulse is to use symbols -- circles for eyes, upside-down sevens for noses -- to represent things, but to represent them well, we need to draw what we see, not what we "know" is there. Edwards provides exercises to train us to do just that.

All very interesting, and useful if drawing's your thing, but of no wider consequence. our moment of history we're encountering entirely novel challenges, with stakes never higher. And we're digging in to meet them, believing we already know all the answers. We get to make mistakes (I drew Edward's mouth more widely open than it is in the photograph, and with a fuller lower lip), but we have to try to draw what we see, not what we know is there.

No comments: