Shae and I have talked about how we aren’t very good students. We’re the ones that sit in the back and read ahead and figure stuff out on our own and get a little impatient with everyone else.
Apparently, I’m such a bad student that I can’t even follow the plan I’ve set for myself!
Which is not to say I’m not making any art and seeing any growth — it just means this Make Your Own MFA plan I made isn’t quite going the way I expected. I need to examine that a little bit. In the meantime, I am going to actually post on one of my “scheduled” days (please note that we made a schedule that we both have blithely ignored for most of the month….whoops… and show you some of the drawing I have been doing.
I then decided to try the steps in Procreate and created this young lady:
One of the most interesting parts of Mindy’s class was the limited palette: we used a peachy colored paint for the skin (I used a Jane Davenport skin tone, but Mindy uses Folk Art Warm Bisque), Quinacridone Nickel Azo Gold, Payne’s Grey, White, Red, and a Blue. Mindy also explained how to use these same colors to create a darker skin tone, but I haven’t tried it yet.
I’ve also spent some time just drawing faces with a pencil or with a pencil brush in Procreate:
I don’t know if this girl is finished or not:
But needless to say, I’m having fun and feeling pretty good about what I’ve been creating lately.
Even if it isn’t exactly the plan I had originally started with a few months ago….
We made up a posting schedule last week and I promptly ignored it as soon as I shared it with Shae. She has gotten us back on track with her art history post yesterday, and now it’s my turn to talk about my basic art skills progress today.
When your brain has determined that you cannot do something, it’s hard to convince it to even try. And the lengths to which I go to avoid my drawing lessons are pretty impressive. I rarely clean, but suddenly, I need to clean my desk completely before I can properly get to work. And maybe I need to vacuum out the cracks in the hardwood floor.
And some of my resistance is in direct opposition to evidence to the contrary — I’m really proud of the picture above. So why do I continue to tell myself I can’t draw??
I am also good at making up excuses, such as my trouble with depth perception. I can’t always judge distances very accurately in real life. (Which is probably why I have bruises on my shins and trip over dust). Several of the drawings you see below were done with the original and my copy upside down. The exercise is all about the linework rather than knowing what you are drawing. Even though they look “fine” — I can totally see where I went off the rails with the lengths of my lines, which is clearly related to my depth perception issues, so therefore I should just abandon any hope of accurately drawing things…….
HOWEVER: here I am, pushing back against that resistance, reporting on my drawing homework from the last few weeks and recommitting to both the process and to making progress.
The top left picture is a pure blind contour picture — I was looking at the lines of my left hand, drawing blind with my right hand with a rainbow pencil. Because regular pencils are boring. The other three pictures are the ones I copied from images in the book, but upside down. The bottom three pictures are my pre-instruction drawings — a drawing of myself, looking in a mirror, my hand (trust me, my pinky finger is NOT broken), and a corner of my home.
On a related note, I have completed a piece of art in Procreate every day this month (so far). I am learning so much about Procreate itself, as well as about drawing (see, I recognize the absurdity of my brain saying I can’t draw, but yet, I have spent tons of time DRAWING……….SIGH).
I’m following along with a challenge called Making Art Every Day by Lisa Bardot. She provides prompts and tutorials and all kinds of inspiration every day. The first month has all been food related. I’ve been trying different styles and it’s hard to pick favorites!
I came to art a bit late in my undergraduate career. After three years in the astrophysics department, I changed my major to art (a story for another day perhaps). Miraculously I had credits to fill most of my art degree requirements, so I escaped a lot of fundamental training tortures like drawing and color theory. Besides, I was a sculpture major, I didn’t care about drawing. In fact, I was quite resentful of people (teachers) telling me I had to keep a sketchbook and draw my sculptures. It seemed like an unnecessary step; I could easily translate what was in my head directly into three dimensions. Why would I take on the laborious task of drawing it first?
I did end up taking one intro level drawing class taught by a grad student named Keith Love. He said one thing that has stuck with me through the years: your brain interferes with the communication between your eyes and your hand. In other words, your brain tries to draw what it thinks it sees, and not what it actually sees. And he was right. It turns out that, specifically, the left side of your brain interferes with your ability to draw and it really has no idea how to do the job.
Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain
Suzanne and I are both starting our MFA program with drawing since it seems to be the thing we’re both the most resistant to. Serendipitously, I was recently gifted Betty Edward’s book/workbook, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. As it turns out, Suzanne had a languishing edition of the book as well. I’ve been so captivated by the content on hand/hemisphere dominance, cultural right hand prejudice, neuroscience and brain plasticity that I have been following some rabbit trails on that and not getting much drawing done. Ahem.
Right or Left Handed?
I have always been suspicious that I am actually left handed and was switched as a child in school. I am just old enough for that to have still been a practice in elementary school, and I do have some telling clues, like being able to draw fairly well with my left hand (almost better in some cases). It is also quite possible that I am what is referred to as cross-dominant. I have preferred tasks for each hand and have a fair amount of ambidextrous abilities. I am left eye dominate too! Multiple right brain/left brain tests I’ve done come out with equal dominance between them, furthering my cross dominance theory. Apparently this is more common in women, and can also lead to left-right confusion, as in, turn left- no- turn right (my husband will attest to this, and in fact he did).
Shae and I both officially kicked off our MFA coursework yesterday. We both want to work on our core art skills and drawing is high up on the list.
Learning To Draw
I am definitely an artist who used to think that in order to actually BE an artist, you had to be able to draw, and you had to be able to draw from memory anything. It was never explained to me that “real” artists use reference pictures all the time. Or that while drawing was definitely something that some people can just “do,” it’s not something that is out of the reach of everyone else to learn.
I have owned the book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” by Betty Edwards for many years. (Honestly, it’s the 2nd revised edition from 1999 and I probably bought it somewhere in the early 2000s….and I may have gotten talked in to ordering the most recent edition plus the workbook….)
I pull it off my shelf every so often and thumb through it, and then stick it back on the shelf because it is a LOT OF WORDS. I just want to learn how to draw, why are there SO MANY WORDS.
I mentioned this to Shae and her response was basically, get over yourself and read it.
I did not appreciate being called out.
Because she was right, darn it.
As I was trying to decide what to do last night for my first day, I realized that because I was most resistant to it, this book needed to be where I started.
Brains are weird
And…it turns out that all of the words at the beginning are actually quite interesting. There’s a lot of information about the brain research that she used as the basis of developing her techniques. Human brains are so wild. Our brains do so many things that we are barely aware of and one of those has to do with how we SEE.
We tend to see what we expect to see or what we decide we have seen. This expectation or decision, however, often is not a conscious process. Instead, the brain frequently does the expecting and the deciding, without our conscious awareness, and then alters or rearranges–or even simply disregards–the raw data of vision that hits the retina.
Edwards, p. XXV, The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Revised 2nd Edition
No wonder I can’t make my drawing look like what I see if my brain is mucking around with the data it’s taking in! I’m sure a lot of you reading this are nodding your head, thinking, I can SEE it, but I can’t make that same thing come out of my hands through my art tools. But how do other people know how to do it? And why hasn’t anyone shown me?
Probably because it’s hard to put it in to words for many people. And they probably don’t understand the underlying process anyway.
Learning to See
According to Edwards, the issue isn’t even about teaching people how to draw, it’s about teaching them how to see. How to shift your brain to a different way of processing the incoming visual information.
And that’s as far as I got last night. I’m almost ready to do the pre-instruction drawings. Which should be entertaining! The drawing instructions spend a lot of time on the human form, so the first exercise is to draw a self portrait.
Have you worked through Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain? What was your experience? Do you think “real” artists need to know how to draw?
I need to do those pre-instruction drawings. And then get to work on retraining my brain. I’m also working on the introductory material for an art history class. I’m also looking for more resources for women in art history, so if you have any suggestions, be sure to comment or send me a message. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit me on Instagram!