"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom."
Viktor E. Frankl
I gave them all a part to a wooden puzzle so my very tolerant class were sketching unfamiliar shapes. Five minutes of non functional drawing was enough of a start I figured so asked them to immediately switch the pencil back to their functional hand and continue. That is when the magic happens, because then you realise that despite the struggle, you simply cannot produce such excellent quality work with your right hand. In fact, at this point in the exercise, the functional hand seems incapable of holding the pencil let alone sketching. Two minutes later asking my lovely group to switch back to their non functional hand restored harmony and the class joyfully enthused to each other of their new discovery.
Right brained work is normally of a far superior quality than left brained work. When one is using their normal functional hand, one analyses what we are drawing, continually calculating sizes ratios and suchlike, oh the brain is so busy, far to busy to even acknowledge the command you have given it to copy. The right brain on the other hand, is simply a creative beast so it will copy what it sees, no calculations needed. The more you practice the easier it gets. The biggest battle is accepting that you can use your non functional hand. Once that battle is over, you just let your right brain recreate what it sees. One of my artists could not understand why she was making the grounded edge of her wooden piece much, much darker until I pointed out that there was a very fine shadow cast upon the white formica table top, so fine it did indeed look like a fine dark edge to the piece of wood. Her right brain simply copied it, almost exactly!
I have a sketchbook near my easel. Before I go anywhere near paint, I sit quietly with a cup of tea and sketch the outline of a cloisonné rabbit I have on my windowsill. This activates the right side of my brain and prepares me for creative work. My best exam results have been when I have had the time to sit and sketch with my left hand or even simply written my name with my left hand on my scrap paper. My answers have been more creative, more engaged with the questions. Exercising your right brain frequently is likely to help you get into the creative habit which you can then apply to practical solutions. In my case study opening to this blog, my client used the principle to develop control with eating utensils and then speech.
As I visited every learner at their workspace witnessing the magic principle at work once again, I knew how much sharing this simple but proven theory would help the artists in the class to grow beyond the parameters set by their left brain.
So what can it do for you? Opening up the creative valves is vital to effective creativity. If you warm up on the job so to speak you will often work on your canvas, go for your first coffee and return to scrape it all off and start again. I see that cycle so often. Warming up can prevent so many painterly agonies. Keep a small sketchpad in your workspace, keep it for non functional drawing only. You will hate the first adventure. No longer than five minutes, but then you will crave for the next and then you are away. Purchasing both Betty's book, Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain, pictured above, and her companion book, Workbook, pictured below will be a marvellous investment in yourself, stretching yourself to new levels of known ability, ....... growth, and like a well rooted tree, however old we are we can all do with new growth!
Betty Edwards does relate her principles to colourisation and perception, which can be explored in a third book, Colour.
In this lovely new year, 2013, pledge to underpin your work with the golden rules of practice sketching and colour mixing. By simply creating a discipline for yourself, you will enjoy a marvellous inner glow of satisfaction as you end your working day, breaking away from that dreadful paint coffee unpaint syndrome early in the year! Happy painting!