Monday, October 31, 2011

Artist Point of View

Here is a set of quotes from the book, ``Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,'' by Betty Edwards, that fascinates me. It is from ``Chapter 5: Drawing on Memories,'' in which Betty Edwards explains the reason most people stop drawing at the age of 10-11 when they try to make their drawings look more realistic, but confront an inherent dilemma of representing a real image via unreal shapes!!!!

This topic is also interesting to me, because for me the process was somehow different. I did very real drawings at very early ages. At age 4 or 5, for example, I draw a horse head (from a photo or painting) that was so real that my father kept it for 20 something years. (Until he lost it in one of our moves, around the time of the peak of my first depression phase.)
I have a faint memory also that someone explained the concept of ``perspective'' in drawing for me when I was little, around 6 or 7, and I tried afterward to implement it in my drawings!

By around age ten or eleven, children's passion for realism is in full bloom ... When their drawings don't come out ``right''---meaning that they don't look realistic---children often become discouraged and ask their teachers for help. ... ---p.78

Say that a ten-year-old wants to draw a picture of a cube, ...

...the child must suppress knowing that the cube is square and draw shapes that are ``funny.'' The drawn cube will look like a cube only if it is comprised of oddly angled shapes. Put another way, the child must draw unsquare shapes to draw a square cube. The child must accept this paradox, this illogical process, which conflicts with verbal, conceptual knowledge. ... ---p.79

If verbal knowledge of the cube's real shape overwhelms the student's purely visual perception, ```incorrect'' drawing results---drawing with the kind of problems that make adolescents despair ...

    The painter who strives to represents must transcend his own perception. He must ignore the very mechanism in his mind that create objects out of images. ... The artist, like the eye, must provide true images and the clues of distance to tell his magic lies.'' ---Colin Blakemore, Mechanics of the Mind, 1977

From childhood onward, we have learned to see things in terms of words, We name things, and we know facts about them. The dominant left verbal system doesn't want too much information about things it perceives---just enough to recognize and to categorize. It seems that one of its functions is to screen out a large proportion of contextual perceptions. This is a necessary process and one that works very well for us most of the time, enabling us to focus our attention. The left brain, in this sense, learns to take a quick look and say, ``Right, that's a chair ...'' But drawing requires that you look at something for a long time, perceiving lots of details and how they fit together, registering as much information as possible ... ---p.80

Is this somehow related to my previous observation that developing an artist point of view requires working with specifics?

... adult students beginning in art generally do not really see what is in front of their eyes---that is, they do not perceive in the special way required for drawing. They take note of what's there, and quickly translate the perception into words and symbols mainly based on the symbol system developed throughout childhood and on what they know about the perceived object. ---pp.81-82

``I must begin, not with hypothesis, but with specific instances, no matter how minute.'' ---Paul Klee   

What is the solution to this dilemma? Psychologist Robert Ornstein suggests that in order to draw, the artist must ``mirror'' things or perceive them exactly as they are. Thus, you must set aside your usual verbal categorizing an turn your full visual attention to what you re perceiving---to all of its details and how each detail fits into the whole configuration. In short, you must see the way an artist sees. ---p.82


  1. Hey,
    I am recently started to draw after I read this book. And right now I am kinda struggling with perspective))

    Seems like I still have to solve the task I dropped when I was 11 or 12 years old.

  2. Hey,

    It sounds like you are having a lot of fun :) Keep at it and you will discover amazing things about yourself in the process!

    Good luck

  3. Thank you for your wishes, Nihil.
    Found your blog when was searshing Blakemore's quote in English (I am reading the Betty's book in Russian).
    I read your blog the whole day))
    You have a very beautiful name. Where are you from?

  4. I cannot read Russian, and so cannot read your blog either.
    Thanks for reading mine. I live in the US but I am originally from Iran.
    "Nihil Nimis" is a Latin expression, meaning "things in moderation". Lotus is a plant that typically grows in water. They are my pseudo names :)


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