Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Seven Lessons to Enhance Creativity and Artistic Self Confidence
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(Sep 01, 1999)
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Description If you have ever wanted to learn to draw, but felt that you had no talent and could probably never learn...this video is for you! The seven lessons in this 1 hour 57 minute video, presented by noted author and educator, Dr. Betty Edwards, will teach you the basic skills of drawing and will enhance your capacity for creativity.
The video is based on her best-selling book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, so the methods are a culmination of her more than twenty years of research and teaching experience, during which she has helped literally hundreds of thousands of individuals learn to draw.
The video lessons are designed to be used in conjunction with the tools and materials in Dr. Edwards' Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain Workshop Kit, but the video will also work effectively as a stand-alone learning guide. The lessons are designed to give you success at every step of the way. Dr. Edwards guides you through the systematic process of learning to draw with her easy-to-understand explantions and visual demonstrations.
This video is appropriate for adults and children over the age of 12.See all Editorial Reviews
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The DVD is about graphite and pencil drawings of the real world, so it will help people progress beyond copying photographs. It will be helpful to students who have not studied how to observe "negative spaces". It will be helpful to people who don't know about (or do know but neglect) making measurements of angles and proportions when they draw. The focus of the material is learning to visualize what you see in the 3D world as a projection on a 2D drawing. Betty Edwards emphasizes that this skill requires a change in the way that the mind operates. It must function in a non-verbal and non-symbolic mode.
The lessons can be understood by a ten year old child, but most children will not benefit from watching the DVD. Some exercises that Betty assigns take an hour. Although they require only simple equipment, there is a lot of it and the list includes things not found in the average person's drawing supplies. It takes an adult level of patience and organization just to get all the materials together! The course is about drawing what you see, not what you imagine. A child who enjoys filling pages with cartoons of flaming cars, daggers dripping blood etc. will not be happy with this DVD as a birthday present.
Examples of "before and after" drawings are used to advertise art courses. There are other drawing teachers whose "before and after" advertisements are more impressive that Betty's. However, their courses do not teach "drawing" in the normal sense of the word. They usually involve copying photographs using projectors, grids, or mechanical drawing equipment. The special equipment needed for the exercises on this DVD isn't used to copy photos. Betty does teach students to use a primitive grid to draw the first line segment in a drawing. (With experience, a person can do that without equipment.) Betty's "before and after" publicity is essentially honest if we keep in mind that students are using both new knowledge and simple equipment to do the "after" drawings.
In her book "Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain", Betty Edwards expounded a theory that left side of the brain handles verbal and logical tasks and that the right side handles intuitive perceptions. Art teachers' explanations of anatomy don't satisfy surgeons; their explanations of light and shade don't satisfy physicists. It is not surprising that Betty's claims about how the brain works were found wanting by neuroscientists. Fortunately, what the brain does on its left, right or middle is irrelevant to the drawing exercises. The DVD is a self contained course. It does not require that you read the book. On the DVD she does not emphasize her theory of brain function. She does introduce the terms "L-mode" and "R-mode" and she makes some jokes about "left mind". You can learn the material on the DVD without paying much attention to this jargon.
Betty narrates the DVD smoothly. She is well rehearsed and follows a script. Her gestures appear rehearsed, informative, and rather wooden. She speaks clearly. Her intonation is extremely irritating. Think of skits where comedians parody the speech of newscasters by stressing an unnecessarily large number of syllables. That will give you an idea of the worst moments. You'll have to endure the way she talks and focus on the content.
The DVD is professionally produced. The camera work is excellent. There is ample footage of Betty herself doing the exercises. It will be clear what you are supposed to do. There is no irritating background music during the lessons.
A pamphlet included with the DVD gives a list of materials. It indicates how you can make your own equipment. You can also order equipment from from a website called drawright dot com. As of May 2010, the link to the equipment is called "the portfolio". It would be a formidable task to fully list everything used in the exercises. From watching the DVD ( but not actually using the equipment ) I learned the following:
You need common household items such as paper towels, a timer or alarm clock, a floor lamp, chairs, a 5 x 6 1/2 inch mirror than can be taped to the wall.
The list of common art supplies is:
1. Pads of 9 x 12 inch drawing paper and 11x 14 inch or lager paper
2. Pencils with hardness 2, 2B and 6B
3. Pencil sharpener
4. A 4B graphite stick
5. An water soluble black felt tipped marker (I think a thin tip is best.)
6. Kneaded eraser
7. White plastic eraser
8. Masking tape
9. Drawing board
The drawing board can be something simple like piece of Masonite or plywood large enough to hold a sheet of the drawing papers. It shouldn't be huge since many of the exercises tell you to sit in a chair resting the bottom of the drawing board on your lap and propping the top against the back of a second chair. ( This is a significant feature of the exercise. If you put your paper flat on a desk and keep a normal seated posture, you will be looking at the paper from an angle that makes it harder to judge proportions.)
The less familiar equipment is:
10. "Picture Planes" and "Templates"
To explain these, it's necessary to describe a typical drawing. The student looks at a scene briefly through a transparent rectangular window that has cross hairs and a dark border. The DVD calls this device a "picture plane". To duplicate the shape of this window on his drawing paper , the student will outline a rectangular area on the paper. The DVD calls this area a "format". The "format" must have the same proportion of length to width as the window of the "picture plane". Skilled people can draw such a "format" with a ruler and a draftsman's triangle. However, I think Betty doesn't want to interrupt her drawing lessons with a lesson on drafting. The equipment provides two ways drawing the "format" quickly. A "picture plane" itself is a rectangular sheet of plastic; the edges of it are covered by a black border of uniform width. By tracing around the outside of the "picture plane", a student can make a "format" which is somewhat larger than the transparent window, but still in the correct proportions. Another way to draw the "format" is to trace around the edge of a "template", which appears to be a rectangular sheet of cardboard.
The student tones the "format" by rubbing graphite on it (hence the graphite stick and paper towels mentioned above). He draws cross hairs on it. The "templates" have the centers of their edges marked to facilitate this. Looking through one eye, the student uses an erasable marker to trace a significant line segment or shape from the scene onto the "picture plane". The DVD calls the line segment a "basic unit". He sets the "picture plane" down on a light surface. He observers what he drew on the "picture plane" and attempts to draw the "basic unit" on his drawing. After that, the student completes the drawing by observing the actual scene instead of looking at what he drew on the "picture plane".
Although the "templates" and "picture planes" must make Betty's seminars go smoothly they create a nightmare for anyone attempting get materials together in advance of doing the exercises. There are two different sizes of pictures planes and three sizes of templates. An exercise may say to use "the small picture plane" and "the extra large template" or some other combination of sizes. (The pamphlet in the DVD says you can make the picture planes out of a sheet 8 x 10 inch plexiglass that is 1/16 or 1/8 th inch thick with construction paper over it that has openings of 4 x 5 inches or 6 x 7 1/2 inches. The template sizes are 4 x 5 inches, 6 x 7 1/2 inches, 8.15 x 10.25 inches)
If you are making your own equipment, expect to spend some time before each exercise getting it together. Your "picture planes" don't have to exactly match the sizes used on the DVD. You need a "picture plane" that is the appropriate size for viewing the scene that you are supposed to draw. You need to draw a "format" on the drawing paper that has proportions matching the window of your "picture plane". (Perhaps you could make a "picture plane" with a thin sheet of acetate attached to a rigid cardboard border so it wouldn't be floppy. Draw the cross hairs with an indelible marker.)
11. Proportion Finder:
The proportion finder looks like a machinists caliper, except that it has no graduations or gears. Artists usually "measure" a distance by holding their pencil vertically or horizontally at arms length, putting the point of the pencil at one end of the measurement and marking the other by the position of their thumbnail. The tip of a pencil is small and may be hard to see. If you "measure" this way, you will move your thumbnail when you start to draw with the pencil and your measurement will be lost. The "proportion finder" is a tool that makes measuring simpler since the jaws of the device are more visible than the tip of a pencil and it keeps the measurement that you make. If you can "measure" with a pencil then you don't need the "proportion finder". (Neither the "proportion finder" nor a pencil are used to make actual numerical measurements in inches or centimeters etc. )
12. Angle Finder:
The angle finder appears to be two plastic strips about 8 inches long and 1 inch wide. They are hinged together at one end. There is a black center line drawn down each and the lines meet at the hinge. When a drawing is upright on an easel, an artist can duplicate an angle by holding his pencil along that line (in the scene) and then moving the pencil over the paper without changing the angle. When the paper is not upright, it becomes harder to move your hand and preserve the angle. The "angle finder" makes the task of duplicating angles easier. People who have the skill to duplicate angles by other means don't need it.
13. Red Gel
To visualize the degree of lightness and darkness in a scene it is helpful to view the scene through a colored filter so the scene looks monochrome. The "red gel" is a thin sheet of red transparent plastic about the same size as the mirror (listed above). You will press the gel temporarily onto the surface of the mirror.
You need a print of Picasso's sketch of Igor Stravinsky. The task will be to draw it upside down. You need a print of the "vase and faces" optical illusion with one side of the drawing (one of the faces) missing. If you are right handed, the face on the right should be missing. If your left handed, the face on the left should be missing. Your task will be to fill in the missing face. On the DVD, each print looks larger than a standard 8.5 x11 inch page, but that size might do.
Summary of Exercises
Lesson 1 A Pre-instruction drawings
Exercise: (1 hr) Sit in a chair and view your head in a mirror taped to the wall at arms length. Bracing the drawing board against the wall below the mirror and try to draw a self portrait. (No use of "pictures planes" and "formats" is mentioned).
Lesson 1 B Two Ways Of Thinking, Two Ways of Seeing
Exercise: (5 minutes) Take the print of the "vase and faces" illusion that has one face missing. Draw the missing face.
Exercise: (1 hr) View the print of Picasso's drawing of Stravinsky upside down. Try to copy it, thinking of what you see as abstract shapes not physical objects.
Lesson 2 Edges, the First Basic Skill of Drawing
Exercise: (5 minutes) Set a timer for 5 minutes. Look the the wrinkles in the palm of one hand and use the other to draw them, WITHOUT looking at your drawing.
Exercise: (10 minutes) Balance a "picture plane" on the tips of the fingers of one of your hands. View that hand with one eye and trace the outline of the fingers and wrinkles on the "picture plane" with the erasable marker.
Lesson 3 Your First "Real Drawing". Using Edges
Exercise: (1 hr) Draw a "format" the same size as the window of the "picture plane" that you used in the previous exercise and tone it with graphite. On your paper, copy the drawing that you did on the "picture plane" in the previous exercise. Then improve the drawing by observing your hand while it is in the same position as in the previous exercise. Erase areas of tone to create highlights or indicate the background.
Lesson 4 Negative Spaces - the Second Basic Skill of Drawing
Exercise: (At least 1 hr) Use 3 chairs. Sit on one, prop the drawing board on other. Place the third chair against a simple background and draw it. On a "picture plane" , draw a "basic unit" of the chair, such as the shape of the space between a few parts of the chair. Create an appropriately toned "format" on your drawing paper. Draw the "basic unit" on your paper using what you drew on the "picture plane" as a guide. Complete the drawing by observing the chair and drawing the spaces in between the parts of the chair and its surroundings. Erase areas of tone to indicate highlights or the background.
Lesson 5 Perceiving Relationships - the Third Basic Skill of Drawing
Exercise ( 3 to 4 hours): Sit in a chair with the top of your drawing board propped on another chair and draw an open doorway. As usual, you use a "picture plane" and prepare a "format". Betty gives details about which lines to draw first and which proportions and angles to measure. For your "basic unit", you can use the line segment that defines the top of the doorway.
Lesson 6 A Profile Portrait, Integrating Your Skills
Exercise: (1 to 2 hours) Find a person willing to be a model for a profile portrait. Sit as close as possible to them in a chair with your drawing board propped in front of you against the back of a second chair. Look a the person with one eye though an appropriately sized "picture plane". Choose a basic unit. (Betty suggests a vertical line from the back corner of the eye to the bottom of the chin. Note that this is a reference line but not actually an edge of anything. Draw the line on your "picture plane". Draw and tone a "format" as usual and draw the "basic unit" on your paper using what your drew on your "picture plane" as a guide. Betty gives instructions about how to continue the drawing.
Lesson 7 Perceiving Lights and Shadows
Exercise: (1 to 2 hours) Draw a self-portrait. Use a setup similar to the one you used when you drew your self portrait in the very first exercise. This time, draw cross hairs on the mirror. Rub the red gel filter on the surface of the mirror to make the image that you see monochrome. The mirror is used instead of the "picture plane". Pick what you intend to use as a "basic unit" and draw this directly on the mirror with the erasable felt tipped marker. (A suggested basic unit is a line segment from the inner corner of one eye to the chin. ) On your paper, draw a "format" that has the same proportions as the mirror. Tone it and draw cross hairs on it. Draw the "basic unit" on your paper using what was drawn on the mirror as a guide. Betty gives suggestions about how to continue the drawing. When you are ready to work on fine details of the picture, remove the red gel filter from the mirror.
I rate the DVD as four stars out of five to indicate that it is an excellent drawing course for adults whose drawings are primitive.