Some of you, who are artists, might recognize this picture. It was one of the very first drawings I did as an adult when I rekindled my interest in art. It is an exercise in the infamous book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards. This exercise is titled, “Upside-Down Drawing” because you do, indeed, draw it upside. It is one of the clever ways the author has you draw what you see NOT what you think you see. When the original picture is turned upside down, your brain has nothing filed away in its dark recesses that recognizes what it is seeing on the page. There is no picture in your mind to depend upon, to dictate your hand. You are then forced to draw, with no preconceptions, exactly what you see on page. So as the book suggested, I just began to draw lines, curves, and shadows. It’s a bit awkward to draw this way, and seriously, I had my doubts that it was “working”. But compare the picture from the book to my drawing. Pretty cool, huh? Not perfect, but definitely the same drawing.
I sketched that man back in March of 1996. I was surprised to see that date when I opened up my dusty “art” folder. I’ve been dabbling with this newfound interest for over 20 years. Twenty. years. A lot has happened in my life since I picked up that first pencil. I have lived in 5 different houses during that time period, raised 4 daughters… but wait, THIS is not THAT post. Focus.
Back to art…
The very first chapters of Betty Edward’s book talk about how the brain, between the ages of 10 and 12, begins to file away images of well-known objects, like a dog or an eye, for instance. This is why many face profile drawings depict a “front-view” of the eye. The brain says, “draw it this way because this is what an eye looks like.” You don’t actually sketch what you see. The problem isn’t with drawing, the problem is with seeing.
I find all that fascinating, how about you?
One question I have asked myself is, if I love art, why did I never pursue art in school? I didn’t take any art classes once I could choose my own course. Why? Betty Edwards says in her book, “Most children between the ages of nine and eleven have a passion for realistic drawing… and begin to draw certain favorite subjects over and over again, attempting to perfect the image” (mine were Charlie Brown and Snoopy). She goes on, “Children often abandon art…because unthinking people sometimes make derogatory remarks about their art. Children react defensively, and understandably so, seldom ever attempt to draw again.”
Reading those words brought back a long-forgotten memory from 3rd grade. In “art” class, we were drawing trees, and as the teacher walked by each desk, she commented on everyone’s artwork. When she got to my desk, I remember her taking hold of my elbow, pulling me out of me seat. She walked me over to the windows and said, “Look outside. Do you see those trees? Is that what your trees look like?” Evidently not. But I don’t remember attempting to draw trees again after that class. And I certainly didn’t sign up for any art classes in high school. Or even think about art for many years. Because I wasn’t an artist.
I couldn’t even draw a tree.
And over thirty years later, I don’t know why this book caught my eye in the library that day. But it did. Not only did I take it home and read it, but I renewed it again and again. And when the librarian said I couldn’t take it out again, I checked it out under my daughter’s name. This book was so inspiring, and I was beginning to see things differently.
But it took me while to buy the book. To commit.
The plunge may have been the evening when my husband and I were watching TV, and I took a piece of scrap paper, and began to doodle. Ten minutes later, when I nudged him, and showed him my drawing, he said, “hey, it’s me.” Those three little words were all the encouragement I needed.
I bought the book. I was interested.
I am beginning to admit, to say out loud, I am an artist. I am a writer. I am a
speaker (no, not that one). And why not? I am not a perfect wife or mother, but I am surely a wife and mother. I don’t cook well, but I am most certainly a cook. I have many failings as a daughter, and friend, but I am a daughter. I am a friend.
I am an artist.
I am a writer.
I am creating a new category here on my blog where I will post thoughts and pictures from my art journey. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? And besides, I have 20 years worth of sketchings to share with you (haha).
What about you? Are you learning some new tricks? Engaging in some new passions? I’d love to hear about them.
And whoever it may, a child, a mother, or a student, encourage the artist in your life.