View Full Version : "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

12-16-2003, 10:49 AM
I have just started reading Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

I'm interested in hearing from others that may have read and pursued its theories.

Also, if anyone is interested, I can synopsize the book as I progress.

12-16-2003, 10:50 PM
Dear Scott,

I would be very pleased to read your synopsis of "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" as you proceeded.

I would also be interested to hear how you change as you learn to draw.

With Thanks,

12-17-2003, 06:40 AM
I am about 1/2 way through this book and i have seen an improvement in my drawings and the way i approach a subject. I don't need the grid as much as before and i can actually draw my hand without tracing it first. LOL I have found, for me anyway that everything come in little tiny baby steps

i would love to hear what others have gotten from this book

Happy Holidays


Eugene Veszely
12-17-2003, 09:33 AM
I have a lot of theory !! :)

If I only put into practice what I know.....it certainly helped me to see better...and gave me a lot to think about :)

12-17-2003, 04:15 PM
I teach art K-12, and use many left brained exercises....many of my own invention, some from this book...

Its a platform to present an appeal to high school students why focus and classroom management discipline are essential to the production of what can expect to be best efforts.


12-18-2003, 11:00 AM
Chameleon, Larry.

I'm through the first few chapters.

So far, the author has explained and quoted medical studies that show that there are two distinct modes of thinking, one employed by each of the hemispheres of the brain.

The left side tends to be dominant, and is described as verbal. It is word-symbol oriented and likes linear tasks, those with a beginning and a conclusion. Left brain likes math and numbers and sequences, and is good at sticking to task and monitoring the lapse of time.
Left brain does not like things that can't quickly be labeled, does not like observations that have no conclusion, does not like to give up its dominant role as first to attack a task despite its skill level or lack thereof. It tries to maintain control of the interpretation of signals from the eyes and ears, tries to maintain control of the conciousness and produce words and regurgitate lessons learned by rote. It represents things with a symbol, and leaps ahead with persistence of visual interpretation drawing conclusions and sorting things into correct symbols on the flimsiest of observations.

Right brain is described as global in its information-gathering and interpretation process. It seems more free from the constraints of everyday life; time, logic, words & symbols, categorization, calculation, conclusion.
It "sees" what is before it without the foregone conclusions of persistence of visual interpretation, yet can also create images in the mind's eye free from the laws of the real world. Right brain likes to see all the parts coming together as a whole. It is less concerned with the parts than left brain would be, doesn't care about the number of parts or if each individual part is correct, but can envision and patiently move toward the global, gestalt, finished whole.
Right brain, being poor at managing time or making conversation, and being utterly unconcerned with procedures or proper sequencing, is not welcome in most parts of our day if we have to go to school or work or talk to others or be somewhere on time.
For this reason, right brain is kept in the background, used occasionally to assist left brain by providing that little bit of imagination or insight to help the "computer brain" figure out something in the real world.

Because right brain tends to disregard rules and preconceptions, it is theorized that the greatest artistic freedom of expression can be drawn from this hemisphere. It won't pre-cast visual concepts into ready-made symbol forms, or control the outflow of graphic expression due to its obsession with making things fit pigeonholes, as left brain does.

In the ensuing chapters, we begin to explore the ways we can "invite" right brain out to join us in graphic expression, and the ways we can try to get domineering, over-active left brain to get out of the way so we can create freely.

12-18-2003, 11:09 AM
Glad to hear you feel you've benefited from this book so far.

Did you find that you felt the way the author describes it when pithcing the two sides of the brain into confrontation?(e.g. vase/faces)
Did you feel locked up for a moment?

Are you now able to perceive that the shift has occurred to right-brain openness when it happens?

Do you belive all this left-brain/right-brain stuff, or do you think its just a matter of relaxing, or clearing one's mind that enables the other state of creativity?

12-18-2003, 11:32 AM
Above you'll find the first synopsis of the book, from the first two or three chapters.

I hope I can give enough information so you or others can follow, and yet be brief enough for this forum.

Don't be afraid to ask questions if you have them.

12-19-2003, 05:20 AM
I read this book as a young child, and tackled the exercises with a child's enthusiasm, it gave me the guidance to learn to draw well enough to produce pencil portraits which I sell by commission. Highly, highly recommended, there is a new expanded edition of the book now available, called the new drawing on the right side of the brain, try to get hold of a copy.

12-23-2003, 05:26 PM
Originally posted by O'Connor
I have just started reading Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

I'm interested in hearing from others that may have read and pursued its theories.

Also, if anyone is interested, I can synopsize the book as I progress.

I love that book! I always thought I couldn't draw, and one day I asked a coworker to ask his wife, a professional artist, if she could recommend a book on drawing. She recommended this one and I bought it. I didn't make time to do it though until a couple years later, and then I got busy and abandoned it about 1/3 way through. Well this year I got serious about it and finished it! Then I got into painting and charcoal drawing. This book started it all.

The most important thing I learned from this book is to draw what you see and not what you know. This was a revelation to me when I was drawing a chair from an angle. I drew the bottom leg attaching to the brace between the two legs at a right angle, cause I KNEW it was a right angle (90 degrees). But my eyes were telling me it was much less than 90 degrees (because of perspective). That lesson taught me to trust my EYES. It's been a big help in painting as well. As Monet says, he doesn't draw trees and things. He just paints what he sees - colors. Same principle.


12-23-2003, 10:56 PM
I also love this book, I skimmed through it more then read it though. I liked the drawing of the hand line experiment, it was fun :). I do believe in the two brains, the right and left, and the way they work. It was extremely educational, and I really enjoyed it.

Eugene Veszely
12-24-2003, 09:50 AM
I think I might pull my copy out again...

12-24-2003, 03:06 PM
I read this book a few years back, It is a great book, I'd recconmend it to everyone.

01-04-2004, 12:25 AM
O'Conner, your grasp of the difference between the right brain and left is amazing. ( Or were you quoting?) I read some of this book a long time ago, but what is interesting is that, due to my work with autistics, what this author delves into perfectly describes their right brain, whole/global way of not thinking, but be-ing and doing.

I too use my right brain over my left and so can empathize with their lack of verbal expression, yet celebrate their possession of right brained ability to "Think In Pictures"... ( I think those interested will find this article by Temple Grandin (http://www.grandin.com/inc/visual.thinking.html) as fascinating as I. ) What's interesting is that I also have a group for people with Autistim and Asperger's Syndrome and we spent all of last winter exploring right brained thinkers versus left brained thinkers and what we concluded is that those who are trained to use only the left side of their brains were becoming emotionally, but more importantly, physically, calloused/undeveloped.

Not only is all of what we visualize in the right side of the brain, but also what we feel emotionally. When the arts are withdrawn from the developement of children, ( either by parents or school systems ), then the emotional part of us, which needs the most development of all, is neglected.

When this happens our emotions get no "exercize" and we become literally insensitive not just to the world around us, but also to the people around us. The person with Autistim, who is on "The Spectrum", will be the opposite: HYPER-sensitive to the point of feeling pain from words, sounds, colors, aromas, etc... They find left brain-trained people to be very insensitive, clinical, mean.. The co-relation is impossible to miss. They become rote people : thoughtless and unfeeling!! There is much more to this issue than just how one draws....

I think this is a wonderful book. It not only teaches us to see - on our own, without someone else telling us what to see, but it also gives us permission to use the right side of the brain to feel your way through Art. This method will cut learning time down to 0. Like the autistic, one will simply perfectly imitate exactly what is visually in front of them - wholly... and they will be much more stable emotionally as a bonus.

Why does not the Autistic appear to be emotionally stable? Some/Most of them would be, if people would stop trying to make them slow up and learn everything the long, hard, step-by-step, verbal, left-brained way.... ;)

Aisling Art & Design (http://groups.msn.com/AislingArt)


jan willem
01-22-2004, 03:16 PM
Hello all,

I jump right in....

A couple of weeks ago i followed a drawing course based on this book.
For me it was a revelation

When i did some drawing earlyer i had to tell it was a cow and not a dog.
(even the black spots didn't fool them)

But now i can draw something or somebody and you can recognise it/them.
The course lasted 5 days, 8 hours a day.
Now i bought the book so my wife can try it too :D

Oh don't throw away those first drawings after you start, collect everything and compare at those moments that you don't like it anymore, it's gonna get you jumpstart right on!

Bye gotta get drawing...

Jan Willem

01-22-2004, 05:43 PM
I really enjoyed D.O.T.R.S.O.T.B. because it acted as a revelation to me as well. All the right brain/left brain stuff made a lot of sense, and allowed me to look at how I thought a lot more clearly as I approached my art.

However, be careful with a book like this. While it can definitely improve your observational skills, it by no means teaches you how to understand things like perspective or anatomy. It allows you to copy it.

You may be able to accurately copy all the tones on a complex object, but do you understand how light falls? You may be able to draw the negative space, but do you understand why the legs of those chairs are at that angle?

While it is a very vital mode of thinking for artists and can open all sorts of avenues for artistic expression, studying how to actually draw and re-create those things that you are seeing, can also make you a much better artist, able to contradict, critique and change what it is you are seeing. And being able to do that will push you past the bounds of photo-copier, or reference-dependent.

Basically my point is that a book like this is by no means the end of your artistic training. Once you know HOW to see properly, then you can start your training in how to break all those new rules. It never does end. :)

Static observation has it's place, but we can't start ignoring our left brains either. Otherwise in a few decades they will be writing Drawing On The Left Side of The Brain: The Forgotten Logical Hemisphere.

01-22-2004, 09:42 PM
I feel a little left out now. I had previously been debating whether to buy the book or not (It's not an expensive book, but there are other books I also want).

Eugene Veszely
01-23-2004, 08:50 AM
Static observation has it's place, but we can't start ignoring our left brains either. Otherwise in a few decades they will be writing Drawing On The Left Side of The Brain: The Forgotten Logical Hemisphere.

Haha I dont think that will ever happen...it is just too dominant in our society :)

01-23-2004, 08:45 PM
This is a great thread!!! I've always been curious about this book, but have never bought it. I have done some left brain/right brain exercises in school, and they do work. Now that I know everybody here has had such success with it, maybe I'll go grab a copy. Thanks!

01-23-2004, 10:39 PM
Hi everyone....

There is another author / artist Dr. Lucia Capacchione who wrote " The Power of Your Other Hand " which also talks about accessing the right brain. Dr. Capacchione spoke at a local college in my area and I was able to hear her speak. It is exciting and interesting. I am fascinated with any tool that helps inner potential especially in the area of creativity.. :angel:

Has anyone read any of her books ?

01-30-2004, 05:05 PM
I could be the poster child for Betty Edwards book.

I was 18, unhappily majoring in biology in college, and had a lab to do. I couldn't draw a stick figure, and we had to sketch something that we saw under the microscope. I was so upset, I went to the library and said to myself that I'd read every drawing book there till I figured out HOW to draw.

Luckily I picked up her book. ... I worked through the entire book and did every exercise.

I dropped out of school, and worked for a couple of years, but didn't stop drawing.

I got tired of working, wanted to do art, so I went back to school and majored in art.

I graduated with a degree in art (with a great GPA) ... got a job as a graphic artist, and have been at the same company as a designer for the last six years.

Did her book change my life? It danged sure did.

If anyone knows her, tell her I said thanks :-)


02-01-2004, 02:49 PM
Has anyone read the book The Natural Way to Draw: A Working Plan for Art Study by Kimon Nicolaides? I ask in this thread because I came across it when looking up DRSB online. Some reviews I read suggested that the Nicolaides book is the better of the two. What do you think?

02-01-2004, 03:41 PM
Betty Edwards' book is a great beginner's book for learning how to draw. That's how I got started but I will disagree with her assertion that you just have to learn how to see.

I studied by the first edition to her book and it was primarily good for teaching contour drawing from a photograph or a still life. I could not handle values and didn't even know about anatomy. I loved what I was doing and it was far better than I could do before but it wasn't all I needed. It was impossible to draw a moving subject or one from memory just from what her book had. Maybe later editions have fleshed those areas out.

I still was thankful that I bought it.

If anybody could follow Kimon Nicolaides' book, it would be the perfect book for learning to draw but his schedule of work is too daunting. He teaches that drawing is a combination of what you see and what you know and the advanced artist determines which of the two to use at any particular time. I think this is more realistic but harder to grasp for the beginning artist.

Precious Mazie
02-02-2004, 12:22 PM
Has anyone read the book The Natural Way to Draw: A Working Plan for Art Study by Kimon Nicolaides? I ask in this thread because I came across it when looking up DRSB online. Some reviews I read suggested that the Nicolaides book is the better of the two. What do you think?

I have a copy of this book too and it has a lot of very good exercizes in it on drawing. The biggest drawback of this book was the time it took to do the exercizes! It is far more intense that Betty's book but I would start out with her book and go on to Nicolaides book if you wanted to. As far as the expense goes...try to locate these books on half.com I have paid as little as 1.50 +shipping for Betty's book and I have found Nicolaides book there at times too. I love half.com almost all of my art and art history books come from there.

02-02-2004, 12:29 PM
Betty Edwards' book is a great beginner's book for learning how to draw. That's how I got started but I will disagree with her assertion that you just have to learn how to see.

Dana, I agree for the most part, but "learn how to see" is a huge hurdle for a lot of people. I started the book last summer and put it on a back burner for the Fall session of TAW. I've been drawing for a lot of years and saw a marked improvement in the detail/accuracy I was able to achieve. I'll be picking it up again very soon to complete the course.

I think the most significant thing it has done for me is to facilitate that left brain to right brain switch. The practice of contour drawing in particular has helped in this "switch". In all the drawing classes I ever took, the instructor would have the class do contour drawings at some point during the course without ever explaining the purpose. At the time, I just thought of it as a useless, frustrating exercise and would always cheat and look.

The book addresses one-half of the equation. The other half is work work work/practice practice practice/learn learn learn. As you said, it doesn't cover all the skills you need to become a successful sketch artist, but it's an excellent start (no matter your skill level).


Allen Carter
02-02-2004, 02:32 PM
Hi All,

It is a great book for anyone interested in drawing. It has lots of good ideas. I have had workshops with Betty and her friends that teach the ideas and I recommend them as well. We donít really need anyone to tell us that artists are a different kind of people. We can feel that from inside. Betty says we donít do well with lists and then gives us a list to follow. It sounds strange and gives cause for detractors. I find that what she does is aimed at non-artists as well as us, so it is a good book for everyone.


Cadmium Jen
02-02-2004, 10:41 PM
I read Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain in high school and found the exercises very helpful in learning to draw realistically. Had some trouble making the transition to painting though: I'd learned to take down all the details I saw, but didn't learn what a good composition was. It took a number of additional books from the library to learn how to move things around and leave some of them out. :D

orchid black
02-04-2004, 07:20 PM
heh heh... i'm left handed... so i already think in my right brain. :D

orchid black
02-04-2004, 07:21 PM
seriously, though, i wonder if this book would help me?

05-27-2004, 05:51 PM
I read through this book in two days at the beginning of this year.

It is possibily the most interesting and informative and creative book I have ever read.

I also had problems transfering from drawing to painting but I rellieved this by drawing and painting at the same time.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone.

Also as a dyslexic I find it easy to transfere to the right side, but it wasn't until I read this that I knew why.

I think this would be useful to everyone both right and left handed, dyslexic and errr normal ( I hate that expression :D)

Take care, enjoy, paint, express.......... share


05-28-2004, 11:56 AM
Just going to stick my 2 cents in here. :)

I am a right brain thinker, in the sense that I paint/draw what I see or actually of late I paint what I feel.
This new experiment where I paint visions from my dreams has helped me even more to use the right side of the brain to it's fullest at this time.

I see the image from my dream. I have no reference of subject to look at. No model or picture other than what is etched in my mind.

So I just go with the flow of it and if it doesn't look right so what. I feel that most dreams don't make logical sense so it's an excersize that makes me just do without having to think about it.

If any of you have a hard time with inviting the right brain out to play, this might be one excersize to help you along too.
I usually say to myself before I sleep.. "remember the visions" then in the first 10 mins that I wake up I do a quick sketch, very rough just to keep the idea in my head.

I keep a sketch book and pencil by my bed.
Then when I'm ready to paint, I close my eyes to see it again in color in my minds eye... yes in color lol

Then I begin. :)
It's been a great teacher and a wonderful experience.


06-12-2004, 01:16 AM
My last art class in High school used this book and I think I was great. Even though I felt I already knew how to draw on the right side of the brain before this book I did not know this and it frustrated me why sometimes my drawings turned out downright horrendous while other times, everything came naturally to me. Now I understand that this is because sometimes I am not able to move from the left side of the brain to the right. My art teacher told me that this happens to a lot of artist and that it could be considered a type of "artists block". He told me that a cause of this was lack of inspiration. So he suggested that I try to draw inspiration form external sources by observing art work that I really enjoy. This helped me a lot even though I do struggle with the transition from the left side of the brain to the right. I would recommend "drawing on the right side of the brain" to anyone. While it is most useful to beginning artists, it can still imporve intermediate and even somewhat advanced artists.

06-12-2004, 04:41 AM
I read this Betty Edwards book years ago whilst an academic student...the left brain dominant type of person. As a psychologist, I found it fascinating, especially trying to detect the switch-over from logical thinking patterns to creative modes. It took a few years to get my left critical brain to shut up.

Luckily, I had my childish dreams intact...I was an artist as a child, the logic was an add-on, I only had to persevere to win back the child creator in me. Now I feel happy that I did. As someone said in this thread, the creative modes are more emotionally experienced. I feel I have changed from a non-feeling clinical logical observer of life to a fully participating creative artists. And I am LOVING it!! This book certainly helped in the early stages of this switch-over.

But as someone said earlier in the thread, you have to progress on....from being a photocopier to becoming a creator.


06-12-2004, 11:02 AM
Hi O'Connor :D
I own the book and though I did not read it page for page, I have skimmed through it a number of times now and used the exercises to tweak my skills. I have long been interested in the left/right brain theory ;)

03-07-2006, 06:41 PM
Dear sisters and brothers in art,
I was certified in 2000 by Betty Edwards to teach Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. I have taught over 100 students from age 10 up, in all walks of life, including engineers and accountants! I will answer individual questions regarding the application of the techniques in Dr. Edwards' book.

Yes, DO buy the latest edition. The greatest benefit you will get from it will be from scheduling the time (I suggest 3 hours) to actually DO the exercises outlined in each lesson: "reading" the book is practically useless. It would be like reading about golf or tennis and then expecting your game to improve without the physical practice. R-mode activity requires action rather than analysis! Understanding the principles and theory barely scrapes the surface. Practicing the exercises and techniques will create improvement in perceptual skill. You will draw well when you perceive correctly.

Nicolaides method works best if you can get a group together to meet once a week and go through the lessons with a model.

Another way to go to R-mode is to listen to QUIET or the sounds of nature and meditate for at least 30 minutes before you make art.

Enjoy. Zahidi

04-11-2006, 01:55 PM
This book changed my life.

I do not say that lightly. My husband bought the book for me. It sat around unread for about a year, then when I finally decided that I wanted to switch from digital art photomanipulation using stock to actually drawing my own models and objects and horizons, I read it and did all the exercises in it. Previously, I thought drawing was something only people "born with" the ability could do, and that it was unattainable to the rest of us. Well, that isn't true, one just has to comprehend how drawing is done, and it's actually incredibly simple and obvious once you "get it". The book literally changed the way I see the world and the objects in it. And it transformed my self-esteem, because suddenly I was a "real" artist, one who could not only draw, but draw really well! I discovered my true calling, and now am a full-time professional artist. So thank you Betty Edwards. I would have been lost my whole life if I had never understood how to draw. And honestly, I don't think I would have been able to learn any other way then by the process I underwent doing the exercises in her book.

If anyone really wants to move up to having complete control over your art, learn to draw, and you can, with this book.

04-14-2006, 01:00 AM
I did a 5 day course by a certified teacher in Tokyo in '99 and it was amazing - it really did get me seeing so I could do something even vaguely representational, something I couldn't do previously. Definitely teaches how to see, and yes, of course you can take it a long way further than that. I also did Edwards' 5 day color course a month later and that was the one that really changed my life, cos I love using color. It's an extension of the drawing course but seeing with color (and learning to mix any color you see) takes it further.

One thing though - after that I still had to learn (and am still learning) how to use real world pigments that are transparent and opaque, rather than classic primary colors that we used in the workshop. It's a fantastic starting point though for anyone who wants to be able to learn artists' perceptual skills. I can't recommend it enough for those who need that.

About a year an a half ago an American right brain teacher, who is based in Russia, came to Tokyo and taught a 5 day right brain sculpture class, wow, it was wonderful! I did a life size head - self portrait. He said the people who've done the drawing course are able to translate it to 3D so much easier/quicker than those who haven't done it.

For those considering the book I also recommend the video, as it gives the same lessons that are taught in the 5 day drawing class. If you like watching better than reading you may prefer it and I think it's only $25.

Also, Betty Edwards recently published a book on Color, which I presume is based on the color course that I did.


04-20-2006, 10:53 AM
Has anyone read the book The Natural Way to Draw: A Working Plan for Art Study by Kimon Nicolaides? I ask in this thread because I came across it when looking up DRSB online. Some reviews I read suggested that the Nicolaides book is the better of the two. What do you think?

I have this book and started reading it because I thought it would be good reading, if you can get through a very dry and boring text you are set, the book is good and provides a great deal of good information but the writing style is just so drab.

04-27-2006, 12:25 PM
Picked up a copy of the New Drawing on the Right side of the Brain the other day at the bookstore, hopefully I will have some time to begin reading it this coming weekend.

05-04-2006, 09:29 AM
Hi ppl,

Very interesting topic here and thought I should jump in. No, I cant draw and I have never attempted to either. I dont know where I stand? I am not relly great at Math or any left brained activity, I cant draw and not left brained...hmmmm... where do I fit in?? I have been asking myself this question for last 10years...LOL.
BTW, I did see an amazing documentary about a person who was very much a left brain person and never could draw anything atall. However this all changed when she had a serious accident that left her left brain damaged and when she came out of coma, she suddenly found herself creating amazing sculptures, glass art and painting. So the theory really is true afterall.


05-06-2006, 10:47 PM
Well, I will jump in as well. I read some of this book when I was younger. I was only givin it on loan for a day from a cousin so I just tried to skim the importance of it. I still like to use the exercise of getting you into the right side of the brain. I sit and relax in a quite room and imagine there is a tube between each side of my brain. I then take items from the left side (math problems etc... and shrink them down so that they will go thru the tube to the right side of the brain and imagine them doing so. Then I take items from the right side of the brain( a baker baking, fields of beautiful flowers, paint brushes and paints etc....) and shrink them down and move them to the left side of the brain thru the tube. This is supposed to bring all the creativity forward and incontrol. I find that if I am in a creative block this helps to relax me and get the creative juices flowing.
On that note, I really need to get my own copy of the book so that I can truly read the inspiration behind it.


05-16-2006, 03:17 PM
I'm a right-brainer. I am also into drawing, photography and web design.

This book interests me because of you. I think I gotta have a copy of it. Hmmm. I told myself after reading what you all said - I have to learn more...

Pete Harcoff
05-20-2006, 02:23 AM
Has anyone read the book The Natural Way to Draw: A Working Plan for Art Study by Kimon Nicolaides? I ask in this thread because I came across it when looking up DRSB online. Some reviews I read suggested that the Nicolaides book is the better of the two. What do you think?

I've read both. Personally, I found the Betty Edwards book to be better because it is simply less dry than Nicolaides' book. The problem with Nicolaides book, imho, is it is far too structured. He basically gives you this schedule of "draw this for 30 minutes, then that for 30 minutes, then something else for 2 hours". I perfer to be spontaneous when I draw. It shouldn't feel like work and that is the way the Nicolaides book makes it feel.

The Betty Edwards book worked for me. Prior to reading it, I mainly drew illustration-style comic book stuff. I never really drew from life, because I didn't have the eye for it. But after reading the book, I tried to work from life and photos more, and gravitated towards drawing that way instead.

And I didn't stick so much to the exercises from the book, but rather tried to envision things she was talking about. The chapters on tone and negative space made the biggest impact for me in how I view and draw things.