Why is it important to use the right-brain when drawing

7 January, 2011

To make serious improvements to your drawings you need to switch from using the left half of the brain to the right side.

What is the reasoning behind deliberately choosing to switch to the right side ?

The answer is to do with the how the brain works, and as a psychologist I have studied that subject passionately. In essence our brains are split into two separate halves and both function completely independently of each other, albeit in totally different ways, but are also capable of communicating with each other.

The left half of our brain deals with logic, language and our analytical functions. Whereas, the right side deals with our emotions, intuition, images and is responsible for all our creative functions. The left side is normally pretty accurate but compared to the right is a bit of a snail. The reason that it is very slow is because the evaluation process is of a linear nature, thinking through an ordered list of the information to hand, just one step at a time. This is in contrast to the breathtaking speed of the right brain where the process is more of a holistic nature, giving an almost immediate result.

When you encounter people that you have never met before, your right brain working at incredible speed will instantly give you an “emotional credit check” of that person. Depending on the outcome of that check, your emotions will reflect a level of safety or threat, a feeling of like or dislike and a whole bunch of information to decide how to respond to that person. It is not unusual for those feelings to be invoked before that person has even spoken to you. This is your right brain working behind the scenes in one super fast holistic scan.

From a drawing perspective let me illustrate to you how those different processes influence our drawings. Take the well-known phrase “A picture paints a thousand words” and it really does make perfect sense. This is the right half of your brain working and to demonstrate this point, take a look at a photograph and after a short period of time, close your eyes and see that photo in your mind, you would have taken in an incredible amount of detailed information very quickly. Now in contrast to that, look at that same photograph and imagine trying to describe it in as much detail as possible to someone who is unable to see that photograph. In order for you to do that you would need to swap to the left half of your brain and you can quickly appreciate just how long a process that could be. So you can appreciate why it is advantageous to use the right half of the brain when learning how to draw a portrait, or indeed anything, it is very much faster and also capable of seeing a lot more accurate detail, particularly useful when you are trying to draw what you see. Whereas the left half of the brain deals more comfortably with 2D images or geometrical shapes and becomes somewhat immobilised when attempting to make sense of depth, contours, shadows and 3D perspectives.

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