Art Boot Camp – Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

I’m so right-brained, or is it left-brained, that I can never remember which is the creative type and which is the other type. As a recovering (aka: retired) librarian, I’m pretty tidy and organized. As an aspiring artist, well I just don’t know. We are all complicated. The first assignment in my Art Boot Camp endeavor was to copy a Leonardo portrait, quadrant by quadrant,upside down. My art teacher adapted this exercise from the classic art book, ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’ by Betty Edwards. Without going into the gory details of how to retrain your brain to see what’s really there and not what you think is there, plus the ever-challenging issue of translating that 3-d world in front of us onto a flat piece of paper without resorting to cartoons and stick figures, here is my drawing – on the right. Notice amount of caffeine required to do this. My ‘Portrait of a Girl’ has a fuller face, but, hey, you try drawing upside down.

Pencil drawing portrait

Copy of Leonardo’s Head of a Girl

Art Boot Camp – the portrait

I joined a new art class last spring and my teacher explained that all new students go through ‘art boot camp.’ So back to basics for me for the last six months and back to blogging about the process which helps me focus on what I’ve learned and where I’m going.

This pencil portrait is based on a black and white photograph that I selected from a folder of photographs that my teacher supplied as source materials for the portrait assignment. I don’t know who this woman is. I even did a reverse Google image search and could not find her. So apologies on that, if you were wondering.

The task set for me was to catch a likeness. That means, in my case, I can draw people and the drawings look human and not appallingly amateurish, but it’s really difficult to make the drawing look like that particular person. The trick, advised my teacher, is to use relative measurements. You know, that thing where artists measure by holding up a pencil and measuring how many partial pencil lengths it is from hairline to eyebrow and from eyebrow to pupil and from pupil to nostril and so on. Then you make little dots on the paper as guidelines. Well I feel I got to know this lady’s remarkably arched eyebrows and deep smile lines and exactly how her earlobe lined up with the bottom of her nose and so on. Now if I watch a debate on tv, I might be thinking about someone’s short upper lip or long nose and not realize whatever policy they espouse. That’s probably less stressful – catching a likeness, not catching a policy.

Pencil portrait of a woman

Portrait of a woman, pencil on paper