July 16, 2013

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

For better or worse, I have lived all my life a left-brain dominant being, fully in touch with that side of my brain that I'm told is responsible for logical, analytic functions. In school, this may have helped earn my reputation as class geek in Math & English, but when it came to art, even my stick figure was a miserable sight.

Enter Audrey Bottrell: a local art teacher who introduced me to the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. Formerly a high school art teacher, Audrey teaches evening drawing classes based on the book's concepts & tried to convince me that drawing is a learnable, teachable skill if only a person is trained to think like an artist, and that even I, torturer of the stick figure, could learn to draw.

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain explains how to use the strengths of the brain's right hemisphere-- the side of the brain that's best at creative tasks-- to overcome the left-brain emphasis that is such a big part of our analytic, digital lives.

When I look at a face from a calculative (left-brain) perspective, I see two eyes, a nose, mouth and ears. Add some hair and eyebrows, & there you have it-- a face. Based on this way of thinking, in my first lesson before receiving instruction, Audrey asked me to draw a face from memory. The result was a left-brain guided collection of symbolic markings -- circular lines to represent curly hair, almond shapes for large eyes, & what look like a 1st grade rendition of pouty lips, below.

You didn't believe me when I said I was torturer of the stick figure, did you? Proof positive, right here! My "before-instruction" drawing.

Audrey then showed me to how to simply "draw what you see" while helping me to "see" the subject not from the left-brain mode of a collection of parts, but from the artist's perspective of only seeing lines, shapes & color values. Following her directions, I drew this human eye after three hours of instruction based on a photo she gave me. Wonder of wonders that it was even possible.

My drawing after 3 hours of instruction.
Now there's still lots of room for improvement in this drawing, but there's huge improvement over the drawing produced just 3 hours prior.

The desire to take drawing classes was born of frustration with an inability to put on paper a picture from my head. Words are wonderful, but sometimes you just have to see it.

Not to mention, original pencil drawings & prints are a beautiful art form for decorating & a pastime that is both stimulating & relaxing.

A small drawing in antique frame in an interior designed by Phoebe Howard.

The entryway in Kate & Andy Spade's home is a gallery of paintings, prints and pencil drawings. 

On a hutch in the Spade's living room, a drawing of their daughter mingles with photographs & paintings.

Framed drawings quietly blend into two vignettes, above & below, by the talented design duo, Carol Ray & Marlene Weitman. You can see more of their work here on Cote de Texas & in Betty Lou Phillips book, The French Room. Photo Cote de Texas.

 Ray-Weitman Design

In my children's bathroom, an inexpensive Norman Rockwell pencil drawing print is framed & hangs atop Brunschwig & Fils' 'Frog Treillage' wallpaper in lily pad. 

Framed safari drawing over sofa Cote de Texas.

This rendition of Audrey Hepburn is by artist, writer & creator of the blog Castles, Crowns & Cottages, Anita Rivera. I purchased it for my 10 year-old daughter's room. Check out Anita's other drawings & artwork at her Etsy shop.

Drawings in Stephen Shubel's Paris apartment, above & below.

Antique drawings collaged into wallpaper via Trouvais

If you are one of my local readers & would like to take drawing classes, here's a link to Audrey Bottrell's class schedule. On her website you can also see work from other students as well as her own beautiful portrait drawings.



  1. Dear Keri,

    This WONDERFUL post has thrown me back thirty years which is a good thing as I am very much into nostalgia at the moment! My mother, a very keen artist, who is always happy to try new techniques, purchased Betty Edwards books and avidly followed a course by her local art teacher who also embraced Ms Edwards' techniques. My teenage years were very much taken up with my mother drawing the shadow around the form and squealing with delight when yet again the technique would work.

    It seems to me, Keri, that you are a gifted artist too. As a child I used to draw all the time but sadly now find myself incapable of doing so. My eldest daughter enjoys drawing a lot which is marvellous.

    As usual your post has given me plenty of food for thought; thank you!


  2. Wow, Keri,
    That is such a change...your first drawing resembles my drawing abilities. The second is lovely. How fun for you. I wouldn't have thought one could learn to use the "other" side of the brain. I love the images you've shared. Each of the rooms are wonderful, the art really is the icing.

  3. WOW!!!!!!!!!!

    My dear, I saw your fantastic comment this morning on my blog, but I had to run out to do some major clean up in my garden (I was away out of state for a week!) because I'm having company today. I had to beat the heat 'cause it's gonna be a hot and humid one today!

    I am SO thrilled to see and learn more about your learning process, and to see MY drawing here is such a WONDERFUL SURPRISE! THank you so much for including me in on this magnificent discussion that is near and dear to me. Being a teacher, I have learned so much about learners and about myself. I have always believed I was right-brained, and I am. But there is an analytical side to be (not enough however, to be good at math!) that has interfered with a necessary freedom to paint as I have always wanted to try. My drawings I find are straightforward, simple, and just lines, which is appealing to many....but to let go and be free to get away from what I think is a "paint-by-numbers" look is something that requires much practice under the tutelage of an instructor. Your rendition is fabulous. I am also learning about poetry and thank goodness, I have a great teacher.

    WOW....I love this post, you are on your way to learning a great deal about YOURSELF. Ultimately, that's the greatest lesson in my grade book....have a splendid day and thank you! Anita

  4. oh keri, how this topic resonates with me. being a right brained person, drawing eluded me, sad stick figures was all i could produce. wanting to draw, desperately, i went to a renown teacher out west for a 2 week drawing boot camp. everyone was producing just like you, that is but me. in front of the group on the last day, he lit my final drawing on fire......i had flunked.
    two years later i decided to try again, surely with the foundation i had, could only soar. on the last day he hit me on the side of the head and told me in broken english "you embarrass me, no come back, tell no one we met!"

    naturally i am in awe of what you did in 3 hours!

    1. My goodness you should have returned the blow and he couldn't have been a very good teacher, the nerve of that guy! Try again but with a more intuitive mentor, it will only get better. Well maybe not a returned 'blow' but a well how dare you in his face!

    2. Oh my goodness, Debra! How awful! That's really pathetic of him. I'd bet that if you got this book, you'd have better success teaching yourself than under his tutelage!

      You would love my teacher, Audrey. She gets kids as young as 6 to draw. If you're ever down here, you should try out her class. You'd be drawing in 2 classes; I'm sure of it.


  5. Keri! You have a wonderful eye ;-) I must get this book. I have felt the same frustration as you

  6. Keri, I am so happy you are exploring the wonderful world of drawing :). As with anything, just keep at it and you will find your skills at observing the world and recording it as you interpret it grow!

    I loved all the interiors with the framed drawings,


  7. I, like you, wasn't considered at all artistic at school, but started oil painting classes a few years ago, also with a teacher who believes anyone can be taught to draw and paint and teaches us to paint what we actually see without any preconceived notions of what the person/object/landscape looks like. What a revelation. I am loving my art and am actually producing paintings that I'm proud of. Enjoy!! It is definitely my therapy! x Sharon

  8. I am amazed at the difference in your before drawing and after only 3 hours of instruction! Wow! Like you, I am much more left brained, and could never draw anything but a crude stick figure. However, I am beginning to understand that it's the way I "see" things, and just by looking at things differently, maybe I, too, could draw (or at least, draw better). I think having this ability to "see" things differently would also help in so many other aspects, too, like photography and garden design. Thanks for the book recommendation!

  9. Hi, Keri - Thanks for introducing us to this book. The difference between your before and after drawings, WOW!! My niece loves drawing but is frustrated with her skills. I will have to order this book for her.

  10. As an artist and art teacher I am thrilled you are doing this. It takes alot of practice but you are on your way to enlightenment! Art is a huge part of my life and home, and I'm happy you are experiencing it and deepening your appreciation. Happy drawing! Youre doing great!
    xo Nancy

  11. I don't think she could teach me to draw...but wow..she sure helped you. I suspect that you are already a bit creative!

  12. Keri!!!!! How nice to see you today! Thanks for stopping by! How is your summer going? Any of your projects finished for the season? I miss your posts! COME BACK! Thanks so much for your kind visit. Be well! Anita


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