Back off my Brain, Betty

Betty Edwards is a well known name in the drawing world. She is the author of “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,” which brought together a budding understanding of the brain with the common frustrations among beginning artists when it was first published in 1979. But does her theory that accessing our right-brained mode will enhance our visual & drawing skills stand up to the latest in neuroscience? Do right-brain exercises indeed help us learn to draw? Does Betty know what’s up without brains? Or do we need to tell her to back off and adopt a new theory?
We’ve learned a lot about neuroscience in the past 30 plus years. In “Drawing on an Outdated Theory,” the authors overview her premise. We have the 2 hemispheres of the brain:
-Right visual perceptual
-Left verbal/analytic
“Ok sure Betty,” the authors seem to retort, “left-ride differences were big news in the 60’s, but since then we know that there is SO much more going on within each part of the brain.”
Modern research is showing that to cut the brain in half and assign major roles to each side takes away from the interconnectedness of the hemispheres.
So, although research done post 90’s doesn’t support the “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’s” claim that on or the other side of the brain takes over during certain activities,  it seems to remain a good metaphor.
The funny part is, even though Betty was wrong about the underlying structuring of the brain when she first published her book, her techniques and explanation really get results. Her students are able to improve their skills by adopting her way of thinking and looking more deeply as they draw. Her right-brained exercises stimulate ways of looking and questioning as you draw that create excellent drawing habits.
Thoughtco’s article on this subject calls the R/L brain difference “One of the Great Myths of the brain.” They tell us science isn’t up to snuff, but the method has been proven so often that we shouldn’t take away from a positive practice. Just be aware your brain is not only functioning or better functioning on one side
So what’s an artist to do? Well, let’s not ban Betty. Keep an eye out for the next couple of blog posts where we will check out her methods and how to put them to good use. Although we can’t say that the science is sound behind the right/left brain theory, the work works!

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