Category Archives: Artwork

Drawing Like Betty Edwards

Many people like to draw but don’t know how. There are tons of drawing and painting courses out there but mostly they just let you muck about while giving you a few hints. You may learn a thing or two but progress is agonizingly slow.

Enter Betty Edwards and a revolutionary method, based on exercises that bypass the analytical left brain hemisphere and give the spatial and creative right hemisphere free reign.

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain was a ground-breaking book when it came out in 1979. I bought it in 1991 and was amazed at the before and after pictures. Students went from stick figures to amazing portraits in less than a week.

Here’s an example:

Go to and click on Previous/Next or do a search for “betty edwards before and after drawings” for more examples.

I was inspired and went ahead with the exercises. The results were nothing short of amazing but somehow, I never made it through more than one third of the book and postponed the rest of the book until some other day. That other day didn’t arrive until 2004, when I saw an advertisement for a course in my home town. I jumped at the opportunity, and a few weeks later I was in a classroom with ten other would-be artists.

The course was by Marianne Snoek (based in Belgium), and below are some of my before and after pictures.

The first image is a drawing from the imagination, the second a self-portrait. Both were done on the first day of the course. I think the drawing of my own hand was done on the second day. The next two hand drawings are from day 4, and the following three portraits are from day five, which was the last day of the course. There’s a self-portrait which shows a remarkable improvement over the first day portrait, a side view portrait of one of my fellow participants and finally a side view portrait of me by another participant.

What I took away from the course is that mostly when we draw, we don’t draw what we see. When we draw an eye, for instance, we draw what we think an eye looks like. In other words, we draw a symbol. Betty teaches you to draw curves and shades instead of symbols. In effect, she teaches you to draw what you see, and this way, you learn to see differently. You learn to see as an artist.

This way of seeing will benefit you tremendously as an artist, also when you draw from your imagination. On the other hand, when you draw from imagination, you will also benefit from more traditional art training. I’ll be sharing more about that in future posts.

See Amazon for Betty Edwards’ two books:

Copyright © 30-10-2017 Theo van der Ster

See also How to Become an Artist or Die Trying

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Bertram’s One and Only Braincell

I like pop art. And I very much like what artists like Roy Lichtenstein did with the genre. So often, when I get an idea for a piece of art, that will be the style it will be in. I also like art with a story and a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor.

What to say about Bertram’s One and Only Surviving Braincell? I’ll let the work speak for itself.

Above are the line drawing and the flats. Below is the finished work, with shadows, highlights, text balloons and a halftone background.

I created this in Clip Studio, a very affordable app for exactly this kind of artwork. Clip Studio is a Japanese product and is also sold as Manga Studio.

Copyright © 1-11-2017 Theo van der Ster

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How to Become an Artist or Die Trying

We all have dreams when we’re young. Mostly, they’re not very realistic. After all, society’s need for cowboys, Indians and knights isn’t what it used to be, and we can’t all be astronauts either.

Me, I wanted to be an artist. I could draw quite well and even though I’d never been inside a museum, I knew about famous painters like Rembrandt and Picasso.

My parents were less than thrilled when I told them. This is how it went, more or less.

“You want to be a what?”

“An artist. You know, paintings and shit.”

‘Don’t you use that kind of language with me, young man.”

‘What? Like artist?”

“You know very well which words, smartass! Dad, come over here and listen what your son wants to be when he grows up.”

“He knows what he wants to be? Great! And he hasn’t even started school yet. What is it son? You want to be an electrician like your dad?”

“No, dad, I want to be an artist. You know, paintings and… well, paintings.”

“Hmm, an artist, huh. Well, you draw a mean horse, I’ll give you that. But, you know, son, we’re not always gonna be around to feed you, you know.”

“What do you mean, dad?”

‘I mean there’s no money in it. Can’t make a living as an artist. Well known fact. Look at whatsisname, Van Gogh. Cut off his own ear because no one wanted to buy his stuff. Damn right, too, if you ask me. Any child could do a better job. Square heads and all them limbs in the wrong places…”

“I think that’s Picasso, dad.”

“Whatever. These artsy types all sound the same to me. Bums and tramps, the lot of them. Dirt-poor, they all are.”

“I actually think Picasso is very rich, dad.”

“Yes, well, some of them get lucky, that’s all. But most of them don’t have two pennies to rub together. No, you’re much better off learning a decent trade. You can’t go wrong with that, believe me, I know.”

“Yes, I … I suppose you know best, dad.”

“Of course he does. Learned his trade the hard way, your father did. Always provided for us, even when times were bad. Didn’t have a penny to his name when I married him — that was in the War, mind you — but he studied evenings and learned on the job, and look where he is now.”

“Where is he now, mom?”

“He’s in a decent job, that’s where he is, making a good living, too. Even got his own moped to drive to work. He’s done well, and it didn’t come easy, I can tell you.”

“So … I can’t be an artist, then?”

“Of course you can. Drawing is a great hobby. Look at that nice portrait you did of aunt Lena the other day…”

“That was actually a horse, mom.”

“A horse?”

“Yes, I like horses.”

“Hmm. Yes, of course. But you might try drawing the odd portrait every once in a while. People like it if you draw their portrait, you know.”

“I suppose. But what’s the use if I can’t sell them?”

“Well, far be it from us to stand in your way. You want to be an artist, go right ahead. Don’t mind us. We’re only your parents. What do we know? But don’t say we didn’t warn you.

“Now, why don’t you take your sketchbook and do a nice portrait of your mom?”

“Perhaps some other time, mom. I’m not really in the mood for drawing right now.”

So I gave up. I shouldn’t have but I did. Hey, I was still a kid, and I did as I was told. It left a void, though, which I never filled with anything else. I didn’t do too well at school and joined the workforce at age fifteen as an apprentice printer.

I’m not sorry. What’s done is done. But it’s never too late to start anew. Every day’s a new beginning. Below are a few drawings I did when I was ten. They’re not bad for a ten year old, but I must admit I haven’t progressed all that much. In the coming months, I’m going to see how far I can take this.

For a wonderful account of a young boy who doesn’t let himself be distracted from his vocation, read My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok. This link will take you to Amazon’s $4.22 Kindle edition. I read the book when I was a teenager and it made a deep impression. You may also want to read the sequel: The Gift of Asher Lev.

Copyright © 28-10-2017 Theo van der Ster

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