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 drawright.com 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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