Perception Boot Camp.
That's what the first month of Drawing 1 is at JDHS, otherwise known as Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards (published by Penguin Putnam, 1979-99). It's not about drawing, as much as it is about different ways to SEE. Most of us have been looking out our eyeballs at the world our entire lives and doing just fine, thank you. So, being told to see DIFFERENTLY might seem silly. Look at it this way (pun intended):
Imagine being an excellent runner - trained for track and field your whole life. You are used to being fast and your legs are super strong, very reliable.
You switch to swimming. Your coaches notices you are not using your arms. They bind your legs, so you MUST use your arms or you drown. You flail, it's uncomfortable, and you think, "THIS IS RIDICULOUS! If I could just use my legs I'd have this DOWN!"
...and, maybe you COULD swim okay with just your legs, and wimpy little useless arms...
But, GOOD swimmers use their arms... A LOT. By isolating the muscles you need to work on, you're forced to build those specific muscles up, until they're strong AND you understand how to engage them, what they're good for, and why you have them... THEN you get to reintroduce the legs:)
That's what we do in Perception Boot Camp.
We practice lots of crazy exercises that bind-up the more dominant, "left-side" of your brain and allow the "right-side" of your brain to practice what it does best - interpreting spatial relationships. Exercises like writing backwards, creating complex "face-vases," zooming in so we can't tell what our subject is or drawing "up-side-down."
The idea of Right vs. Left Brainedness, or split-brain theory, was pioneered by Neuropsychologist and Nobel Laureate, Roger Sperry. Since then, the exact location of specific "brain-muscles"has been questioned, but research concludes the verbal, analytic, and abstract parts of the brain tend to be on the left, and perceptual skills are mainly on the right for most of us. For this reason, I refer to the Left-mode, and Right-mode a lot, during my classes. Just like our arms help balance and propel us as we walk on our legs, we use these "brain modes" together all the time! Now, if we could walk on our hands as easily as our feet, imagine the variety of options and strengths we'd have compared to our average bi-pedal peers... Imagine the diverse scenarios where you could apply these strengths and skills! Would you be discounted in a soccer game for shooting a goal with your hands if it was scored while you were outrunning other players upside down?!
This is why Perception Boot Camp is important to building a strong creative base. Before we start writing poetry, we must learn the ABCs. Before you start being unique and expressive in visual arts you need to swim with your legs bound - er, I mean - draw with your "left-brain mode" turned OFF.
It doesn't like to be turned off. Signs of Left-brain irritation are rushing, feeling bored, using symbols or shortcuts, and looking at the clock. Until these parts of your brain STOP acting out, you will feel like you are going to drown. When you feel like you're in the groove, you lose track of time, and youre enjoying wandering along a line in wonder of it's twists and turns, you are using your "right-brain." This is hard to do at school, because at school, we have to be on time, we have to check that we are doing things right, and summarize the big-picture with a brief abstract.
Drawing class is the one place you get to leave all that behind... For this month, anyway:)
Here's Fall 2014, swimming with our legs bound!
Here are our Face-Vases:
Here're some BEAUTIFUL BLIND contour drawings...
These are "Modified Contour" drawings. We used a plastic picture plane with cross-hairs in it. Then, we used light cross-hairs on our paper to help us get all the parts in proportion to each other and laid out to fill the whole page. It's called "Modified" because, prior to this, we did Blind, or Pure Contour drawings, when we didn't look at our paper at all! With this drawing, we get to peek at our paper and correct for proper line placement.
These are "negative Space Drawings" - Drawings of the spaces around our subject, instead of the subject. Lines in drawing usually represent edges, and edges are always shared, so, sometimes we get a more accurate 2D representation of 3D space when we look at the shapes around what we're trying to draw...
Using your pencil, and a "unit" from your subject to accurately measure angles and proportions...