Its not often I have the patience to sit down and read a whole book that doesn't have a story to it. But despite having shelves full of novels to pick up, this is the book that called to me.
I think I picked this book up at just the right time. I had glanced through the first chapter previously, but never really sat down to read any of it, til now. I've been really pushing myself artistically lately, and I feel like I've made progress, but also hit a few walls. In the back of my mind I told myself that I was picking up this book in order to not be drawing (and give my poor aching hand a rest) while still developing my drawing skills.
While some of the concepts and exercises in this book did help me to draw better (if only maybe to remind me of things I already know), drawing skills are just a means to an end in this book.
This is a book about creativity. What it is, how it works, and how you can develop yours.
Betty Edwards is best known for her book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, which contains concepts and exercises that have helped many people who supposedly possessed no artistic "talent" to learn to draw accurately. I started reading that book awhile ago and then life happened and I never made it through.
This book--Drawing on the Artist Within--builds on the concepts of the first. It teaches the same principles of how to draw, but it also makes an argument for why drawing is a useful skill even when you have no desire to become a professional artist. Do you want to be a creative problem solver in any field? Learn to draw.
I have long said that drawing is a skill like reading, or driving, or anything else is a skill, and was gratified to find that view supported and expounded on in this book. True, not everyone catches on to every skill as quickly as others--some learn to read quickly, others take more time and instruction. But anyone with a normal mental capability who can learn to read, or drive, or anything else that it is generally expected that people can learn, can learn to draw what is in front of them. And even if you aren't interested in becoming an artist, either professionally or just on a hobby-level, learning the skill of drawing will help you to be more creative. Is the ultimate goal of learning how to write the production of novels? Is the only purpose of learning to draw the production of gallery paintings? In both cases--of course not. The skill is valuable without using it in a professional creative way.
In this book, the stages of creativity are outlined, and then broken down. Some of the stages--such as "Saturation" or research--require lots of verbal, logical, "Left-brained" thinking. Others--perhaps most importantly, "Illumination," the "Eureka!" moment--require visual, spatial, "Right-brained" thinking. Most schooling today only develops the logical side. This leaves us with only half of the skills necessary to come up with creative solutions to problems.
I will admit, a few of the ideas in this book seemed a bit "Woo-woo" and out there. I'm an Illustrator! I draw what I see, I don't draw my feelings.
Or do I?
In the business of storytelling, it is useful to know the language of shapes, and the concept that most people see certain shapes as angry, and other shapes as happy, or peaceful, or confusing. As an artist, this book helped me to better understand how creating abstract images can be helpful to artists who do representational work. Also, learning to draw accurate representations of what they see can be helpful to artists who do abstract work.
Before I conclude, I wanted to share a few quotes from the book that I found especially interesting.
"Still searching for clues about the precise role of seeing in creative thought, I went back to the statements, letters, and journals of creative individuals. After an unfruitful period of browsing, I suddenly for some reason focused on the words I was reading and saw them in a new light: in nearly every case, I realized, creative individuals have described Illumination, the fourth stage of creativity, in terms of vision. Statement after statement used the verb to see: "All at once I saw the answer!" "It came to me in a dream in which I saw the solution to the problem."
pg 38 (italics from original)
"...drawing is easy when you set up conditions that enable you to simply see and draw what is "out there" without quarreling with your conceptual ideas about how things "should" look."
The following quote reminded me a lot of a Ted talk that I found really interesting, which you can watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86x-u-tz0MA
"The American poet Amy Lowell spoke of dropping a subject for a poem into her mind, "much as one drops a letter into a mailbox." From that point, she said, she simply waited for the answer to come, "by return post." Sure enough, six months later she would find the words of the poem on the chosen subject coming into her head.
"As another example, Norman Mailer, the American writer, in a recent interview used the term "unconscious," but his tone echoes Amy Lowell... "In writing," he said,"you have to be married to your unconscious. [If you've run across a problem in writing] you choose a time and say, 'I'll meet you there tomorrow,' and your unconscious prepares something for you.'"
"For most people, the question "How can I become more creative?" is a deeply significant one. I believe the answer to that question lies within a paradox: that one becomes more creative not by trying to be more creative, but by further developing that part of the mind, the visual, perceptual mode of the brain, which is so deeply involved in creative thinking. I truly believe that learning to see in the artist's mode of seeing is one of the roads that lead to the goal of greater creativity. There are doubtless other avenues, but the biographical notes of creators are clear: visual, perceptual processes are central to creativity."
In conclusion, in case you hadn't figured it out yet: yes, I recommend the book.
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