Monday, February 8, 2010

Left and Right Brains and The Importance of Value in Drawing

Let the record show that I’m not qualified to tell anybody how to draw, in that the only professional art job I’ve held is that of a caricature artist for Kamans Art Shoppes. Once in a blue moon, I’ll get a caricature gig, and once in an even bluer moon, I’ll get a commission. I do, however, have some ideas about drawing, and they may not be new ideas but I can tell you how they make sense to me, so I if you’re someone who hath ears to hear and are able to learn that way, I got some thoughts for you.

But first, watch this video because its really really interesting and has to do with what I'm gonna talk about. Its about the separation between the left and right brain. Also, her voice is really funny, so its a win win.

This lesson is mostly for beginning artists, especially caricature artists. First off, there’re two types of drawing. There’s drawing with the left brain and drawing with the right brain. The more these two hemispheres cooperate, the better. The left brain uses drawing to build/construct. It makes stuff up. Here is me drawing mostly with my left brain.

The right brain responds directly to that which it sees. Here’s an example of me trying to draw mostly with my right brain.

Line is typically used to draw with the left brain. This may be because the left brain thinks linearly. It plans out a path and takes that path. Just like a trip to the grocery. The left brain uses this line to establish shapes in a sorts, rather than to pick up milk and eggs, hit the ATM first and drop off library books on the way back.

The right brain cannot do this. The right brain doesn’t even choose what to draw, or how to draw it. It doesn't pick out important information. It doesn't prioritize. It only feels the pencil in the hand and responds directly to the visual stimuli before it.

What we see with our eyes is NEVER line. It is always value, darks and lights. Line is the left brain making sense of this. Drawing teachers will tell you to hold the pencil sideways or have you use charcoal and this is why. It helps force you to respond to those values rather than making stuff up.

The objective of pure observational drawing is to strengthen the connection between the hand, the eye, and the object being drawn.

With that in mind, look at this face.

The eye can be recreated fairly easy with line and so can the mouth, at least well enough to impress your grandma or your anime friends, but the nose and the mustache is a different story. This is because what we see when we look at this nose is relationships between soft and hard shadows. There's the dark of the nostril, the light of the ring shape at the end of the nose and everything in between. The outer edge of the nostril aka the nose parenthesis is slightly darker than the rest of the skin. Its lowest point is darker still, then it gets lighter as we head in toward the nostril which is so much a gradient shape that one really can't say where it begins and ends. My point is that the nose serves to prove to us that nothing really is made of line. This is, of course, the case with the eyes and mouth and everything else as well, but the nose makes this especially apparent.

Drawing faces from observation and relying on value is very good and also fun. When it comes time to make up a nose using only line, you will know more precisely what kind of object you are constructing and you will be much more comfortable.

That's my lesson, boys and girls. Thank you for reading and I would love it if you have any critique to offer with my wording or ideas.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this.

The picture of the face you were making reference to didn't show up for me on FireFox.

But all the well, good read fa sho.

Ryan golden said...

You have awesome posting skills indeed.

Aaronphilby said...

Thank you, Ryan GUH Golden. I wish someone would disagree with me, cuz it don't see right that I'm saying that the more crazy creative drawing ought to be the right brain one, and maybe it is. I'm unsure about what I'm claiming here.

justfrancesca said...


Eddie Van Gogh said...

very insightful, I like it!

Aaronphilby said...

Thanks Eddie and Francesca