Drawing of Stravinsky By Nick

So the drawing isn’t the hard part.

I’ve wanted to improve my drawing skills for several years. A few years ago I bought a copy of Betty Edwards’ book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, and I’ve flipped through it a couple of times but I’ve just never sat down and done the exercises. A few months ago did the first exercise, but then got busy with this and that and never continued. But this weekend, for several reasons including a need to draw more frequently at work as well as an interest in story-boarding that has laid hold of me lately, I pulled the book out and I’m determined to get through it. It’s my hope that improving my drawing skills will help my confidence in the creative areas of my life as well as help me improve at using whiteboards during presentations.

I was kind of shocked by the results of today’s exercise. So much so that I feel compelled to share it with you in the hopes that it may inspire some of you to give drawing, and particularly Mrs. Edwards’ book, a try.

The exercise involved copying a line drawing of Igor Stravinsky done by Picasso in 1920. Here’s how mine turned out.

Drawing of Stravinsky by Picasso
Piscasso’s Stravinsky

Drawing of Stravinsky By Nick
My Stravinsky

Given that this is one of my first attempts at drawing, I was pretty happy with the results. It’s certainly no where near perfect, but it’s much closer than I would have expected.

So how did this happen? The secret is…

The picture was upside down as I drew it.


This is what I saw as I drew.

This exercise was designed to demonstrate the differences between left-brained and right-brained seeing. Apparently what happens is that the visual, holistic right-brain is really good at perceiving shapes which is essential for drawing well. But the right brain gets tricked by the analytical, verbal, symbolic left brain when you’re looking at something. You see a nose and then try to draw a nose based on what you think a nose should look like not on what’s actually in front of you.


The picture in the book. I had never seen the picture right-side up before I started drawing.

According to Edwards, turning the picture upside down before you draw it forces you to see the picture exactly as it is without the pesky left-brain trying to understand the picture first. And you can see the results. I thought I couldn’t draw, but clearly that’s not the case. Instead, maybe the answer is that I just can’t see properly. The rest of the book is full of exercises that will hopefully help me learn to switch to “right-brain mode” at will and help me unlock my latent drawing skills.

I’m pretty excited about this. Here’s a skill I didn’t even I know I might have. I obviously don’t know how well the rest of the course works yet, but if you’ve ever wanted to draw but thought you didn’t have the natural skills, I’d recommend giving this book a chance.

Have any of you had similar experiences with drawing or other artistic skills you didn’t think you had? I’d love to hear about them.

  • lovingthelightning

    Hey Nick,

    I was going to make some snarky (slash sincere) comment about how cool it was that you were discovering your drawing strengths–NOW, but this exercise, and you drawing ability, is really rad! This is pretty awesome.

    • http://advanceyourslides.com Nick Smith

      You know, I would have thought that drawing took a lot of talent before and that I was just trying to see if this was a strength or not, but now it seems that it’s just a learned skill. I’m pretty excited to learn more!

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