Strengthening our connection to our Right-Brains: a fun foundation for Watercolor!
How can we improve our ability to render our subjects more accurately and more artistically?
Our stored images of things get in the way of our capacity to truly see that which is right in front of us. Sometimes this can be a good thing…like when my husband continues to see me as the adorable 18 year old girl he once met, and as a result, he glosses over the little things that have changed over the years (like sagging body parts and crows feet. =) This same phenomenon of glossing over reality is not quite as positive when you try to see something as an artist…really see it, as it is in the moment. Our stored images and our symbols for things will often be substituted by our pushy left-brains for the real appearance of something. Our left-brains get in the way of really spending time and dwelling on the details of our subjects. Our left-brains are used to being in charge in the modern world- they keep us on schedule by processing time, store symbols, process speech, and allow us to quickly sort through the chaotic information that crowds our senses on a daily basis. Bottom line: our left-brains are used to being in charge and don’t move out of the way to let our right-brains take over without a fight.
Promoting the connection with your right-brain is something I think is worth your time as an artist. Our right-brains are essential in artistic pursuits. Raising your consciousness of how that right-brain connection feels can take practice. Have you ever felt as if you completely lost track of time while doing something artistic? Have you ever had trouble carrying on a conversation or keeping track of conversation as you’ve been engrossed in writing or some other task you loved? These are symptoms of being in a “right-brain dominant” mode of thinking. It can be a state which very much resembles a high…and which is associated with a feeling of contentment or bliss. I’ve found that art is a wonderful substitute for that blissful state, and it’s a whole lot healthier than some of the other ways of seeking that condition! It can even be a facilitator for meditation. Try playing inspirational music or inspirational books while working on your art, and you might find a wonderful way to inject content into your art and meditation into your process.
One quick and easy exercise for moving your left brain aside and developing some right-brain muscle is doing contour drawing. This term simply refers to the process of drawing without looking at the paper on which you are making your marks, and keeping your eyes focused on the subject you are trying to render. Blind contour drawing is done without looking at your paper at all. You can modify that slightly, by only periodically looking at your paper in order to reorient yourself when you get lost. Both are really good ways to make yourself slow down and SEE your subject. It’s incredible how hard it can be! When I do this, I invariably feel my left brain’s impatience with the process. I begin to think of all the things I should be doing, all the time that is passing, all the reasons why I should hurry up and just get it over with already! Then as I continue the process, I feel a relaxation of awareness and an unveiling of details that were previously missed when I looked before. Nuanced shapes and contour changes become apparent. It is really cool!!
One of my favorite new techniques of late is using a pen called the Elegant Writer. It’s a calligraphy marker. Karlyn Holman referenced this in one of her books, and so I tried it and LOVED it!! I brought the pens into class the other day and shared them with my students, and it was so gratifying to see their reactions and witness the cool paintings that resulted from their usage!! They used contour drawings of images as the foundations for their watercolors, and here are some of the incredible examples of what resulted in that class period…a couple of these have been developed even further since this class, but I don’t have photos yet. Perhaps I’ll post them in a another blog. I hope the photos below can inspire you! If you’ve never given contour drawing a try, I encourage you to spend a little time with it and let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear from you about your experiences…
If you’re interested in reading more on subjects of this sort I would recommend Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. link to purchase Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain
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