Chapter 4

The Brainstorm

4.1 - Brief insight into modern brain-research

It seems that when reading about the human brain one often finds experts referring to the right and the left hemispheres. These two sides apparently serve two entirely different purposes though they are strongly connected (corpus callosum) . The differentiation between the two hemispheres is interesting in connection with this thesis because the right part is strongly associated with artistic expression.

While for most people the two hemispheres work so well together that the split is unnoticeable, there are certain people who - after an operation in order to help a condition of epilepsy - have no connection between the two halves. Tests with these people have shown that the split exists and what the two halves are responsible for. Thus we can now say that the right side of the brain is largely in control of the left hand , eye, and the left part of the body in general, as well as 3D-construction, and the sense for pattern and composition. It is almost entirely non-verbal, synthetic, musical and holistic. The importance of this discovery is obvious and has been developed in connection to drawing by Betty Edwards in her book "Drawing with the right side of the brain".

Portrait of Igor Strawinsky by Pablo Picasso - Edwards suggests to draw this up-side-down in order to employ the right hemisphere, because we cannot recognise the image as easily and thus are able to actually see the lines, not what they represent.

Edwards describes that students whose drawing dramatically improved 'seemed unable to find the words to describe specifically what they were doing differently'.

She herself found that she could only either draw or talk, never the two together. Edwards' apparently successful method of teaching drawing is to get the students to use their right hemisphere. To achieve this she employs tricks that knock out the more dominant left hemisphere, including :

  • negative spaces
  • up-side-down viewing
  • measuring
  • mirror reverse viewing
  • etc.

In other words ,ways to see and draw a line with a certain shape, not (e.g.) a nose, and how we assume a nose looks. Those who have managed to use the right side of the brain understand why some people describe drawing as easy. The left hemisphere is incapable of drawing, because the lines it sees and creates are merely used to fit the verbal idea, not an abstract line.

measuring the proportions of the human scull

Today even some professional artists are unable to draw realistically because they rely on the left side of the brain to take on this task. At the same time these people show a great understanding and sense of composition and colour while working on abstract images.

The reason for this is clear. When working on abstract images the left hemisphere automatically passes the task onto the right side.