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Here's an experiment for you.
Would you just take a piece of paper, please, and draw an eye from memory,
as accurate as you can.
(Not looking at an eye,
but from memory.)
Take 5 minutes to do so.
Now compare your drawing with this drawing of an eye. Does it look similar?
If it's very different, you need
how to see properly.
Learn to See Right Before You Learn to
They say, when
you draw you'll see more.
But only if you see right can you draw right.
If you draw right, it might feel wrong but turn out right.
Seeing and drawing can lead to new and very enjoyable insights.
In humble objects, such as apparently rather unattractive flowers,
there are details waiting to be discovered.
Learning to see right helps you to look at things as if with different eyes,
and it helps you to draw. And paint.
So here’s a suggestion for you:
Take one of those "weeds" or "unattractive flowers" you’re going to find outside,
and study it with a magnifying glass.
Take your time over it.
You will notice the structure of the leaves and petals,
and that surprisingly there is phantastic order and design in the minutest details.
The glittering reflection of the light from the perhaps silverly hairs on the stem
might surprise you; the tiny centre within the blossom may reveal details
previously hidden from your view, - you’ve simply never looked that close.
But there is more.
Take an object you know well.
A chair for instance. Any chair.
Try to draw it, - place it at whatever angle you like, and draw it.
More than likely it will turn out wrong somehow. Why is that?
It's because usually we don’t see right.
No, it’s not that we should get a new pair of glasses.
What we need is to be able to look at things differently.
The trouble is, we only assume that we see right.
From childhood up we’ve known certain facts about what surrounds us,
and we have created patterns in our mind which serve us very well
when we need to recognise what’s in front of us.
But when it comes to drawing, these patterns mislead us.
When drawing, different laws apply.
We need to draw, not what we KNOW, but exactly what we SEE.
And there’s the difference.
People think drawing is an art, when in fact “seeing right” is the art.
Anybody can draw, unless you have a motoric problem or can’t use your hands
for other reasons (or your feet for that matter, there are artists who draw and
paint using their feet). If you can see right you can draw right.
Alright, so how can we learn to see right?
It involves practice.
We have to get away from the knowledge and symbols we got used to as
These symbols prevent us from seeing things the way they really are.
We need to look at something that we want to draw,
and have “a really good look” at it, a long one, - study the object
and perceive lots of details, register as much as you can.
This takes time. Take the time.
This will make it possible for you to see RIGHT. Seeing right for drawing takes place in the right side of the brain,
and the right side will only become active if you take your time.
So keep looking.
This is when you might notice for example that in a face
(go and have a look in the mirror) the eyes are actually located
exactly in the vertical middle between the top of the head and the chin,
- and not anywhere further up as many people would place them when drawing.
When you see right or look right, you'll notice that a path that extends in front of
of which you KNOW that it runs in parallel lines, is not parallel at all to look at,
and therefore it needs to be drawn, not parallel,
but with an angle opening towards you to reflect the right perspective.
And these are just two examples.
So while looking at something, it is useful to
study angles and sizes and lengths in relation to each other.
Forget WHAT the object is, and don’t name the parts in your mind,
- much rather concentrate on exactly what you SEE,
lines going up, lines curving, an angle here, another bigger one there,
the length of this line compared to the length of something else -,
then if you put that down in your drawing, just as you really see it,
as wrong as it may feel, it'll come out right.
It’s actually very simple once you know how to see right.
But in case you’re still wondering,
more information about seeing right and how it relates to the left side
and the right side of the brain can be found in Betty Edward's fascinating book
"Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain". And, no, I’m not paid to mention her book. I’m simply happy that I can see things
for what they are.
(And when you look at these seemingly insignificant things
out in nature,
you can see something else, something that's logical but not
visible as such.
You can see the evidence that there is a
powerful amazing Creator behind it all,
the greatest Artist in the Universe! - But then
that's perhaps a different subject ...).
Seeing With the Right Side of Your Brain
Analysing perceptive skills while you bring the Inconspicuous
to full view.
I still remember the ah-ha! effect when I first learned to see, -
The secret to creating and enjoying in art lies in looking at things
in a different way.
We can learn how to look, make the effort to really look, train the
eye to see and study an image, - and familiar ordinary objects can
By using an innovative, lateral approach, our perception changes
and we gain insight into what seemed much less obvious
Kimon Nicolaides wrote in The Natural Way to Draw :
"Learning to draw is really a matter of learning to see correctly
and that means a good deal more than merely looking with the eye."
Author Betty Edwards in her book Drawing on the Right Side
of the Brain (ISBN 0-00-638114-6) links creativity and seeing
with a very interesting scientific concept.
She identifies the cognitive difference between the left and the
right side of the brain and applies it to art.
By allowing the usually subordinate right side of the brain to
take over, we can change to a mode that can imagine realities,
"we understand metaphors, we dream, we create new
combinations of ideas" (page 35).
The right hemisphere is the part of the brain responsible for
imagination, visualisation, perceptual or spatial skills, creativity,
The R-mode is "curvy, flexible, more playful in its unexpected
twists and turns, more complex, diagonal, fanciful", "making leaps
of insight, often based on incomplete patterns, hunches, feelings,
or visual images. Seeing whole things all at once; perceiving the
overall patterns and structures, often leading to divergent conclusions".
Photography, whether as an art form or as a basis to create drawings and paintings, can benefit from this knowledge.
The best pictures focus on simple and uncomplicated ideas.
The key to successful photography is making the effort to REALLY LOOK.
Select an object and concentrate on a specific aspect of it.
Isolate a part of the object or a detail, select your viewpoint carefully,
and make it unusual, fill the frame, and decide how to frame the picture most effectively, and allow yourself to be subjective and confident of your own personal and distinctive style.
You can train your vision by looking through the viewfinder often, or even through a little frame, like many artists do.
Pre-design the picture in your mind, make a composition.
Be realistic though: while the eye will adjust and will make it appear as if it can focus on everything at once, it will concentrate on the object of interest within its view, it also seems to even out contrasts in lighting, - yet the camera will depend on an adjustment of depth of field and lighting and will freeze movement too.
While rules run contrary to the above idea, it is generally recommendable to use a slow film - or equivalent setting in digital cameras - to make use of effective lighting natural or assisted by for example the use of white card to reflect light back on smallish objects -, and to exclude anything that would only clutter the picture.
Either MOVE IN CLOSE, or adjust your format between horizontal or vertical (it could even be in between, the camera tilted at 45 degrees for special effect), and exclude an unnecessary background.
Concentrate on either detail or pattern or colour, select an unusual but attractive section from an interesting fresh viewpoint, and you are set to make a striking impact.
With time and forethought, details that otherwise might have escaped notice can be arranged to express a lot of atmosphere.