In our blog post two weeks ago (to view the blog click here), I described the shock I got from my first report card—the dreaded kindergarten report card. Over the years I had remembered it a pass-fail system, perhaps it was a little softer than that. I mentioned previously that for the first semester I received the bad “minus” sign scores in cutting, pasting and coloring and the good “X” sign in everything else. For many years after that I was certain that I could not do well in anything related to art, especially those things that required cutting, pasting or coloring. Being good in math, I turned to math and science as a source of positive academic feedback. I remember taking only one art class after kindergarten. I hated it and it hated me.
Two years ago, we were asked to show a group in an upcoming workshop that “left-brained people” could become more “right- brained.” In response, I started thinking again about my own creative skills. In the midst of those preparations, I was introduced by a friend to the book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by the well-known art teacher, Betty Edwards. My friend said that in the book she boldly states that “anyone can draw.” I was sure I wasn’t in her “anyone” group. I knew I couldn’t draw, and I couldn’t learn to draw. I’ve known that for sure for 60 years.
However, in the interest of trying to become more right-brained, I decided to put her assertion to the test. I bought Edwards’ book and the recommended supplies. When it all came in the mail, I immediately opened it. I found a video starring the author and various art supplies. I almost laughed out loud when I realized that I now owned the tools that real artists use to create their work. I will admit I was a little bit excited—maybe I can draw, I thought. No, not possible, I countered.
The first assignment was a self-portrait. With mirror, sketch pad and pencil in hand, I proceeded to draw something that only slightly resembled a human being. I moved on from exercise to exercise, slowly progressing, using principles she carefully introduced. One of the most memorable principles was that drawing is done primarily with the eyes, not just the hands. It’s about seeing. Another was the concept of negative spaces: draw everything that frames the subject and you will have drawn the subject. This seemed simple enough; it was.
Slowly, as I spent 40 hours in self-directed art training spread across two weeks, a new-found skill emerging. I could draw! I was amazed at the results. I realized many things from this experience. 1. My kindergarten report card was filled with suggestions, not statements of permanent conditions. 2. Anyone can draw, if they have good instruction. 3. And most important for our discussion here, drawing activates the right side of the brain or at least uses the right mode of the brain. (Clarifying that distincition is conversation for another day.) As my right brain became more active through drawing, I immediately noticed that my thoughts were filled with new, creative ideas, some of which we introduced in future Edison Events.
At one of these events, an expert on Thomas Edison’s life observed that as Edsion worked on the design stage, his creativity was enhanced. In other words, as he drew his innovations, he was improving his own creativity and better innovations were the result.
You may remember from the earlier blog about my kindergarten report card, a published book came when I challenged my feelings that I couldn’t create fiction (To see the book I wrote click here). So far, I have only held very, very small private showings of my art work, but the response has been almost universal, something like, “Not bad for someone who can’t draw.” Flattery works.
We suggest that if you are working on an innovation, take time to draw it out on paper, not just in your mind. For most, an improved product will result. Or as Betty Edwards put it, drawing may “enhance your ability to think more creatively in other areas of your life.”