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A Writer Learns to Draw – Lesson 1

November 6, 2015

How do I change my perception? I know there’s more to life than I’m seeing beyond mundane daily tasks and news grabbing world events. There’s something more rich than I’ve ever experienced in the unseen. I know this to be true as I’m able to see aura colors around people and ghosts around loved ones.

I want to dive deeper into the magical unknown. Without being able to describe it, how do I tap into it? I recently came up with a plan to go deeper into the mystery of life.

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Dr. Wayne Dyer

A couple of years ago I started practicing Soaring Crane Qigong. It lifted me so high above any problem that I was able to see differently. They were but specs of dust on the surface of the earth. What was I worried about?

With qigong, I learned a zoom out way of perceiving and now with drawing, I’m exploring a zoom in perception. I recently dusted off an old copy of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (Copyright 1989). I remember buying the book, a sketch pad, drawing pencils and eraser with eagerness to learn how to draw. When I opened the sketch pad the other day, the only rudimentary drawings were dated May 18, 1998. Did I give up so soon? No, the timing wasn’t right. Now is the right time, as I can look at this project with sensory awareness that I didn’t have back then.

Let me make myself clear, I don’t know how to draw. My animal and human figures have stick legs and carrot noses. But I was inspired by the quotes in the book. After learning to draw, students said, “Life seems so much richer now” and “I didn’t realize how much there is to see and how beautiful things are.”

The main principle of the book is “drawing is a global (or whole) skill requiring only a limited set of basic components.” Global skills include activities such as reading, driving, and riding a bike – once you’ve mastered components and integrated them, you don’t have to remember how to do it, it comes naturally. Same with drawing.

Drawing requires learning five perceptual skills as laid out in the exercises in the book: perception of edges, spaces, relationships, lights and shadows, and perception of the whole. There are many techniques and other basic skills beyond these lessons that a student can develop to master the art of drawing. But with perceptual training, students learn the basics and are able to create realistic drawings in a short period of time.

Gertrude Stein asked the French artist Henri Matisse whether, when eating a tomato, he looked at it the way an artist would. Matisse replied: “No, when I eat a tomato I look at it the way anyone else would. But when I paint a tomato, then I see it differently.”

In this training, students become conscious to how their brain handles information. The left hemisphere of the brain is verbal and analytical thinking while the right side is visual and perceptual thinking. In our society, it tends more natural to use our left hemisphere thinking because that’s our language center. Learning to control how the brain handles information opens up access to powerful brain functions that are overshadowed by language. The strategy of this teaching is to understand perceptual brain processes and offer techniques in accessing and controlling these processes.

People gather visual information by scanning the environment using a whole brain process. The visual data they gather is then interpreted in ways depending on beliefs and experiences. People see what they expect to see based on conditioning. This is not conscious awareness as the brain alters and sometimes disregards the raw data of vision. They only see what they believe is possible. When students learn perception through drawing, it alters the brain process to allow a more direct, unedited way of seeing.

Anyone can learn how to draw if they learn how to see. Using the right brain transports the student into an altered state of awareness, similar to meditation, exercising and listening to music. It opens up the consciousness to inventive, intuitive and imaginative powers by taking the student beyond mundane details of daily life to develop the ability to perceive things in a complete way. New possibilities bubble to the surface, as do creative solutions to problems. This can enhance confidence in decision-making.

“To be shaken out of the ruts of ordinary perception, to be shown for a few timeless hours the outer and the inner world, not as they appear to an animal obsessed with words and notions, but as they are apprehended, directly and unconditionally, by Mind at Large – this is an experience of inestimable value to everyone.” Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception

These exercises are designed for those who cannot draw. It teaches the basic fundamentals in learning to draw realistically. Eek! Following the instructions in the book, my first drawing is a preinstruction drawing before learning anything about perception. As I was drawing it, I noticed my inner critic going wild with how perfect it was not. I have not taken a drawing class, at least to my recollection. Maybe from Mr. Carlson in seventh grade? In this first drawing, I put my pencil lightly to the paper, out of trepidation and also so it wouldn’t be hard to erase the mistakes.

Both my sisters are super creative artists. When I showed one of them my first attempt, I asked with great pride, “does this look like me?’ No, was her response. I smiled. I knew it didn’t look like me but I was proud the portrait didn’t have a carrot nose.

In this series, my intention is to learn how to draw. Whether it will be good or not remains to be seen. This is an exciting journey as I explore and come up with a new awareness of the beauty around me. I hope you’ll join me!

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