Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

As a long-time student of Holly Lisle, I’ve long ago learned to trust her methods, whether or not they make sense to me right off the bat. (Rarely, I’ll come across a technique that she swears by that just doesn’t work for me–but, hey, she never claimed to have The One True Way. In fact, she’s pretty adamant about the fact that there is no such thing.)

So, when I saw somewhere on her site (or possibly in one of her courses? it’s been a while, so I’m not sure) that she recommends the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain to absolutely everyone, without reservations, regardless of whether they even want to learn to draw… well, I had to look into it.

So far, I’m glad that I did.

As a disclaimer, I should probably mention that I’ve always been okay at drawing. Not stellar (or even, in my opinion, good)–but not rotten either. See Exhibit A: drawing of my own hand, done at the beginning of the course.


Again–not exactly noteworthy, but it is, recognizably, a hand. Just not a very pretty one. Oh, and it took me about an hour to draw it. Yikes.

See also, Exhibit B: A self-portrait, also done at the start of the course, of which I am exceedingly proud…


… because most times when I try to draw someone, it turns out more like Exhibit C: drawing a person from memory.


Yeah. Not so great.

In fact, I’m pretty certain that the only reason I was able to get my self-portrait to resemble a realistic human face, if not really my own face, is because I’d spent so long drawing my hand first. So, my Right Brain had already taken over by the time I started in on my self-portrait. And, as Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain explains so well and so thoroughly, the key to drawing well is to shift into Right-Brain-mode.

As I’ve been going through the course, I’ve been learning a lot about Right-vs.-Left Brain tendencies. And, as a result, I’ve learned why sometimes I’m able to crank out something realistic, while other times my drawings come out frustratingly childish. The difference, as you’ve probably guessed, is my realistic (aka “good”) drawings occur when I’m able to slip into Right-Brain-mode, while I get childish (aka “bad”) drawings when I don’t make the shift, and wind up drawing in Left-Brain-mode.

I’ll be continuing to work through Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain as I find time, but already I can say it’s a book I’d recommend to everyone, as I’m already seeing an improvement. That self-portrait I drew? It took me at least 90 minutes of painstaking work. After working my way through nearly half of the course, I managed to draw this picture of a photo…


… in twenty minutes, tops. Probably closer to ten, since I was sitting at a bar, distracted by drinks and people as I drew it.

When I finish the course, I’ll do another drawing of my hand, another self-portrait, and another drawing of that same face from memory, and put them up here for comparison.

tl;dr: Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is a fantastic book, whether you want to learn to draw, want to learn WHY you can already draw, or just want to learn more about the two halves of your brain.