You're blocking ads, which pay for BlenderNation. Read about other ways to support us.

Book: Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain


drawingontherightsideofthebrain.jpgIn my adolescent years I had a friend who was very good at drawing. He could draw cartoons and accurately recreate what he saw. I was in awe if his ability especially since I could not even draw a human stick figure the same way twice. He was a “natural” artist. He tried to teach me and his first attempt was to get me to draw a short straight line. He made it look so easy!

Having finally achieved a somewhat straight line he next had me go onto drawing a small circle without taking the pencil off the paper. His were always these perfect, round circles. Mine, well it was a disaster. So after much practice and frustration I eventually gave up on learning drawing. I assumed that it was not one of my “natural” talents.

Many years later, which was about five or six years ago, I came across this book 'Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain' by Betty Edwards. The author's concept is that all people can learn to draw what they see by using techniques to trick the right side of the brain to take over and block out the left side. This right side is the artistic side the left side the more analytical.

Before and after by a nine year old girl

So I decided to give it a try with a bit of skepticism. Wow, I could not believe it. In just the first few exercises I was able to accurately draw my hand and sneaker. I kept saying to myself, I did that! Now I'm no Leonardo DaVinci, but I can now do a reasonable human likeness. And, this has helped to understand and get better at organic modeling.


Since I started writing for Blender Nation a few weeks ago, I've noticed a common trait among many Blender users in my interviews, research and in the comments. It is that many Blenderheads are self taught. Which makes sense when you think about it. Blender being free.

So with that in mind, I thought that I would share my experiences with you and the books that have helped me along the way. Also, I'd love to hear your experiences too, so leave me a comment below. Tell me what books you have in your library that have helped you to be a better modeler and or animator. What do you like or dislike about them.


  1. Amazing book. Have it myself and when anyone says that it greatly improves their drawing there is never any exageration. I actually have this book to thank for my inspiration to really get into art. Even someone who isn't into drawing will love how much better their art looks after reading this book. I would recommend this book many times over.

  2. Wrong or bad book

    "before" you've made personal drawings, your "inner vision", the girls looks very "nice" ( too small to
    really judge) and "after", you've made uninteresting academical ones....

  3. Hey, I remember that book! It really helped me as well. It's a classic and most public libraries (remember those?) should already have it on their shelves. If they don't, you can request that they get it and most often they will.

  4. For a real Academic study "The Natural Way to draw" by Kimon Nicolaides is also a very good companion to drawing on the right side. Also for animation I'd like to reccomend "Timing for animation" by Harold Whitaker. Any other books? People might reccomend?

  5. I noticed that this is in the Miscellaneous category. This isn't the first book that's been highlighted on BN and it may be a good idea to create a Books category. I think it would be helpful to easily locate those types of posts, especially with the wave of publications that seem to be on the horizon. Just a thought...

  6. Hmmm, I will defitnely take a look at that book. Thanks for the heads up.
    I've downloaded all the Andrew Loomis books. It is certainly a must have!!!
    The strange thing is: I've done this test (link found at Blender artist forums) which is called: which side of you brain is dominant?
    I've always had the talent do draw good. But the test shows that I'm 81% left and 18% right, which according to the test, that I'm a very analytic person, which is very true also. Maybe the 18% of my right brain happens to be my surviving artistic side lol.

    You should take a look also at the CGTALK forums. There is some tutorials that is kick ass. Especialy that guy that is using open canvas. Of course twisted brush is a nice tool too (and that is an understatement)....

  7. I read this book 16 years ago.

    It is a great book for anyone wanting to learn how to really 'see', to learn how to draw. This books tells it like it is - naturalistic ('realistic') drawing is a technical skill that anyone with a bit of eyesight and usable limbs can learn.

    oto - try the book before you judge it.

  8. Also the best thing when learning to draw is to contiunally practice, and adapt a carefree frame of mind. Reading these books are great but the best thing is to keep up the skill long after you've finished the book. Also I tend to agree with Oto, sometimes the most interesting drawings are the ones that don't look like a Da Vinci.

  9. Yes, definitely a great book.

    Several words of advice to those of you out there who have either read it or are going to.

    This book definitely teaches you how to draw what you see, which is DEFINITELY an important part of the drawing process. It will not however, teach you how to draw from your imagination or to understand exactly what you are seeing. Not at first any ways.

    Use this book to learn how to do correct observational drawing. Draw from life as much as you can, not from photographs. Draw subjects with simple lighting setups. No more than 1 key light and one bounce light!!

    Adding more lights makes form very hard to understand when learning to draw. Drawing with direct sunlight on your subject is probably one of the best lighting setups you can use to learn.

    If you must draw from a photograph, make sure the lighting is simple in it as well. But keep in mind that photgraphs have form already flattened. The most you are doing is copying shapes, not reading and understanding form.

    One other thing I'd like to mention. A lot of people who try to do 3d see it as a way to get around the ability to draw. This is a really bad idea. Learning to draw will help your 3d in so many ways. For one, you'll have the proper ability to judge proportions and make measurements. For two, how can you expect to model something accurately if you can't see it accurately to being with. For three, drawing something first is a much quicker way to get a scene down and conceptualized than modelling is. You'll make less mistakes. Use a sketch as a plan for your 3d.

  10. Dorian Thournir on

    "Facial Expression" by Gary Faigin. I keep it on my bedstand. As Mr. Spock would say, "Fascinating." The primary, unmistakable, culturally immutable expressions are covered, as well as many of the ambiguous blends. The controlling muscle groups are well illustrated, which is a must for animations of the face. You will soon recognize why some expressions seem somehow off. Not only that;i it also makes a great coffee table book: nothing intrigues like the study of the face. We are hard-wired for it.

    If you only ever buy two books, then Drawing on the Right Side and Facial Expression should be the two.

    Childish drawing may have its own validity, but it's uninformed. I would not have continued with drawing and with art were I locked into such a displeasing mode. However, being informed, we also don't lose our individualistic styles, particularly in regards to imaginative drawing. My imaginative and photo-real styles wildly diverge. Have fun with both, but recognize that judgement has its place. Just not in the high seat. With that I agree.

  11. Yes, this book is a classic and helped me out tons when I was young (and having artists as parents helped). I also suggest Drawing the Marvel Way, Jack Hamm's book (dated, but good), How to Paint Like the Old Masters and Walt Foster's How to Draw Animation.

    Stay away from anything that mentions that hack Picasso. Hate that guy.

    Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain is a great guide for learning how to draw what you see. But it doesn't promise to make you an artist. Again, that comes from within. Personally, I have trouble drawing from my imagination, though my portrait work is outstanding (if I may say so myself).

    Check out my website to see my work (please, and you can do that by clicking my name).

    Also, while were on the subject of art, the book I illustrated, 'Beaver Steals Fire' received the American Indian Youth Literature Award, which is sponsored by the American Indian Library Association. I'll be going to Texas to accept the award. I know, I know, it's all publicity, but hey, I'm damn proud of this book.

  12. I totally agree what Loken said. This book is one of the best if you just want to start drawing. It tells you how to “see” like an artist and keep attention on details. But it is important to know that there are different forms of drawing. This book tells you how to copy shapes form life. But if you want to go further you have to understand perspective and volumetric forms. Only then you are able to draw from imagination.
    For drawing the human body I strongly recommend the Books of Burne Hogarth. They are all about understanding what you draw.
    Betty Edwards’ Book is great. It’s a solid basis. But the journey begins from here on.

  13. Rouven Markovic on


    i've read this book as german translation, and it is awesome, i can only recommend it for newvbies to drawing. Although it is not specialized on any topic i couldn't imagine a better introduction for beginners.

    It's easy to understand and describes everthing in detail.

    2 Thumbs up

  14. Hello again
    I don't need to try it
    It's all in the cover
    Pretentious title, ugly drawing....
    The book probably only teaches you how to become a dinner plate
    or chocolat boxes painter in a plant... :)
    Theere's thousands of realistic painters ( and paintings) out there, but
    only one or two touched by the "grace"
    Bye and good reading

  15. Rouven Markovic on


    OMFG is it a law of nature that there will always be someone who's talking rubbish.
    Are you touched by the grace ? Whats your name "Leonardo Da Vinci" ?

    Stop grumbling around and have a look at the things before commenting them.

    Theres a old saying "Never judge a book by it's cover".

  16. I support Kernons suggestion in creating a books category on how to teach yourself on drawing and arts.
    For those who have problems with drawing from their imagination: It tends to make the brain switch to drawing in symbols as described in "Drawing on the right side of the brain". I like this book a lot, although manufacturing the described utilities was a bit unnerving for me :(.
    @oto: No this book does not teach you to draw boxes :). "Draw Squad" by Mark Kistlers does :D (I think its fun anyway). It starts with some techniques to trick the left side of your brain to stop working and let the right side take over, like "mirror drawing".

    For young ones and beginners:
    "Mark Kistler's Draw Squad", by Mark Kistler
    "Drawing with Children: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too", by Mona Brookes

    "Drawing for Older Children & Teens", by Mona Brookes

    "The Natural Way to Draw: A Working Plan for Art Study", by Kimon Nicolaides (also recommended by Betty Edwards)

    I came across these books, beause I read a comment from one blender community artist, who was determined to get you to learn the "traditional arts" first. Thats why I started to concentrate on my training on pencil drawing skill (and stopped using blender :D).

    I am 25 years old and think of myself as an absolute beginner. I hate it that I am not able to draw the images I make up/see in my head >:[! At this time I try to work my way thorugh "Draw Squad" and "Drawing with Children". Yep I think I have to cover the basics first :). Do not expect too much from yourself. If you can manage to do the simple tasks at first, that is great already (cool box drawing :D) - I tend to ignore this hint and get frustrated :).

    One of the best arguments I found almost throughout the books is this one: We do not expect from children to write books from the beginning or do 3d mathematics, but we teach them first the alphabet followed by simple sentences or adding 2 apples to the 3 existing ones. But in arts we expect from them and from us to be able to draw immediently in a realistic way!??!?!? So the question is: Is art a teachable subject? And when everthing else is (is it not? :)), why should it be different with arts? Those of you who think of artistic skills of pure "natural talents" should think about this.

    But drawing and the other forms of art are a SKILLS. And skills can just be improved by practicing, never stopping to use them ... I say this probably more to myself than to you :). This is based upon the natural way the brain functions. (For german readers who are interested in this topic I would suggest reading "Stroh im Kopf: Vom Gehirn Besitzer zum Gehirn benutzer" by Vera F. Birkenbihl.)

  17. A friend's child amazed him with her ability... until she grew up a little more and then "knew" what things should look like instead of what they do look like.
    I had this book recommended by my high-school art teacher over 20 years ago, and was impressed then.
    This book helps you "see" again, (as was mentioned, and it doesn't try to do everything). An updated edition shows the stength & staying power of this book.
    I second the "Faces" recommendation - I saw this a couple of years ago and it was great to study.
    Another vote for a book section. Maybe even a "user recommended books" etnry, like this is turning into :-)
    I started drawing again and found it as much fun as Blender - and more portable :-)

  18. Markovic,

    Yes, I'm afraid it IS a law of nature. I guess it became (a little) less painful to listen to the haters when I finally accepted that fact. It became even less painful when I finally learned to feel sorry for them and what they are missing.

    Kind Regards,


  19. It's a misleading book. Based on bad science, and on instant gratification ("look, i can draw better in an hour!") paid for by a dozen bad habits you'll get which will make a formidable obstacle for your further progress in drawing.
    More here:

    Stick to methodical learning manuals instead - the best ones are by Andrew Loomis, out of print but available for download from many sites, including .

  20. @ping?: Thanks very much for the links! Interesting stuff and at least a different point of view.
    Actually ... I also bought "Figure drawing for all its worth" by Loomis (got one second hand) but I have to say that I think it is already too sophisticated (at least for me). The other books by Loomis were not known to me, so I will check them out.
    I also have to say that I do not think that Betty Edwards book aims too much for instant gratification. She just uses it to get you working :).

  21. wow it seems to be really intresting and very good... I only found excellent comments about it

    I think I'll buy it... Maybe I could learn to draw :D

  22. I read 'Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain' last year, having come from a non-artistic schooling background, and it definately increased my awareness of how to draw from life! But it wasn't until this year, when I was in a consultation with my animation lecturer that I really understood what I had read. He mentioned that many people - for some reason - cherish their drawings (which lures them into tending to draw more towards perfection than perception). this resulted in an epiphany and ever since my drawings have loosened up and become a form of expression rather than perfect representation.

    I still require a lot of practice, but the book acted as a catalyst that boosted my drawing skill. I couldn't be more grateful for it!

    Speaking of gratitude, Blender was my inspiration for studying animation... which lead me to a great book on animation "The Animator's Survival Kit, by Richard Williams". I'm sure many of you have heard of it. Its a wonderful text on the fundamentals of animation (I guess it's most applicable to traditional 2d, but that sort of knowledge is invaluable for any type of animation)!
    A gazillion cheers for Blender!

    Ps. I think Betty Edwards has another, similar book titled 'Drawing on the Artist Within'. I haven't read it, but i've seen it. I'm not entirely sure what it entails, but if it's anything like her one mentioned here, I reckon the two'd go hand in hand!

  23. I would agree; The Animators Survival Kit is definitely a book that should be studied. The book may not teach you the technical “stuff” about 3D Animation, Raytracing.
    But it does go into the “acting” of animation.

    So other good books for artist and animators alike

    Drawing from Observation
    Brian Curtis
    ISBN 0-07-0241024-8

    From word to image
    Marcie Begleiter
    ISBN 0-941188-28-0

    Anatomy for the Artist
    Sarah Simlet
    ISBN 0-7894-8054-X

    If your school doesn’t have a figure drawing class, or if you can’t afford school or afford figure drawing workshop in your town, this is closets book I have encountered so far that could be in replace of that.

    Also (and less expensive)

    Action Anatomy: For Gamers, Animators, and Digital Artists
    Takashi Iijima
    ISBN 006073681X

    Human Anatomy Made Amazingly Easy
    Christopher Hart
    ISBN 0-8230-2497-0

    And here is the next book(s) to buy on my list

    Cinematography: Image Making for Cinematographers, Directors, and Videographers
    Blain Brown
    ISBN 0240805003

    The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation
    (authors)Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas
    ISBN 0-7868-6070-7

    And for the inspiration of it:
    Winsor McCay - The Master Edition (DVD)

    Well there is a short list that I could contribute to the Blender Nation Library of recommended books. So (shoulder shrug) go to your local bookstore/city library sit down with the book take a look inside decide what is best for your learning style.

  24. please drawing is not an artistic skill.

    drawing is a technical skill. it relates to how you can observe.
    the rest is training.

    this book discusses that issue and major misconception.

    what you draw, you concept, your idea can be rated as your artistic expression.

    anyway i can only say as well this book rocks. i read it on my own and gave it to
    few students to read.

  25. Sounds great. I can't even draw good stick figures and I have no desire to a true artist. I just want the technical ability to translate what I see into a decent sketch and it looks like this isn't a bad ticket at all. For those wiling ot use the older edition, used copies are available for just $1.99 over at barnes and Noble with about $3 in shipping. Not a bad deal. My library has it, but this is the type of book I"d rather own than borrow.

  26. "Art" ( arghhh) can't be teached or even bought
    You can learn or teach techniques or methods
    If you're touched by the "grace"...lucky don't need it
    I'll try to explain:
    In a book you can learn that blending yellow and red you get orange color
    A "normal" person will learn it by itself because he want and do "things"
    the "elected" one don't care for those things, they just "do"

    schools, teachers, books and all it's just a "system"....good or bad!?
    Another long thread? :)

  27. i also bought this book and i think its fantastic because its a wonderful motivation!
    Its not about become a pro, its about starting drawing and begin to see and a wonderful start position. It tries to be more like a mentor book that cheer you up, it tries to motivate you and that is something this book makes it so unique and i think in the end it can give you the joy of drawing if you have hated it.
    if you see it as an book like an anatomy book or a technique book like the books of loomis, then you are wrong, its more like a prelure for this books, if you are already in the process of learning to draw anatomy and you are fighting with this f***ing perspectives like me then i think i have to say its a little bit to late to buy this book. its hard to say then or then not this book is technical a good purchase for you but its a very good purchase if you say: "i cant drawing and i will never learn drawing" then try it

    @Ping!: well the review is some kind of true but i think the author of this review is missing two facts: first it doesn't really matter if it is really your left or right brain and she also says that really early after the thesis, she might be wrong there but she says she uses the left and right brain as a symbol. (and i think its more a psychological part for the reader that tries to cover the fact that you have very unsharp senses in the beginning that need to be sharpened)
    second this book is not a book about techniques at all, its about to start and finding joy in drawing, she also sayes something like "if you can draw a head with practice then you can draw everything with practice and i show you that you are can draw a head!"

  28. For sake of completeness, Andrew Loomis had published five books: "Fun with the Pencil" is a motivational and introductory book for absolute beginners; "Successful Drawing" is a more advanced textbook with more on perspective and form; "Figure Drawing for All It's Worth" is an exhaustive book on human figure drawing; "Creative Illustration" is about expressing things in drawing, available methods and a little on business side of illustration; and "Eye of the Painter" is a discussion of art perception and construction, and also motivational - completing the circle.

    Betty Edwards' book may be good for motivation, but I see it as unsystematic "kickstart". It gives you a few tricks that boost you from zero to something - compared to zero, but very little in terms of real skill - then abandons you without a ckue and with a couple of vicious habits if you are unlucky.

  29. oto:

    Your thoughts about drawing are very touching. I don't think such attitude has existed in world of art for hundreds of years. Naturally admirers of fine art have always thought that "it's all talent" as it makes their own lack of skill and interest easier to cope with.
    But drawing is very much a technique, what to draw is not. Nor are are style and taste. And those come both before and after learning drawing.

    As drawing is most important tool for visual artist it is teached. How people then use this technique is up to them. Some use it to convey their idea to a group. Some only draw elves with boobs and swords. Some do illustrations. Some do fine art, but they all must handle the same basics.
    Some very talented artists did learn those basics at very young age, and only their final style is remembered or referred to. Like Picasso who got his formal art teaching from his father - before he went modern he knew traditional drawing and painting inside-out.

    I haven't read the book, but the point "oto" had was quite true, the pictures are not great. In some cases the "before" images are better. Results are very stiff, disproportioned faces with strange anatomy and even stranger line (some of them are so distorted they're interesting). Maybe it is useful, but:

    If you want to learn drawing (pretty essential skill for artist), read Loomis. If Loomis is too complicated, draw little nested circles and straight lines. Try to do that with full hand motion and don't squeeze that pen. Repeat until comfortable. Practise loose lines. Don't dab with your line and quit being careful. NEVER USE ERASER! Draw whole subject with only one line. If the line goes wrong, draw another line upon it. Then do it under 1 minute, 30 seconds, 15 seconds and then in two seconds. Most of the stuff you do is born dead, learn from it and make a new one.
    Then do all those by pinching the *END* of the pen between your thumb and forefinger and on bigger paper. This way you can't control the tip and you should gain some understanding about loose lines. Then read Loomis again and follow his advice. Make sure that you can handle previous chapter before going to the next one. Handling those proper basics will improve your technique vastly.

    But if possible, figure drawing lessons either in art school or in public courses are invaluable. As is other art education, if teacher is good.

    The more you draw, the better it will be. That won't happen if you give up.
    btw, sculpting is very useful for 3d-modeling..

  30. JayDB said:

    I still require a lot of practice, but the book acted as a catalyst that boosted my drawing skill. I couldn’t be more grateful for it!

    This is exactly what I think, and I have purchased the book only after I discovered it on this blog.

    I have only read less than the half of the pages, but tha book has already acted like a detonator, blasting my fear about drawing.

    If you have visited my site, you may have discovered some watercolours. They are all showing landscapes because I have never been able to draw human faces!

    Few hours after reading the first page of the book of Betty Edwards, I have made my first self portrait in which I can recognize myself that I have ever drawn!

    I have understood that I was looking to humans in a different way than I was looking to landscapes.

    Maybe because they are open volumes, I was looking to landscape as a whole.

    On the opposite, in my attempts of drawing humans beings, I was focusing on details and drawing symbols instead ofd drawing
    reality !

    I know that there is still a long way before I'll be able to draw from my imagination, but the book has already brought me the clue and the confidence for this work.


  31. I have said :

    - I know that there is still a long way before I’ll be able to draw from my imagination, but the book has already brought me the clue and the confidence for this work. -

    Well, I wanted to say "the urge" instead of "the clue", but it can make sense also (I hope!):o).


  32. well this book is very practical for learning to draw, but in fact, on the cognitive points, it's totaly wrong 'cos we do not realy separate left and right brain for any task ...

    its only a metaphor and it's used to take you away from our common view of the world that we tend to simplify and abstract for the everyday life task.

    It just helps us to "change our point of view" on things, rediscover them and rediscover the act of drawing...

    Specialy when drawing human faces, we tend (by instinct, it's not "realy" controllable) to interpret them first by it's expression and emotions it make us feel, rather than "seeing it as a thing" that we can draw. The method for ex. of turning the image upside down take the expression away from our primitive brain analyse and let us draw the lines we see ...

    It's a Classic nowadays in art cursus ... I'm amased that so many just discover it today . (but late is far better than never ;p )

  33. Unlike those who looked at a few pictures and decided the book was rubbish, I actually bought and read the book. The title says it clearly - it doesn't say "Creating Art Using the Right Side of the Brain". It says "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain".

    Art is a very subjective, personal thing. What is art to one is static to another. However, Betty Edwards never claims to make the reader into a Degas or a Botticelli, or even a Salvador Dali. Her focus is simply: drawing is not about what the hand is doing with the pencil, it's about seeing and letting the whole experience take you into that spacial/perceptual mode that we've been criticized out of as children, with net effect of artistic arrest.

    I never fancied myself as an artist. However, I've always wanted to draw recognizable objects and people. With this book I've been able to do exactly that.
    Additionally, I've discovered an aspect of myself that I now let myself go into when working in Blender 3D, and that has actually even helped me in my career as cath-lab nurse, when you stare at a fleeting 2D image of a coronary artery tree and deduce that third dimension.

    It's an interesting read even if you've no desire to learn to draw - I'm sure you can find it at your local library. You might find that you'll want your own copy, however. Compelling stuff.

Leave A Reply

To add a profile picture to your message, register your email address with To protect your email address, create an account on BlenderNation and log in when posting a message.