‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, 4th Edition’ by Betty Edwards

Back in high school, as a kid who liked doing copycat sketches of anime characters and such, I thought it’d be fun to take an art class for a semester and see if I couldn’t get better at it. To make a long story short, I was wholly unprepared for the kinds of mental exercises that class would put us through. They fundamentally changed how I perceived the world around me.

I can’t say for sure, but I’m betting many of those teaching techniques were inspired by Betty Edwards’ seminal book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

In all honesty, this book’s major focus isn’t so much learning how to draw but how to see. The drawing exercises “trick” the logical/analytical left hemisphere of your brain to get out of the way so the creative/artistic right hemisphere can take over rudimentary tasks related to perceiving edges, negative/positive spaces, relationships, lights/shadows, and the gestalt of it all.

As with the ABCs of reading, these are the skills you need in order to draw any subject.

I really like this explanation by Redditor u/aesthesia1:

[Anatomy/construction and copycat drawing] are both important skills to have. Especially if you want to draw organic things realistically or dynamically. It’s really glaring when someone can only do one but not the other. To really understand something that I want to draw, I learn anatomy and construction of it, and ALSO do dynamic drawings from life or photos where I copy what I see to learn how it operates in life. If you try to draw a living thing only with construction skills, yes you’ll have a consistent and solid drawing, but it’ll look like a combination of rigid shapes– because that’s essentially what you drew. If you have studied both sides, you’ll create fluid, lively, consistent, and correct drawings.

It’s just part of being well-rounded.

If you’ve ever thought you can never learn to draw, or flat-out told someone you don’t have a creative bone in your body, this is the book for you. I don’t care if you’re a kid or a grandparent — you can learn this skill, and you’d only be doing a disservice to yourself to think otherwise.

Check out these before/after drawings if you don’t believe me. (Hit the “Show Thumbnails” button to see them all at once.)

Get the book in these formats: