drawing conclusions


I’m interested in the brain and how it functions. It’s represented in 10 or so of my new works. This is because I’m learning much as I teach…about how students learn the various drawing skills.
I’m curious about creativity. Why are some people comfortable with the discomfort of the creative process, and others…not so much?  Is this programmed in the brain? In the spirit?

I realize more and more the skills needed to be an artist come from both the right and the left hemisphere of the brain. Process/Content…occurs in the left. Creativity/ Form…in the right. Then there’s the eye-hand coordination, (in the case of drawing what you see) a balancing act occurs between the two regions. Creating neurological pathways in the brain takes time and requires commitment and patience.

And what about what one needs to be a creative person: desire, talent, choice and the ability to delay gratification. Are these skills or personality qualities? Spirit?


Last July, I invited five friends into my studio. They willingly  spent the 4th of July holiday weekend drawing self-portraits. None of them are in the fine arts. They’re in medicine, science, management and engineering, the “left hemisphere of the brain” arena. They are all successful in their respective worlds.  I was curious about how their minds worked. I wanted to put them into the maker of the object position. Did I want to teach them anything? Uhmmmm…what I wanted, was to observe…learn.

The intent: everyone would complete a self-portrait, thru specific instruction. It would be fun. Food and wine would complete the evening. We would all learn something. 

For the record, a portrait isn’t easy subject matter, ask any one of my regular drawing students.  The group warmed up by drawing each other thru several timed rounds. I walked the room, giving suggestion and instruction.  I talked about contour line. I asked them to note the edges of the face and its features. I explained how to draw organically. I asked them to look closely and work slowly. Draw what you see, not what you think you see. My students hear this everyday, every hour. Most everyone focused right away. I could see them process. Each drawing got progressively better. 


I played music, a variety of rock. In an actual classroom, my students listen to classical music. They don’t have a choice. For my students, loud music is a distraction to the process. With this group, in my studio, it was just another element of the experience as it is for me, when I’m painting.

We had fun, the Day of Drawing Portraits went well.  The evening ended with a critique. In this case, it was a discussion about process, progress, and various details within the portraits.  Good food and good wine followed. Conversation was lively. A whole art experience was had by all.

One thing led to another and a few months later we got together to make plaster masks, three dimensional self portraits. I suggested they paint and design the masks themselves. I would move them along step by step, introducing abstraction and the process of creativity. I thought they would jump at the opportunity. They were excited to sit for the plaster mask making part, getting dirty, letting go, all of it. But when it came to designing and painting the masks, they chose to leave that to me. I took on the work, easily and naturally. Because…it’s what I do.
I’m painting the masks. As I complete them, I’ll share them.


I plan to introduce each of the group, one by one, in the 9 months to come. I’ll share their individual final portrait, along with the finished mask.  And I’ll include bits and pieces of each of their statements (artist statements) within each post. Yes…I asked them for some written words about themselves.

The brain is incredible. And spirit? It’s huge in the equation of making art and being an artist. It is spirit that drives my curiosity. Really there are no conclusions to draw here. I’m simply feeding my curiosity, my spirit…so it can continue to feed me. And I am collaborating with 5 other vital and willing spirits.

Stay tuned…Greg will make an appearance…in a few short weeks.




Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards
Drawing Basics, Jacklyn St. Aubyn
My Stroke of Insight, by Jill Bole Taylor, Ph.D. 
A Whole New Mind, by Daniel H. Pink 
Michele Miller, check out her brain studies

4 thoughts on “drawing conclusions

  1. Just finished “My Stoke of Insight” and discussion with my club, had a very lively meeting. How interesting that you play music during the creation process and call it “another element of the experiene”. One of the points of discussion was multi-tasking vs linearity/focus and how it decreases efficiency of task-at-hand performance.


  2. i agree. i allowed music to be played in this instance because for the most part the group is disciplined already. my students at the college, who are learning discipline don’t get this treatment. they resist. eventually though they accept it and then realize its value.
    for my own personal self…i try not to mulit task…especially when i am trying to focus on making art. it’s best for me.
    thanks mary.
    i really enjoyed that book. and again…go to ted.com and listen to her. the talk is about 20-30 minutes and pretty fascinating.


  3. I will, and I sent the link to the club members. Some one even asked if anyone is planning to donate their brain.


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