Yesterday was the first day of my six-week drawing class called Learn to See, Learn to Draw at ArtBeat on Main Street Gallery in Vista. The class is based on the work of Dr. Betty Edwards. Her book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is an excellent resource for anyone eager to learn how to draw realistically.
One of the hallmark exercises of this method is the upside-down drawing, which I demonstrated, as in the book, with a Picasso portrait of Igor Stravinsky. When it came time for the students to begin their lesson, one of them said, “So, on the first day of class, you’re asking us to do a Picasso?” which of course gave us all a good laugh.
When I got home, I got to thinking that I missed an opportunity there. All joking aside, though I expect drawing newbies to fret a bit at the prospect of copying a line drawing, I never gave much thought to the intimidation factor of the Picasso. I’d only ever seen it as a complex line drawing that serves as an effective obstacle course for beginners. By obstacle course, I don’t mean a series of obstacles designed to trip one up, but in the most positive sense, as a course of exercise designed to improve skills.
The point I missed sharing was this: for the purpose of the exercise, the Picasso drawing is essentially a lot of lines of various lengths, widths, angles, relationships and spaces that we are endeavoring to perceive and record as pure data and not concern ourselves with what the lines have been arranged to depict. It doesn't matter who drew it. We don't need to know "what" it is a picture of and in fact, it's better not to know, so that we may access the part of our brain that is suited to seeing the visual data and enabling us to record it in a fashion that is unencumbered by our preconceived notions.
As I ate up a lot of time going over other first-day-of-class business, the students had minimal time to work on these upside-down drawings. They are going to complete them at home and when we meet again next week I plan to bring it up in more detail. I'm also looking forward to telling them in my best infomercial style, “Yes, you, too, can draw like Picasso!”
I have a passion for plein air painting. I try to capture and share the moments of beauty I find. You can see some of my work online at: