Our Complex and Remarkable Divided Brains

I have long admired the work of British psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist for his insights into the endless enigma of the human brain.  His book, The Master and His Emissary, a compendium of research and commentary on left-brain and right-brain, has long been a leader in the field.  

McGilchrist’s fast-moving, brilliant, animated lecture is simultaneously deeply informative and great fun to watch, as it unspools at a breakneck pace. 

I urge you to take 10 minutes to enjoy this wonderful animation: Iain McGilchrist: Our Divided Brains.  You won't regret it!

~  Betty Edwards


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Summary of the video:  The notion that the brain’s right hemisphere is responsible for emotion and its left hemisphere is responsible for reason has been debunked. But the two hemispheres are indeed distinct, albeit in much more complex ways than we once thought. Animated by the company Cognitive Media, with audio excerpted from a lecture given at the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) by the British psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist, "The Divided Brain" takes a deep dive into the real differences between our two brain hemispheres.

A Reader Sees the World with a New Perspective

I recently received an email from a reader who lives in Germany, which I am happy to share here. 


Dear Dr. Edwards,

At the end of 2016 when my baby son was one year old I started to draw. Luckily, I found your book and leaned according to your instructions and philosophy. It really helped me to see and to draw.

With full respect and high appreciation I wrote about you and your book in my Blog: Hui Portrait. I will also translate it into German and I really hope that everyone finds out about you and your books. You didn’t only teach me to draw but also gave me the chance to see the world with a totally new perspective!

Thank you! I really hope to meet you in person one day. In the meantime, I hope I can at least spread your philosophy!

Your Student, Hui W-S

The Benefits of Art Therapy for Cancer Patients

"Therapy can be an important way to talk about how it feels to have cancer, to express negative emotions, and to learn comping strategies. Art therapy is particularly useful for expressing emotions that are tough to verbalize. The creative process can be a healing process, especially when led by a trained and professional art therapist." ... Read more.

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The Resilience of Art and Artists

This is an inspiring story from the Los Angeles Times, of an artist who lost most of his life’s work in the recent California fires:  Artist John Wullbrandt, Carpinteria.  Here is a link to his own website: http://www.wullbrandt.com/

The artist at work in 2010.

After so much loss, he told the reporter: "Gone, all of this gone," he says, sweeping his hand across the landscape depicted in the painting.

But with loss comes new life.

"It really will be like the Phoenix rising out of the ashes, the rebirth," Wullbrandt says. "It will be so much more beautiful once it starts to rejuvenate. We're gonna see wildflowers we haven't seen in 100 years."  Then Wullbrandt gazes up at a mountain ridge in the distance, now a thin, ash-gray paint stroke on the horizon.

"The spring — just wait. As an artist, I can't wait to paint it."

We wish him all the best as he starts anew to paint what he sees.

Why Can't Drawing Skills Be Part of a Medical Education?

As the article below describes, there is a new trend at leading university medical schools, including Harvard, Yale, Penn State, Columbia, and the University of Texas at Austin.  They are incorporating art classes into medical education.  Since skill in perception—seeing what is ailing in patients—is universally recognized as important in medical analysis and treatment, this is a welcome development. 

Students from Dr. Michael Flanagan's class "Impressionism and the Art of Communication" at Penn State College of Medicine.

What is curious about the trend is that the rock-bottom, basic entry skill in perceptual training—that is, drawing—is completely ignored and excluded.  Instead, medical students gather in museums to observe and analyze paintings, try reproducing famous paintings from only a verbal description, develop verbal hypotheses about an artist’s intent in a given painting, and learn how to do comics to develop storytelling skills.

If the goal is as stated—that doctors need to develop observational skills as well as bias awareness and empathy—then why not just teach them how to draw?  Years ago, I gave a presentation to a national group of plastic surgeons, hoping to convince them that drawing portraits of their patients before and after surgery would have positive effects on their craft.  Alas, for the most part I failed to convince them, and to this day, at least to my knowledge, plastic surgeons are not required to learn perceptual skills through drawing.  What a shame!

~  Betty Edwards

The following article is from The Artsy Podcast No. 47, August 21, 2017:  Medical Schools & Art Classes