The Theory

Two Ways of Knowing

Betty Edwards has used the terms L-Mode and R-Mode to designate two ways of knowing and seeing - the verbal, analytic mode and the visual, perceptual mode - no matter where they are located in the individual brain. You are probably aware of these different characteristics. L-mode is a step-by-step style of thinking, using words, numbers and other symbols. L-mode strings things out in sequences, like words in a sentence. R-mode on the other hand, uses visual information and processes, not step-by-step, but all at once, like recognizing the face of a friend.

"You have two brains: a left and a right. Modern brain scientists now know that your left brain is your verbal and rational brain; it thinks serially and reduces its thoughts to numbers, letters and words… Your right brain is your nonverbal and intuitive brain; it thinks in patterns, or pictures, composed of ‘whole things,’ and does not comprehend reductions, either numbers, letters, or words."

From The Fabric of Mind, by the eminent scientist and neurosurgeon, Richard Bergland. Viking Penguin, Inc., New York 1985. pg.1

Most activities require both modes, each contributing its special functions, but a few activities require mainly one mode, without interference from the other. Drawing is one of these activities.

Learning to draw, then, turns out not to be "learning to draw." Paradoxically, "learning to draw" means learning to make a mental shift from L-mode to R-mode. That is what a person trained in drawing does, and that is what you can learn.

Since my mother, Betty Edwards, first published her book in 1979, it has been on the New York Times best seller list with more than 2.5 million copies sold. It has been translated into 13 languages and is the world's most widely used drawing instruction book. Her new book "Color - a course in mastering the art of mixing colors" was published in 2004 and is already being used as a comprehensive reference for the subject. We have been teaching workshops for more than 20 years and have successfully taught thousands to master the art of drawing using Betty's approach. While the focus of the workshop is on drawing, absolutely no previous art training or special talent for drawing is necessary. For most participants, one of the frequent effects is a new self-perception as a creative and artistic person. Whether you feel you have little talent and doubt you could ever learn; or you enjoy drawing but have not been able to get beyond a child-like level, these workshops will show you how to gain and master drawing skills. If you are already drawing as a professional artist it will give you a greater confidence in your ability and deepen your artistic perception.

Once learned, drawing can be used to record what you see either in reality or in your mind's eye, in a manner not totally unlike the way we can record our thoughts and ideas in words. Many 20th century abstract painters who appear to draw and paint in a completely random fashion, had to learn to draw realistically before they were able to make the shift into abstract painting. Picasso, Willem de Kooning, Matisse, Mondrian and Jackson Pollock are a few examples of great abstract painters who first learnt to draw realistically.

Brian Bomeisler received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Pratt Institute/Brooklyn, New York in 1975, and has been a working and showing artist since then, living and working in Soho, New York City. In 1985 he received a Fellowship from the NEA and has paintings in collections at The Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla; The Hyde Collection, New York; corporate and private collections around the world. Brian taught alongside Betty since 1988 and since her retirement in 1998, has been leading the Drawing and Painting Workshops worldwide. He has also been an instructor at the New York Academy of Art for a number of years. Brian's illustrations appear alongside the text in "The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain".


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