Before-and-After Drawings from an Artist in Costa Rica

One of the special pleasures of this blog is the chance to communicate with people around the world.  Janid Alfaro from Costa Rica wrote to me recently, and sent some impressive before-and-after drawings.  With her permission, I reproduce them here, and our correspondence.  ~ Betty

Date: Friday, May 19, 2017
Subject: Before and After, Janid Alfaro

Hello!  My name is Janid Alfaro and I live in Costa Rica (Central America). Many years ago (in the 1990s), I improved my skills in drawing using the Betty Edwards method “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” when I took my classes at college.  I studied graphic design. 20 years later, I am an experienced graphic designer, but never practiced my drawing again and I really missed it.  So a year ago, I bought the 4th Edition of the book and decided that I will learn to draw again.  I followed the method, step-by-step, and it took me some time, but I finished it a few days ago; so, I would like to share the result with you … 

I am really thankful to Mrs. Edwards, because I think she is a really smart and committed person and her method helped me to find myself again in one of the most beautiful and gratifying activities of my life since I have memory, because I used to draw and use coloring books all the time since I was a little girl.

As you can see in the attachments, I need to practice more (obviously), but I think the improvement is evident.

Best regards from Costa Rica and God bless you all!

P.S. My English writing is limited, so I hope you forgive me for any mistakes!

El 20 may. 2017, Betty Edwards  escribió:

Dear Janid,

Thank you so much for sending me your email and your “before and after” drawings.  It makes me so happy to see how much your drawing skills improved from working through the exercises in my book.  Drawings 2 and 3 show such an ease in drawing your perceptions, especially in fine details of eyes, nose and mouth, but, moreover, excellent understanding of the relationships in size and placement of these features.  Furthermore, it is clear that you have really worked on your perceptions of lights and shadows—they are quite beautiful.

Being able to learn (or in your case, to improve) drawing skills by following instructions in a book is often regarded as difficult: many people really need a teacher to guide them through the exercises.  But every once in a while, I hear from someone like you, Janid, who manages to learn directly from my book, and I am just charmed by that.

I would love to post your letter and your drawings on our blog,, if that would be OK with you.  I feel sure others would be encouraged by your experience, and also, it is such fun to receive a letter from Costa Rica.  I have seen many photos of Costa Rica, but have never visited your beautiful country.

With every best wish,

Betty Edwards


Sent: Saturday, May 20, 2017

Dear Mrs. Edwards: 

I am SO HAPPY that you answer me, and so soon!  I admire you SO MUCH!!!!  You´re not seeing me right now, but I have a big smile in my face and my heart is beating sooo fast.  I would feel really honored if you post my letter and drawings on your blog, of course, because I would love to share my experience with others.

I hope you can visit Costa Rica some time, because you have at least a fan here (me!), so, if you like, I would be happy to meet you and take you to know some places (like a volcano) and/or share a cup of our coffee, of course ;) You´ll be always welcome here and I promise you´ll have a lot of fun, because we are a really friendly country.

Now I´m working with your book “Color”, it will take me some time, because I just started to read two days ago, but when I finish it I´ll share my results with you, too.

Thank you so much for take your time and respond my email, I can´t tell you how much I appreciate it and means to me. 

God bless you always.  Janid Alfaro 


Sent: Sunday, May 21, 2017

Dear Janid,

Your email gives me such pleasure—I, too, have a big smile on my face.  Thank you for letting us put your letter and drawings on our blog.  Yours is my first communication from Costa Rica.  I would so love to visit, but I’m afraid my traveling days are over.  Thank you for your hospitable invitation.  Next time I fix myself a cup of coffee, I’ll think of you.

Do let me know if any questions come up about color.  It’s pretty complicated, but I have tried to be clear in my book.  Taking it step-by-step is the best way.

With cordial regards,

Betty Edwards


Medieval Doodles!

Doodling has been going on for a long time!  “On medieval pages, marginalia can run from the decorative to the bizarre, which a researcher engagingly documents on her Instagram account. There are two broad categories of marginalia: illustrations intended to accompany the text and later annotations by owners and readers. Both can be vehicles for delight, disgust, and befuddlement.”

Click here to read more:

Traveling? Bring Your Sketchbook!

Whenever you travel, bring along a small artist's notebook or sketchbook and your pencils and pens.  You "see" things so much better when you draw them!  Here are a few sketches by DRSB instructor Brian Bomeisler, made last week when he was in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

#5 on the List of 20 Best Creativity Books (To Help You Generate Useful Ideas)

“Multipotens” means powerful in Latin. The Multipotens website aims to give people knowledge on how to amplify their potential in every aspect of their life, mostly brain power and willpower.

The site chose Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain for its Top 20 Best Creativity Books, and we've come in at #5!

From the Multipotens site:  "2013 Nautilus Books for a Better World Silver winner as Best Creative Process Book, this is a life-changing book destined to inspire!  Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain brings the brain’s right hemisphere functions and importance into focus."

"Betty Edwards describes five aspects that together composes drawing skills – Perception of edges, perception of spaces, perception of relationships, perception of lights and shadows, and perception of gestalt.

"This book will increase your confidence, deepen your artistic perception, and foster a new appreciation of the world around you.

"The book teaches readers to discover how to transfer perceptual skills to thinking and problem-solving. Summary of this book

  • It coaches you to draw what you see, and not what you think.
  • It demonstrates the dichotomy between the left and right brain hemispheres and how they interact.
  • Consists of exercises and experiments for you to experience the switching of processing between the two halves of your brain.

Drawing on the Right Side of the China!

One of the benefits of our website,, is the chance to communicate with readers, artists, and students from around the world.  At this stage in my life, it is a delight to hear that my books have been helpful in opening up the world of drawing to so many.

This month, I have exchanged correspondence with China that I’d like to share.  The artist, Zhang Cai Zhu, has clearly received great enjoyment and satisfaction from his drawing.  


~ Betty Edwards

Artist Zhang Cai Zhu

Date: Thursday, April 6, 2017 at 10:21 PM

Subject: Thanks for your inspiration


Dear Dr. Edwards,

My name is Annie, a book editor in China.  I am about to publish a book called Painted History.  Its author is an elderly man in Chongqing, China, called Zhang Cai Zhu.  Mr. Zhang had a number of medical problems, including lymphoma cancer in 2006.

One day of 2012, in a bookstore, he read your book Drawing on the Artist Within, and he decided to start drawing his past.  Now, he has drawn hundreds of paintings, which have recently been collected and published as books.

I want to tell you his story and say thank you, because your book inspired Mr. Zhang, gave him courage and hope.  If you like, I want to send you his pictures and book.  Hope you like it.

Best wishes,



From: Betty Edwards

Sent: Friday, April 07, 2017 8:05 AM

Dear Annie,

Thank you for writing to me and telling me about Mr. Zhang and his book of drawings that you are planning to publish.  I am very touched and impressed by Mr. Zhang’s courage and accomplishment as the author of his book, and I am most happy to learn that my book on drawing was an inspiration for his achievement.  I will be grateful and delighted to receive a copy of his book so that I can see and appreciate his drawings myself. 

Thank you, Annie, for your most generous offer to send me Mr. Zhang’s book.  I hope it will be a great success and give pleasure to many readers.

Please extend my personal best wishes and regards to Mr. Zhang.

Sincerely yours,

Betty Edwards


From: Annie

Sent: Sunday, April 09, 2017 10:22 PM

Dear Betty,

Thanks for your reply and greeting.

I gave your regards to Mr. Zhang.  Your words are a great encouragement to him.  He was very excited, and really wanted to know your opinion on his drawings.  His book will be published in May this year, and I will send you a copy of this book.

I enclose a photo of Mr. Zhang himself and his drawings.  Hope you like them.  Thank you!

Sincerely yours,



Dear Annie,

The drawings convey so well Mr. Zhang’s delight in being able to portray such complicated scenes.  He seems to have an innate skill for composition, and also for figures in movement.  The photo is also charming, presenting Mr. Zhang in his newfound occupation as an artist.

I wish him continued success and, to you, Annie, success with your publication.  I look forward with great anticipation to seeing more of Mr. Zhang’s work in your book.

With sincere regards to you both,


How To Get The Brain To Like Art

Click here to read a fascinating story on getting the brain to like art! 

“Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman

From the article in the New York Times (March 11, 2017):

“Art and neuroscience have long been used to illuminate each other. Santiago Ramón y Cajal, the 19th-century doctor who is considered to have laid the groundwork for modern neuroscience, drew intricate pictures of the brain that are on view at a Minnesota museum.

Today, the nascent scientific field of neuroaesthetics explores how artistic and aesthetic experiences register in the brain. And there have been other collaborations between museums and neuroscientists, like the 2014 exhibition at London’s National Gallery “Making Colour,” which included an experiment on color perception with guidance from Anya Hurlbert, a visual neuroscientist.”

The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, is doing some interesting things along these lines.  “’We create large galleries with large numbers of works of art,’ museum director Dan Monroe said, but ‘our brains are designed to respond to change, diversity and motion.’ So he is trying to create smaller rooms with fewer works of art — as the museum has done with its latest temporary exhibition, “Shoes: Pleasure and Pain,” which feels almost mazelike.”


An Update From A Former Student

In part because of our Website and its growing prominence, I often hear from past students or others who have been touched by my book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, or the DRSB Workshops they have taken.  With his permission, I share here a recent exchange with a student from more than 20 years ago.  I am so happy to know that he continues to draw and benefit from what he learned in our workshops.  Thank you for reaching out, Jim!

If you participated in one of our workshops over the years, we'd love to hear from you!  Are you still drawing?  We hope so!  To let us know, just use the Contact form.

To: Betty Edwards
From: James Nickelson
Subject: 1990s pupil

Betty, I was surfing the net and on an impulse found your website. I was so pleased to see you still active. You and Brian continue to work your special magic. I cannot think of another activity wherein a skill can have such a dramatic flowering as your seminars.  I was a three-time student and my wife and youngest son also attended a week session in the mid-1990s. I still remember most fondly the week I spent in Rome when you had your first seminar there in 1993.  I am retired now, living in Las Vegas and in my 85th year. I am planning on going to 100 with sketchbooks in hand!!!!  God bless you and keep all of our Right Brains active.

From: Betty Edwards
To:  James Nickelson

Dear Jim,
How lovely to hear from you!  I have a clear memory of you and your wife and son, and fond memories of that workshop in Rome.  Ah, those were wonderful times!  I am 90 now and my traveling days are long over, but, like you, I am hoping for some more years to enjoy life.  Part of what makes it fun is hearing from friends of days gone by.  Thank you!  Brian carries on with the workshops, which makes me very happy.  If you go traveling and sketching, do send me some sketches that we can post on our website to inspire others to keep sketchbooks.
Please give my best regards to your family.  Here’s to drawing!

To: Betty Edwards
From: James Nickelson

Betty----Here are two examples of "post Edwards" drawings that I am most proud of.  The first is a landscape study, the Plaza Major in Madrid, which I did for my daughter who had visited there.  The second is a "people" study, which emphasizes "foreshortening"--a very difficult (for me) realism.  I could never have accomplished either if not for you brilliant tutelage.
Forever, thank you.

From: Betty Edwards
To:  James Nickelson

Dear Jim,
I am impressed!  The Plaza drawing is a tour de force—extremely difficult to accomplish and beautifully drawn.  Quite a present for your daughter!  And the second drawing is also exceptional.  Foreshortening is always difficult to pull off, and you have done it!  I would love to take credit for your accomplishment, but I think the credit is yours alone.  I can see the dedication to carry the lessons forward in both drawings.
With warm regards,

Exhibition at the British Museum: French Portrait Drawings

I was alerted to this show via a delightful blog called The Grumpy Art Historian, which I highly recommend.  Excerpted below is part of his blog post, with links to what sounds like a wonderful exhibition that is on view at the British Museum through January 29, 2017.  Although apparently there is no published catalogue, there is this short piece that describes works in the exhibition: French Portrait Drawings. If you have a chance to see the show, do!  I’d love to hear your thoughts.   ~ Betty

French Portrait Drawings: From Clouet to Courbet 


Exhibition on view through January 29, 2017, Free admission

Attributed to Pierre Biard II (1592–1661) An old man in working dress, early 17th century Black and red chalk, with blue-grey wash This intense, evocative portrait is something of a mystery. The Italian inscription at lower left refers to ‘Pietro Biardo dy Parigi’, but it is not clear whether this identifies the artist or the sitter. Pierre Biard was a sculptor and engraver, the son of an architect and sculptor also called Pierre Biard. No certain drawings by the younger Biard are known, yet this drawing is the work of an accomplished draughtsman. The style suggests that it dates to the first quarter of the 17th century, which is when Biard is most likely to have visited Italy. If this is indeed by Biard himself, then it is an important and unique example of his skills.

"This exquisite exhibition shows the evolution of portrait drawing in France, but it's also about the development of the British Museum's collection.  It shows some smart recent acquisitions, and some obscure drawings that deserve more attention.  The British Museum's collection of drawings is arguably the greatest in the world, but its backbone is a handful of old private collections whose idiosyncrasies persist.  The Italian old masters are broad and deep, but other schools are more patchy.  They have a wonderful group of Watteau drawings, but other French artists were collected inconsistently.  A database search reveals just three drawings by the prolific draughtsman Jacques-Louis David, and their first Vouet was acquired just last year.  Many fine drawings in this show have been acquired quite recently, including a superb Isabey (2007) and Labadye (2001).  All the recent acquisitions were excellent choices.  I was also surprised by how many superb drawings I'd never seen or heard of, like the wonderful image illustrated above, attributed to Pierre Biard II on the basis of the inscription.  More information on the attribution can be found on the BM's catalogue entry."