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

Seeing the World Through a Different Lens

This month, my son, Brian Bomeisler, taught a 5-day intensive drawing workshop in La Jolla. Michael K. MacNeill and Caroline MacNeill Hall, participated, and later posted about it on their blog,  Life Reinspired.  

Brian reported: "Not only was the view spectacular from the top floor of the hotel overlooking La Jolla Shores beach, but the group did spectacularly well in the drawing workshop.  Often my groups personally bond through the experience of learning to draw, but that was even more true with this group."

You can read about their experience in Michael's charming post: Seeing the World Through a Different Lens.  Thank you, Michael and Caroline, for contributing to another great 5-Day DRSB Workshop!  We are so glad you gained so much from the experience.

~ Betty Edwards

How to Find the Best Drawing Pencil

For those of our readers who may find art supply stores baffling in their complex offerings, a British reader of our blog, Olivier Jennes, has generously allowed us to publish the link to his detailed and valuable research on pencils.  This blog article by Jennes provides succinct descriptions and evaluations of a variety of pencil brands and manufacturers.  This information can save you endless time and lots of money in seeking the brand of pencil that is right for you, and, conversely avoiding buying the wrong brand.

Olivier's review of pencils is based on feedback from artists around the world, and I personally agree with his descriptions of the pencils with which I am familiar.

~ Betty Edwards

P.S.  If you need drawing supplies, click HERE to see what we have to offer in our DRSB Store.  Pencils and more!

 

 

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, www.drawright.com, 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:  http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/medieval-marginalia-books-doodles

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.  http://www.multipotens.com/creativity-books/

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 Brain...in China!

One of the benefits of our website, www.drawright.com, 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.  

谢谢张蔡朱

~ Betty Edwards

Artist Zhang Cai Zhu

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

Subject: Thanks for your inspiration

Message:

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,

Annie

----------------------------------------

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,

Annie

______________________________________

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,

Betty

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.”