Thursday, March 29, 2012

Theory Behind the Blind Contour Exercises

This is the theory behind the blind contour exercises; it has to do with how our brains work,  
I will be quoting from Betty Edwards: “Drawing on the Artist Within” beginning at page 10
“The two major modes of human brain-hemisphere function (which I can simply L-mode an R-Mode) were first described by psycho-biologist Roger W Sperry in his pioneering work during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s Sperry’s research, which was honored by a Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1981, has shown that the right and left hemispheres of the human brain use contrasting method of information processing.  Both thinking modes are involved in high-level information processing.  Both thinking modes are involved in high-level cognitive functioning, but each brain half specializes in its own style of thinking and each has its own special capabilities.  The two modes are able to work in cooperative, complementary way while at the same time retaining their individual styles of thinking. 
Nevertheless, these styles of thinking are fundamentally different and can cause each mode, in a sense, to view reality in its own way.  Thus, in response to an even “out there, “one brain half or the other may “jump in” first to dominate conscious awareness—or, in other instances, the two modes may have different and even conflicting responses to the same event.  In some situation’s one response or the other may be somehow suppressed and kept out of conscious awareness.  A child for example, whose angry mothers says through clenched teeth, “I’m disciplining you because I love you,’ may, as a subconscious protective device, choose to believe the words and deny (at a conscious level) seeing the anger.  On the other hand, conflicting responses to an even may both reach conscious awareness and both views may be expressed in words  For example, someone who has just viewed a televised political speech might say, “The words sound okay, but there’s something about this person that I just don’t like.”
The left hemisphere (for the majority of human beings) specializes in verbal, logical and analytic thinking.  Naming and categorizing are among its favorite things to go. It excels in symbolic abstraction, speech, reading, writing, arithmetic. In general, its system of thought is linear: first things first, second things second.  It tends to rely on general rules to reduce experience to concepts that are compatible with its style of cognition (thinking).  Its preference is for clear, sequential, logical thought, uncomplicated by paradox or ambiguity.  Perhaps because of its bewildering complexity, our culture generally tends to emphasize L-mode thinking, thus funneling complexity down into manageable words, symbols or abstractions and enabling us to cope, more or less with many aspects of modern living……
A good example from everyday life of a task appropriate for L-mode’s style of thinking is balancing your checkbook.  Using words and numbers and following a prescribed procedure, checkbook balancing is a language –based, sequential, linear process. 
At the start, the assumption is made that if you have kept all the records straight, you can expect to end with a valance of $0.00.  If in face you end up with a balance of say $1.06, R-mode (which is not interested in this process) may nudge you with the (unspoken) impulse “let's just erase that and write in $0.00. It doesn’t really matter.” L-mode, however would feel that it does matter and would respond indignantly, “No, no no! I must go back to the beginning and go through the procedure step by step until I find the error.”  L- mode, of course, is the appropriate mode for balancing a check book, as its style of cognition is suited to the task.  R-mode is simply not equipped for this L-mode job, and surely the last thing wanted is creative checkbook balancing. 
In contrast to L-mode, the right half of the brain (for most individuals) functions in a nonverbal manner specializing in visual, special perceptional information.  Its style of processing is nonlinear and nonsequential relying instead on simultaneous processing of incoming information- looking at the whole thing at once.  It tends to see relationships between parts and searches for the ways parts fit together to form wholes.  It s preference is for perceiving information , searching for patterns or relationships that satisfy requirements for visual fit and seeking special order and coherence.  It seems undaunted by ambiguity, complexity or paradox, perhaps because it lacks the ‘reducing glass” of L-mode, which opts for general rules and resists acknowledging ambiguity and paradox.  Because of its quickness, complexity and nonverbal nature, R-mode thinking is almost by definition, difficult to put into words. 
A good example of this is driving on the freeway.   TO PARAPHRASE:  For the L-mode to change lanes it would need to make mathematical calculation with speed of various cars consider per second ratios   Whereas the R-mode, which is intuitively spatially oriented is more suited for the job of changing lanes. 
The two brains do work together and are actually connected by the corpus callosum and form one identity. 
Yet a duality seems to exist.  Some inner knowledge of this duality of the brain seems to be harbored deep in human consciousness, surfacing like an iceberg’s tip, in language itself.  For Example philosophers through the ages have proposed of two ways of knowing the external world, through the intellect and through the emotions: through logical analysis and metaphorical synthesis.  Dichotomous terms (terms in twos) abound: yin and yang, rational and poetic, abstract and concrete, scientific and imaginative.  Individuals often speak of themselves as if two separate personalities existed in tandem: “Part of me wants to do such and such, but on the other hand I know I’m better off doing so and so.” Or “Sometimes I’m really rational and on time, and dependable, but at other times I’m just off the wall.”
I am left-handed so that means I have a more dominant right brain, than most.   In most humans the L-brain has dominance over the R-brain, though both sides of the brain are used.
The creative process and in particular drawing is a special and primarily a non-linear process.  The creative process requires the ability to tap into the R-brain at will.  In other words the artist must learn to control the mental shifts at will in order to tap into the strengths of the R-brain. 

Again I will explain how to proceed with blind contour.  

Now I will explain in specific what is surmised to be going on in your brain when you begin doing blind contour drawing.  For starters you remember I said you must work Slooooooowly, never look at your hand or paper….only look in minute detail of what you are attempting to draw.  Now I am going to give you a time frame. Ten minutes, don’t look at the timer or stop. (you probably don’t have a timer…oh well). (Sic .p146f)    Ignore the protests from the L-mode, that this is “too slow, too boring, too ridiculous, and too useless for words.” Just keep on drawing, and soon the L-Mode will fade away-to take a little time off.  At that point you may find yourself seeing differently.  You may find yourself wanting to see more and then even more.  The information, the complex patterns of tiny edges and lines, may begin to seem strangely intensely interesting. Allow this to happen: this is the shift in vision that I am looking for. 
As you feel yourself entering a somewhat different mood, or state of consciousness, do not resist it.  The R-mode is pleasurable and satisfying; one feels alert interested, self-confident, and concentrated on the task at hand.  Nevertheless some individuals find this mental shift fearful and alarming.  It need not be feared, because the state is so ephemeral, so fragile that the slightest interruption can break the spell or you yourself can easily break the spell if you wish.
What is the fear?  A speculation, partly in jest: L-Mode may fear if you get ‘over there” deeply enough you may not want to “come back.” More seriously, if the fear is one of “losing control” there is nothing to worry about...  When the timer sounds, you will be back all too completely to your “normal” L-mode state  As every creative person knows, the real problem is to sustain the elusive r-mode state long enough to finish the job at hand. 
Now begin to draw.
I hope you can think about and practice your drawing.

If you would like to learn more about classes from Judith Reidy click here.