Last week I attended a workshop for Smithsonian employees that aimed to teach us problem solving techniques and how to approach work situations from different angles. The event was led by one of our Studio Arts instructors, Shahin Shikhaliyev, whose goal was to teach us how to improve these overall life skills through an artistic exercise. We were instructed to cover the picture we were supposed to draw, flipped it upside-down, and only exposed small parts of the picture at a time while drawing what we see on another page.
Before we started our exercise, Shahin lectured for a bit about the brain, how we as humans perceive things and about state of mind when one is doing art. He wanted us to “approach things like you’re seeing them for the first time.” Part of the reason we covered most of the picture we were supposed to draw was to focus on individual things as supposed to the entire picture, specifically: shapes, proportions, and angles. He told us how perception creates distortion. For example, when you’re drawing the hand if you start to think about your knowledge of hands in general that will screw up what you’re working on because you are thinking of all hands instead of the hands you are supposed to be copying. Drawing the individual lines that come together to create the hand is more important than the hand itself. Shahin did a great job going around the classroom and giving individual attention to anyone who asked for help. He seems to know how to address each individual’s questions differently to give them an answer they’ll understand the best.
Another Student's and My Sketches, Guess Which One Belongs to Me
My “hand drawn masterpieces” tend to look like stick figures…bad, bad stick figures. So this was a challenge for me as well as for others. With Shahin’s expert guidance and the perseverance of workshop attendees, everyone in the room successfully participated and many drawings were completed by those of various skill levels. Interestingly, most of the people I spoke with identified as non-artists.
The whole point of this art exercise was to take what we’d learned by drawing and expand it to daily life. Shahin’s main goal was not to teach us how to correctly draw a picture but to teach us to heighten awareness of how our brains process information. At the end of the day, it’s really all about problem solving.
To delve deeper into drawing and the concepts explored in right brain drawing exercises, Smithsonian Associates is offering two upcoming courses taught by Shahin Shikhaliyev: Drawing on the Right Side of Your Brain, April 25th through May 30th starting at 2:30pm, and April 25th through May 30th starting at 6pm. For further information on additional studio art classes beginning in the next couple of days that explore a wide variety of artistic mediums. See them all here.