A Smithsonian Studio Arts Course
Artists and scientists alike are interested in studying the process of drawing. What makes one person a better artist than another? How can one practice to become a better artist? We often hear about how the right side of the brain is responsible for understanding spatial relationships, symbols, and putting bits of information together to form a whole – all essential skills for drawing. Unlike myself, left-hemisphere dominant “lefties” are gifted with linear and logical understanding, but they may lack the creative and spatial command of “righties”, which hinders their drawing ability. Logical individuals seek a concrete explanation of what is going on in the brain so that they may practice and improve upon their skill. That’s where Shahin Shikhaliyev's course, Drawing on the Right Side of Your Brain, comes in. Students walk away from Shikhaliyev's class with not only a new drawing skill but a new vision of the world.
Friday’s session focused on negative space. The concept is vital in the perceptual understanding of shapes and spatial relationships; for logical lefties, it is akin to learning a new language. Shikhaliyev placed a stool in the center of the room and asked his students to sketch the “space around the stool, not the stool”. In the instructor’s demonstration, a seemingly random collection of shapes magically emerged into a stool. As he drew, he clearly verbalized his process: “I am not thinking about the object. I am just enjoying the line, how it develops, its relation to this line as compared to that line.”
When it comes to becoming an artist, says Shikhaliyev: “You have to create a new view of the world. You are converting the 3-dimensional into the 2-dimensional. Drawing is a very active process; even though the object exists out there, it is your vision. You are creating it.”