I came across this book when I was in the sixth grade in the late 80’s, and even though it had already been around for almost ten years, it blew me away. I never showed much of a talent for art before reading the book, but my skill level took off almost immediately afterward. To this day I credit Betty Edwards for teaching me how to access the most sacred part of my mind: the creative side.
At the time, the idea that duality existed not only in the way we think, but in the actual physical structure of our brains was groundbreaking. Today, science has discovered that our brains are much more complicated than just left and right, but this book is still extremely relevant. I believe that it is useful to identify the duality of any area of study before jumping to the relativity of it.
The basic premise is that our brains are capable of two very different styles of thought. Our right brains, according to the book, are responsible for creative, global, timeless, and limitless thought; and our left brains are responsible for logical, orderly, and categorized thought.
This was profound to me because I never realized that there was more than one way of thinking. Most people assume that everyone thinks the way they do, sort of projecting their own frame of reference on everyone else. In reality, there are many different paradigms of thought.
I was also very excited to hear that these different ways of thinking were accessible to everyone. Even though I wasn’t much of an artist before reading the book, I learned to access the artist’s paradigm of thought. This is a strange concept to most people, because we tend to categorize and therefore limit people. We think that artists are born and that’s just the way they are.
The interesting thing is that categorizing people is a “left brain” function, (using the book’s terminology). The logical part of our brain wants order and puts labels on everything. If a person were to let the left brain take over, she would start to believe it and never try to be anything different than what it tells her she can be.
The major thing that this book taught me was that everybody has a right brain. Most people don’t think they could ever be an artist. I now know that even if you screw up drawings of stick figures and smiley faces, you still have a creativity within you. This book can teach you to access it.
This book would be my first recommendation to anyone who wants to get into any creative field. Even if you have no interest in learning how to draw, you can benefit from this book. Betty Edwards teaches us that creativity has much less to do with the technical skills of the trade, and more to do with the paradigm of thought that we are accessing.