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Learning to Draw Again – by Robert Genn

Learning to Draw Again
by Robert Genn

When I was a kid I was pretty good at drawing. By the time I got to art school some people thought I was a certified drawing genius. Trouble was, I solved all my problems with my drawing--to the detriment of composition, colour and other stuff that should have held my attention. Feeling I had to raise my standards, I decided to drop drawing altogether and try to build some other facilities. It was tough. For about six months I essentially disabled drawing and kicked my drawing board down the road.
To this day I seldom draw. I go right to the other stuff.

Psychoanalyst Dr. Norman Doidge's remarkable book, The Brain That Changes Itself is full of stories showing how the human brain can be rewired. Doidge is of the "neuroplasticity" school of brain science. He doesn't think, for example, that there is one part of the brain that masters drawing and keeps it there. Like a giant hard drive on a computer that's capable of filing stuff randomly, any part of the brain, including left and right hemispheres, can learn and unlearn.

In one story, after a devastating stroke a man was able to gradually regain the use of a paralyzed leg. During his recovery he had come to rely more and more on his good leg. It was part of his process to mentally disable the good leg so the bad leg could begin again.

Psychiatrists note that during the sticky business of lovers parting, it's necessary for them to "disable" the forsaken one in order to begin to love someone else. This doesn't mean trashing the other, but the old has to be properly archived before new love-data can be entered. It's thought that those who don't need to do this didn't love in the first place.

Disabled neural paths can be difficult to regenerate--particularly as you grow older. But it does happen, and it's no miracle. It takes character and focus. You can teach old dogs new tricks--and get them to relearn old tricks they've forgotten. Artists frequently report the loss of drawing ability when they neglect drawing for even short periods of time. Since my heady, distracted days in art school, I've noticed a decline in my drawing ability. Just another case of "use it or lose it"?

Best regards,


PS: "Neuroplasticity contributes to both the constrained and unconstrained aspects of our nature. It renders our brains not only more resourceful, but also more vulnerable to outside influences." (Norman Doidge)

Esoterica: Canadian painter John Newman suffered a stroke that caused Transverse Myelitus, permanently disabling the right side of his body. His right-handedness appeared to condemn him to no more painting. But with application and focus John was able to gain nearly similar dexterity with his left hand and has subsequently had lefty sell-out shows. FYI, we've put a selection of John Newman's left- and right-handed work at the top of the current clickback.

Robert Genn has given ARTAZINE permission to post from his twice-weekly newsletter. Thank you Robert! For more of his artistic insights, visit Robert's blot at www.painterspost.com!

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