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Betty Edwards (born in 1926 in San Francisco, California) is an American art teacher and author, best known for her 1979 book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. She taught and did research at the California State University, Long Beach until she retired in the late '90s. While there, she founded the Center for the Educational Applications of Brain Hemisphere Research.
She received a Bachelor's in Art from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA, 1947), a Master's of Art from California State University, Northridge, and a Doctorate in Art, Education, and Psychology from UCLA (1976).
Betty Edwards's major publications include: Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, 1979 (revised and reprinted in 1989, 1999, and 2012), Penguin Putnam; Drawing on the Artist Within, 1986, Simon & Schuster; Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain Workbook, 1998, Penguin Putnam; and Color. A course in mastering the art of mixing colors, 2004, Penguin Putnam. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain has remained the dominant book on its subject, used as a standard text in many art schools, and has been translated and published in many foreign languages, including French, Spanish, German, Polish, Hungarian and Japanese. Her company, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, develops special drawing tools, materials, and videos to help individuals learn to draw.
An artist and painter, she taught at high school level in the Los Angeles public school district (Venice High School), then at community college, and from 1978 until her retirement in 1991, in the Art Department at California State University, Long Beach. All of her teaching experience has been in art: drawing, painting, art history, art-teacher training, and color theory. In addition to teaching drawing workshops around the world, she has also done business consulting with major national and international corporations to enhance creative problem solving.
Betty Edwards has a son and a daughter, and two granddaughters. Her interests other than drawing and art in general include gardening, cooking, and reading. She lives near San Diego, California.
Theories on drawing and brain function
Edwards's method of drawing and teaching was revolutionary when she published it in 1979. It received an immediate positive response, and is now widely accepted by artists, teachers, and others around the world. Underlying the method is the notion that the brain has two ways of perceiving and processing reality – one verbal and analytic, the other visual and perceptual. Edwards' method advocates suppressing the former in favor of the latter. It focuses on disregarding preconceived notions of what the drawn object should look like, and on individually "seeing" edges or lines, spaces, relationships, and lights and shadows, later combining them and seeing them as a whole, or gestalt.
Edwards's early work was based in part on her understanding of neuroscience, especially the cerebral hemisphere research which suggested that the two hemispheres of the brain have different functions. She spoke of verbal/analytic processing as taking place in the brain's left hemisphere, and visual/perceptual processing as taking place in the right. When later research showed that the focus of these activities is much less clear cut, she began calling the two modes "left mode" and "right mode", respectively.
However there is no scientific support for these claims. Dietrich and Kanso did a meta-review of 72 experiments and found no conclusive support for the hemisphere laterality of creativity:
Taken together, creative thinking does not appear to critically depend on any single mental process or brain region, and it is not especially associated with right brains, defocused attention, low arousal, or alpha synchronization, as sometimes hypothesized.
- Dual-coding theory
- Functional specialization (brain)
- Lateralization of brain function
- Roger Sperry
- Schwartz, Tony (1995). What Really Matters: Searching for Wisdom in America. Bantam Books. p. 164. ISBN 978-0-553-37492-6.
- Edwards, Betty. The New Drawing on The Right Side of the Brain. Penguin Putnam. ISBN 978-0-87477-424-5.
- Schwartz, Tony (December 11, 1989). "The Art of the Mind". New York: 42–59.
- Dietrich, Arne; Riam Kanso (March 2010). "A Review of EEG, ERP, and Neuroimaging Studies of Creativity and Insight". Psychological Bulletin 136 (5): 822–848.