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Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain – Betty Edwards EP4

Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain – Betty Edwards EP4

In This episode we talk about the book by Betty Edwards, Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain. How to turn the left side of your brain off so the right side can show through and be more creative as well as learn to draw better.

Betty Edwards Book  Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain

Honorable Mentions in the podcast

Mike DiTullo Speed Drawing Video 

Tom Sacks Surfing Video

Life Of An Architect Podcast

Andrew Millison Permaculture vidoes

MIT Professor Drawings 

 

Audio Version

 

Video Version

Transcript

00:00:01:05 – 00:00:14:09

Greg Porter

Hey, I’m Greg Porter, and welcome to the Makers Quest podcast. If you want to find out more about Bryan and his YouTube channels and website it’s check out Maker Quest dot com for all the pertinent links.

 

00:00:15:06 – 00:00:18:16

Brian Benham

And I’m Brian Benham. And today we are talking about Betty.

 

00:00:18:16 – 00:00:19:08

Greg Porter

Edwards.

 

00:00:19:17 – 00:00:36:05

Brian Benham

Book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. This is a book that Greg recommended to me because I wanted to get better at drawing. And once I started reading this book, I realized that this book is more about not just becoming a better at drawing, but becoming better at creativity.

 

00:00:37:14 – 00:01:08:04

Greg Porter

Absolutely. And one of the things Betty shares it in her foreword, in the book, in it, it’s in other places. And when I read the book for the first time, 25 or so years ago, it is so much of the book is about perception and looking at a problem from different angles and she describes drawing as a as a logical problem that you can solve with logic and not necessarily having this magic lens on the world.

 

00:01:08:24 – 00:01:46:23

Greg Porter

I think I think even she describes watching someone else draw as it’s almost like magic. How are they doing it? It doesn’t look like it should just happen that way. When you see someone who’s really skilled at drawing, it does it almost looks like a magic trick and being able to break down, how is this person looking at the world or an object or thinking of something in their mind and then translating that into into a drawing and and the answer is there’s some perception things that we aren’t really taught when we’re young.

 

00:01:47:07 – 00:02:10:09

Greg Porter

Whereas I don’t know if you’re learning to read, you learn the alphabet, you learn word structure and sentence structure and punctuation and all those things. There are very rigid rules to grammar and mathematics and things like that. Where in the art world those rules are never taught and they’re not very apparent. And if you if you don’t know what they are, it makes it very difficult.

 

00:02:10:10 – 00:02:24:02

Greg Porter

You know, you start drawing based on how you’ve seen other people draw and how you’re perceiving the world. And I think that’s what her book does such a great job at is altering the way you interpret your perception of the world.

 

00:02:25:20 – 00:02:53:01

Brian Benham

Yeah, I and I think one of the things that she really talks about in there is that it’s a shame in today’s society that school programs have closed down a lot of the art programs, a lot of the shop classes and and all of the ceramic classes and all of that stuff. And that she really hopes that people will start to really focus on drawing because she thinks drawing, focusing on things that you can see in the real world.

 

00:02:53:01 – 00:03:16:23

Brian Benham

Like like how do you draw that alive? If you’re able to visualize it, you can see it and you’ll be able to problem solve it. So I think I think she’s really on to something there, especially when I look at my own kids and how they are going through the world, trying to figure out how to draw things or how to problem solve things and to be able to look at the big picture and see this thing is going to fit into this thing this way.

 

00:03:17:23 – 00:03:22:17

Brian Benham

Ah, this problem can be solved using this technique is a really good skill to have.

 

00:03:23:15 – 00:03:51:20

Greg Porter

Yeah. And I think the, the title of her book says a lot, right? Drawing on the right side of the brain. And so for those who don’t know the right versus left premise of psychology, the basics of it are is that your left brain is very logic and language oriented. And the right side is where creativity and to some extent problem solving which sounds like logic, but it’s different.

 

00:03:52:12 – 00:04:31:11

Greg Porter

Problem solving, perception and creativity lie. And what happens is we develop such strong language skills and strong logic skills that the left brain develops this massive amount of ability and we don’t spend enough time developing the right side of our brain where the creativity lies. And that’s why the thing that I always giggle at, and it’s not because anybody is a bad person or, or stupid or anything else like that, but put a pencil in the hand of most adults and ask them to draw their house.

 

00:04:31:17 – 00:05:03:10

Greg Porter

Right. As an architect, that that is kind of a fun exercise to put people through. And their house winds up looking literally like something someone drew in second grade. And quite honestly, it’s probably based on those hieroglyphics that we all learn you know, the house with the two square sides, the roof and the chimney and the puff of smoke coming out with the stick figures holding hands that represent the family and and it’s not because they’re they’re not smart people.

 

00:05:03:18 – 00:05:28:20

Greg Porter

It’s because they haven’t developed that side of their brain and that perception. And when you say the word house, it it it conjures a picture in their head versus a perception of what their house really looks like. And I think there’s an important distinction. There is, as we’re talking about this book, to focus on the right side of the brain and what what can the right side of the brain do?

 

00:05:28:20 – 00:05:54:15

Greg Porter

What are the capabilities there that the left side is completely incapable of? And I think where this hits home with most people is in the motor skills that we have. Right. When I’m grabbing my my bottle of water here, I’m not thinking about it from a language perspective. I’m thinking about it in the spatial arrangement of how far is that bottle away?

 

00:05:54:15 – 00:06:14:15

Greg Porter

How hard do I need to squeeze? Where do I need to lift it? Where’s my mouth if I’m taking a drink? But I’m not saying those words. It’s all happening. And interestingly enough, if you use a computer analogy, the left side of your brain is is very serial. It’s 1010, and it can only handle one thing at a time.

 

00:06:15:00 – 00:06:45:05

Greg Porter

And the right side of your brain is an extraordinarily parallel task type of organism in that it can handle multiple movements from multiple limbs at the same time. And it can negotiate things. So the way that I’ve described it to people who aren’t artists or aren’t good at drawing but they’re definitely good at some things that involve very similar skills in driving a car is one of those things, especially if it’s a stick shift, right?

 

00:06:45:12 – 00:07:05:04

Greg Porter

There’s a clutch foot, there’s a gas foot, there’s driving with one hand and shifting with another. You’re doing four things in tandem, and you can’t do that with your left brain. And that’s why when you start driving a stick shift, no one can do it the first time. It doesn’t matter how much coordination you have, there’s no possible way you’re going to drive it.

 

00:07:05:04 – 00:07:29:13

Greg Porter

Well, in the first attempt, you have to you have to start printing those skills in your brain and your right brain takes over. And at some point you’re not even thinking about gears anymore. It’s it’s a reaction. And that is a very right brain type activity. And I think all of us have probably had the experience where we’re driving home or we’re walking home and out on a run, whatever it is.

 

00:07:30:00 – 00:07:50:16

Greg Porter

And you’ve been doing that thing for 20 minutes and all of a sudden you, you flip from the right side of your brain thinking being in that flow over to the left side is like, How did I get here? You know, you’re you’re all of a sudden your garage doors open, open, and you can’t remember the entire drive home that just happened.

 

00:07:50:16 – 00:07:53:13

Brian Benham

Yeah, I’ve had that to me a lot, many times.

 

00:07:53:24 – 00:08:17:01

Greg Porter

And that’s I guess why I’m walking into that is, is just describing. That’s the very different thing. Left brain to right brain is your right brain is that flow state of, you know, parallel communication, many things going on, a lot of input, a lot of output. You know, when you’re driving, you’re seeing you’re hearing sometimes you’re feeling things.

 

00:08:17:01 – 00:08:42:23

Greg Porter

If it’s if it’s the way the car’s reacting and in real time you’re responding to every one of those without really processing it through that language and logic side of your brain. If we waited on that, we’d have to drive five miles an hour. We could never go any faster because we couldn’t process quickly enough and when when we’re talking about art skills and creative skills, that right brain is where all of those things lie.

 

00:08:43:11 – 00:09:20:15

Brian Benham

All the observations of observing what’s going on and reacting to it. Yeah. So to tie into that a little bit, maybe a little bit of a shift gears, part of the reason why I wanted to better learn how to draw better is one, to better communicate, because I think it’s a great communication tool. But also I wanted to try to become more creative when I’m trying in a CAD software, there’s all kinds of things that are hindering my creativity and not allowing me to draw at the speed of thought like, like, oh, so that I’ve reached the limit of the CAT program or I have to go find that shortcut key because I can’t remember

 

00:09:20:15 – 00:09:39:04

Brian Benham

the shortcut key or find it the tool in the tool drop down box. So those kind of things just continually break my flow state. So I wanted to get better at drawing. And as I’ve been working on my drawing, I’ve realized a couple of things. Like if when I first started out, let’s say I was going to draw this pencil, drawing a pencil is pretty easy.

 

00:09:39:04 – 00:09:58:14

Brian Benham

It’s got a tip on it and some couple of straight lines and a little circle on the so that you could draw that really easy, a kindergartner can draw it. But then as I continued to draw, I started to notice more things about it. I would notice teeth marks in the thing from me biting on it so that I started to draw those teeth marks in and noticed the print on there.

 

00:09:58:14 – 00:10:21:06

Brian Benham

And the print was it pressed into the pencil. And so I was try to draw that the print in there. And then the little metal Ferrell on there has lines that are crimped going in different directions. So one of them’s I think is crimping the eraser and one of them is crimping onto the, the pencil itself. But then who knows what these other lines are for.

 

00:10:21:06 – 00:10:46:21

Brian Benham

So it got me kind of curious about why there’s lines going vertical instead of horizontal, because they don’t seem like they would crimp anything and then maybe that’s just to give you a better grip when you need to erase something. I have no idea. So just going through all this exercise got me to observe more about what’s going on with the pencil and also got me curious about why it’s made that way and how it’s made that way.

 

00:10:46:21 – 00:11:09:07

Brian Benham

Why are the lines different going in different directions? And then when you lay the pencil down, it has a shadow on it. So you start observing how the the pencil is interacting with the world around you. So I think Betty Edwards is really on to something with teaching people how to draw is a great way to strengthen your creativity.

 

00:11:09:07 – 00:11:13:24

Brian Benham

And understand your world around you and understand the built environment around you.

 

00:11:15:05 – 00:11:51:06

Greg Porter

I agree. And interestingly enough, Betty has some really great exercises. We all can do that get you out of that left brain and into the right brain to start observing things and really work. Strengthen your perception of, I’ll just say the world, but whatever it is that you’re focused on that day, and her classic example of how to hit your left brain and right brain fight for dominance all the time that that’s just the way our brains work.

 

00:11:51:13 – 00:12:11:01

Greg Porter

And a lot of times I’m sure most people have had this where you start into some creative activity and then all of a sudden in your mind and I keep pointing to my left left side of my head, but it’s is this in your mind? It’s sort of circular there, but in your mind you start going, Why am I doing this?

 

00:12:11:01 – 00:12:31:18

Greg Porter

This is stupid. This is going to take forever. I got better things I could do and you fight. Just the notion of starting to get creative in her. Her book talks about turning that off, turning that voice off, and doing an activity that forces you into the right side of your brain that you can’t the left brain can’t can’t fight back on.

 

00:12:32:02 – 00:12:53:21

Greg Porter

And some of those activities involve looking at things that you can’t dissect the problem in any other way than to do it with the right side of your brain. So part of that is, you know, making a different shape with your hand and starting to draw that there are no words that describe the shape of of what you’re trying to draw.

 

00:12:53:21 – 00:13:21:08

Greg Porter

And so that’s that’s a really classic way for some artists to warm up is is they take an object or a thing and rather than drawing a full pencil because we all know the name of a pencil and I can I can close my eyes and draw a pencil because I know the name of it. Right. But like you said, if you just look at the Farrel of the pencil and start to draw that there’s no way for the left side of the brain to chime in and say, hey, hey, hey, I know the answer.

 

00:13:21:08 – 00:13:48:06

Greg Porter

Let’s get through this exercise. Right, right. And and so as you as you zoom in or as you look at a shape that’s not rectilinear and you start to to have to dissect that shape, it’s amazing how quickly you will shift from the noisy outside voice of the left brain to the very quiet and industrious parallel tasking right side of your brain.

 

00:13:49:08 – 00:14:17:15

Brian Benham

Yeah, she she describes it as your left side of your brain being a bully and constantly telling your right side to to be quiet. And what you have to say is an important we’re busy over here doing real work in near your and your left side is just pulling your right side into submission. And so she has several exercises in her book like turning something upside down and then trying to draw it upside down.

 

00:14:17:23 – 00:14:40:03

Brian Benham

And then that’s forcing your left side of the brain to say, well, there’s no logic behind this. There’s no logical reason why we’re trying this upside down. And so your left side gives up, which allows your right side of the brain to then take over and allow you to draw this ups upside down figure and allow your creativity to start to flow and allow your right side of the brain to dominate your left.

 

00:14:40:03 – 00:14:44:13

Brian Benham

Because the left side says, well, this is dumb or giving up, and then turns off.

 

00:14:45:06 – 00:15:17:12

Greg Porter

Yeah, and I think all of this is to say, Brian, the there is more importance in learning to draw than than the picture that you’re going to put on the page. I think sketching, especially if you’re dealing with clients in a design arena, whatever that is, if you’re designing things that you have to get approval for from clients, the ability to sketch is is paramount and sketch quickly that helps people iterate through ideas.

 

00:15:17:12 – 00:15:40:18

Greg Porter

It helps them see what you’re trying to say. I can’t stress enough how many times I’ve had a client and I’ll be describing something architecturally to them and they’ll nod and they’ll say, Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And you can see that you can see them just glaze over in the eyes and you know, they have absolutely no clue what you’re talking about.

 

00:15:41:00 – 00:16:16:08

Greg Porter

And again, it’s not to be disparaging. It’s not that they’re unwise or they’re not smart or whatever it is. It’s that they, they don’t have that visual practice that I and a lot of the people on my team have and so to be able to pull out a piece of paper and sketch that thing, whatever it is that we’re talking about, if it’s a certain area within a building, if it’s a layout of a building, on a site, if it’s, you know, some kind of weird access or topography that’s complicated, being able to just very quickly sketch it and then, you know, flip that paper around to them and say, here’s what I meant to

 

00:16:16:08 – 00:16:26:01

Greg Porter

say. And, you know, the light bulb goes off immediately. They’re like, oh, now I get it. And everybody’s, you know, maybe a little to embarrassed to admit that they didn’t understand it the first time.

 

00:16:26:01 – 00:16:48:00

Brian Benham

Yeah, I’ve been that been there before on many job sites where I’ve been working with the general contractor and he’s like, All right, I want you to build it like this. And with this reveal. And he’s sketching it out in his sketch, does it make any sense to me? And I now now I’m at a little more of a confidence level to be like like let’s let’s back up and like, can you explain this to me?

 

00:16:48:00 – 00:16:56:04

Brian Benham

But when I’m in my younger years, I did not have that confidence level. And I left there going, what the hell am I going to do? I have no idea what this guy just drew.

 

00:16:58:15 – 00:17:22:12

Greg Porter

I’ve been there once or twice for sure. And, you know, sometimes it’s it’s my inability to to change what I have in my mind. Right. A lot of, you know, when you’re a designer, I think, and you arrive at the thing that you’re wanting to do right. And putting it in drawings or handing it to somebody else in a physical sense or, you know, whatever.

 

00:17:22:12 – 00:17:44:01

Greg Porter

And this puzzle piece has to fit into a bigger picture. And somebody says, well, I think we need to do it differently. A lot of times we have a roadblock or a little myopathy, if you will, a blind spot where we can’t see a different answer because we know our answers. Right. And that’s a totally weird situation to be in as well.

 

00:17:44:08 – 00:18:14:03

Greg Porter

But again, if we can if we can speak in a drawn language, it makes things generally easier if both sides can do it. Well, I know I’ve sat through a number of meetings where I’ve watched somebody sketch saying something and it was really awful and gone back up either to a whiteboard or a piece of paper and redrew it and sometimes put a little perspective on it or make it three dimensional and kind of ask, is this am I understanding what you drew?

 

00:18:14:03 – 00:18:40:04

Greg Porter

And then that leads to a little bit deeper conversation of, Oh, well, that’s pretty close. But what I really meant was this. And again, I think that there’s there’s this sketching skill, which I think is extraordinarily important, especially if you’re in, in, in the design field. And I have a saying that I always tell our young people and it’s that drawing is design and design is drawing.

 

00:18:41:01 – 00:18:59:10

Greg Porter

And I think I may have even mentioned this before in our podcast. I sort of feel like a broken record sometimes, but it’s good to talk about because as as you’re drawing and you’re making the drawing look good, that means you’re making the design look good because we’re going to perceive it in real life like you drew it.

 

00:18:59:23 – 00:19:20:10

Greg Porter

And then, you know, if you’re working on the design and making the design look better, chances are that drawings are going to look nicer. And so it’s this, it’s this. It reminds me, at least the way I pictured in my head is the the pursuit velodrome races where they start on opposite ends of the velodrome, and they they race as fast as they can, but they’re not going to catch each other.

 

00:19:20:10 – 00:19:29:18

Greg Porter

That’s, that’s drawing and design to me. You can’t separate the two. They don’t exactly touch each other, but they absolutely affect one another in every way, shape and form.

 

00:19:30:18 – 00:19:59:00

Brian Benham

Yeah. So a kind of a side tangent to that. I was listening to another podcast this week in Life of the Architect and Bob Boris and they the head architect of his firm or whatever, wherever he works. I had an intern and his intern had drawn something up in CAD and Bob wanted him to change it and he’s like, I don’t want to change it.

 

00:19:59:00 – 00:20:18:17

Brian Benham

And he’s like, Why do you not want to change it? And he’s like, Because I have like 10 hours invested in this 3D model. Like, I don’t want to like, I can’t change that part. I’d rather change all this other stuff and keep the thing that I have this thing in. So he had this sunk cost fallacy into this 3D model that didn’t really work or wasn’t really what Bob was going for.

 

00:20:18:24 – 00:20:35:10

Brian Benham

And so Bob told him, like, All right, well, now you have to redraw that whole thing with just a paper and pencil, because that way you can’t get that much detail into it. You have to you have to just be able to get the basic picture out of what you want. The big picture of what you want was kind of what he was going for.

 

00:20:35:20 – 00:21:00:08

Greg Porter

Well, I think I think that’s another great point, Brian, in that we do become so reliant on our technology. And I think everybody who’s ever drawn in a 3D or even a 2D program has experienced the same frustration and with the software not doing exactly what you want. And then it becomes a battle of wills. Who’s going to give first?

 

00:21:00:08 – 00:21:33:00

Greg Porter

Are you going to give up your idea or is the software going to give up? And finally, let the screen look like what’s in your head? And again, I stress I’m getting to be the old guy in the office. So that’s why I always talk about our young people. But I stress to the young people how important sketching on paper is because I can iterate through ideas with three layers of trace in a matter of a minute or two where it’s going to take them hours and maybe days to do the exact same thing on the computer.

 

00:21:33:12 – 00:21:53:02

Greg Porter

And you can you know, in Bob’s from Bob’s perspective, my guess is there was probably a piece of the design that just wasn’t refined enough or there was some mismatch somewhere along the way. And it’s very easy to spot when you see it. But if you have that sunken time into the project, you don’t want to mess with it.

 

00:21:53:11 – 00:22:01:15

Greg Porter

Well, if you work all that out on paper, your eraser is like really fast. You can just draw the lines back in and.

 

00:22:01:24 – 00:22:04:11

Brian Benham

Just crumple it up and throw it away and start again.

 

00:22:04:17 – 00:22:35:19

Greg Porter

Yeah. And I had a professor, Tom McCoy, he was one of my favorite professors at CU, and he was the one who really taught me the art of trace paper and based drawings. And it was always this very we’ve all seen those drawing, but how to draw a dinosaur, right? And you start with these circles and ovals, and then we add a little bit more detail, a little bit more detail and Tom had this excellent way of, of drawing this bass form.

 

00:22:36:06 – 00:22:58:20

Greg Porter

If it was a tower element on the corner of a building he would just draw this three dimensional perspective rectangle, maybe with a floor line or two on it, and then he’d lay over a piece of trees and start putting some window detail and oh yeah, that’s going to look great. Well, maybe we’ll move that to the side and instead of one big window, we’ll put two smaller windows with one big one underneath or whatever it was.

 

00:22:58:20 – 00:23:21:02

Greg Porter

And he would iterate through this. And it was, it was, it was that magic show all of a sudden, 5 minutes later from four layers of trees he had this incredible perspective drawing with shadow studies and everything else in it. And maybe there was a material, you know, maybe it was brick in one version and it was stucco in another and some kind of bat siding and in another.

 

00:23:21:11 – 00:23:59:16

Greg Porter

And literally in the course of 5 minutes, this entire stair tower was designed ten different ways and that is an incredibly powerful tool, especially, like you said, if it’s if it’s an idea, you have to be ready as a designer to throw away more ideas than you keep. And I share with with young designers all the time that if I throw away your idea and you get mad, you’re no good at your job, you should be able to come up with 50 more iterations for that idea in a matter of 30 minutes or less.

 

00:24:00:10 – 00:24:17:19

Greg Porter

  1. And it sounds like an art, like there’s no way you could come up with 50 different ideas how to do the same little thing but once you try it and you realize that you can you can never look backwards again and your first idea is your knee jerk is the easiest one and it’s probably the worst one.

 

00:24:19:10 – 00:24:45:02

Greg Porter

And so as you again, you know in the sketching world, as you overlay or draw multiple things on the same page, I’ve got sketchbooks full of, of pages of panels where there’s just grids of the same thing over and over, but it’s slightly different. And you wind up sometimes it’s, it’s number four or five, sometimes it’s number 30, but it’s almost never number one, I can tell you that.

 

00:24:45:02 – 00:25:04:05

Brian Benham

So right. I have that same thing when I design things and I try not to look at it as throwing the idea away just because that idea doesn’t work on this particular project. Does it mean I can’t save that idea and use it on a different project and it’s just a matter of remembering where I put that idea so I can recall it when I need to?

 

00:25:04:14 – 00:25:28:04

Brian Benham

And as I’ve been designing furniture for different clients, one thing that I always do is I keep saving my renditions. So I’ll just say version one, version two, whatever. And then every once in a while when I need to come up with some new ideas or I have another client that’s trying to figure something out that I’m trying to figure something out for, I’ll go back through and open up all these files and look at what I’ve done in the past.

 

00:25:28:04 – 00:25:33:08

Brian Benham

And once in a while I’ll be like, Oh, this, this would fit perfect for this client. I’ll be able to reuse that idea.

 

00:25:34:06 – 00:25:57:18

Greg Porter

I think I think we all do that. There’s, there’s definitely I think design in general is a process of layers, and I love looking at of all things, I’m not a sneaker head, but I love looking at sneakers and how they’re designed and the shoes that are designed today, how many layers of texture and detail are in those sneakers.

 

00:25:58:05 – 00:26:29:22

Greg Porter

And if you rewind the clock to when I was a kid in the eighties, those didn’t exist. Sneakers were very simple. They were either leather or canvas, and if they were canvas, they probably had some plastic toes and heels. And if they were leather, they were sort of leather with a flat bottom on them now. And now there’s, you know, multiple different types of material and meshes and stitching and pattern in the same shoe and sometimes color and in the form of the shoe hasn’t changed.

 

00:26:29:22 – 00:26:57:02

Greg Porter

Like the form of our feet is the exact same. If you look at the envelope of the shoe, there’s not much difference from today back 40 years ago in the eighties, but it’s that layer of detail. One thing, building on the next building on the next, I think, you know, at least for me, when I look back at some of my sketchbooks and some of the ideas that I’ve had, it’s always my question is always how can I add just a little bit more flavor to this one?

 

00:26:57:02 – 00:27:25:23

Greg Porter

Can I put a little more garlic or a little more salt or a little spice in there and bring it up one more layer of detail that’s really going to add something cool to to the next project. And I think you can tell in some designer’s work that they don’t learn as much from the last iteration. Right. We should always be looking at that last thing as our as our starting point and build the next thing from that so that it’s better and better and better.

 

00:27:25:23 – 00:27:44:17

Greg Porter

And I know I’ve heard you talk about it, Brian, your initial work and your joinery and some of the things that you’re able to do and I think you had a great story about a piece of furniture and a joint, and then your next one you built had a better situation, but you were like, well, I couldn’t build it back then, you know, but I can do it now.

 

00:27:44:17 – 00:28:01:07

Greg Porter

And I think that’s what makes people’s design careers very interesting, is that progression over time, whether it’s a Frank Lloyd Wright or whether it’s a more focused us out in California or Frank Gehry or anyone else, you can see that progression through time.

 

00:28:02:01 – 00:28:32:13

Brian Benham

Yeah. And just in your day to day life, trying to always iterate on your design and look at it from a different perspective is important. One of the projects I’m working on now has a geometric design in it, kind of based off the Fibonacci sequence, and then it has this circle that’s embedded into this design and I designed it in SketchUp on the computer, and of course there’s a rotate tool on that, but it didn’t dawn on me to rotate it like the client gave me a specific with that.

 

00:28:32:13 – 00:28:50:22

Brian Benham

I had to stay within there. So you can’t be over 66 inches tall and 60 some inches wide or whatever. And so I had a design within that parameters now. Now I built the thing and I got it all clamped together and once it was clamped together, I needed to move it out of the way so I could build the second part.

 

00:28:50:22 – 00:29:19:07

Brian Benham

So I rotated it and turned it across the bench. And so now it’s sitting in a different orientation and I’m sitting here looking at this thing and I’m like, Holy crap, that is way cooler sitting this way than it was sitting the other way. And I don’t know, it may not be way cooler, but just the perspective, my perception now of seeing it in a different orientation made me think, Wow, I should I need to rebuild another one now for another client in this orientation.

 

00:29:19:15 – 00:29:40:20

Brian Benham

And that’s happened to me a couple of times. I built a table that had the sculpted legs and it was three tiers. And then when I packed it up to ship it, I turned it upside down and I was like, it works both ways. You could turn this table right side up or upside down. So getting back to drawing, if I were to draw an ID on a sketch paper, I could have spun that whole piece of paper around.

 

00:29:40:23 – 00:29:51:04

Brian Benham

And I may have seen that just by closing the sketchbook up, turning the sketchbook over and close up instead of watching it on the screen where it’s fixed I.

 

00:29:51:18 – 00:30:33:12

Greg Porter

I watch, I follow. A gentleman on both Instagram and YouTube might do too low and he he’s a shoe designer. He’s worked in industrial design doing fashion. I think he’s worked in the car world doing just prototype design for cars and all kinds of different I’ll call it appliances and things like that. So some of the some of the speaker pods that we saw in the I guess it be the early 2000s that were these really cool modern or contemporary designed computer accessories.

 

00:30:33:12 – 00:30:54:21

Greg Porter

He worked on a lot of those things and he puts these great speed drawing videos on his YouTube channel. And one of the things you’ll see him do all the time is switch the image right or left. And Betty Edwards talks about turning the drawings upside down and kind of standing back. And it helps you look at proportion from an unbiased perspective.

 

00:30:54:21 – 00:31:13:23

Greg Porter

Right. Again, we talked about it as designers. We become very attached to the thing we design. And I think as as people who sketch and draw as you draw it, your your faith in that drawing becomes stronger. The longer you look at it. You’re like, no, this is this is really a great drawing the like.

 

00:31:14:02 – 00:31:15:23

Brian Benham

That’s on it cost fallacy.

 

00:31:15:23 – 00:31:49:24

Greg Porter

Yeah. And sometimes when you flip it either side for side or upside down, you look at it, you’re like, oh, what am I thinking? You know, this his left arm is way longer than his right arm. You know, just just one of those things that it will stand out. It’s like, oh, it’s out of proportion. And I think, you know, as, as people who design furniture or architecture or anything else, it’s just as important to stand back at arm’s length and flip something around the clock a little bit and ask yourself, is this the right way to look at this thing?

 

00:31:49:24 – 00:32:12:07

Greg Porter

Or is there something off? And in it is sometimes that that inspiration comes from what I what I would call almost a mistake. You know, you you rolled something out of the way not not purposefully to to look at it differently, but you did it. And then it’s like, whoa, whoa, whoa, hey, let’s let’s take a step back and look at this again.

 

00:32:13:05 – 00:32:13:16

Brian Benham

Yeah, for.

 

00:32:13:16 – 00:32:38:24

Greg Porter

Sure. Kind of getting back to drawing and perception and how that’s valuable. And I think obviously we’ve talked a little bit about the sketching side, the drawing side, and it can be very pragmatic from a communication standpoint. But I think from a perception standpoint, it’s interesting to me to look at our work with our tools. And I tell the people I work with all the time.

 

00:32:39:13 – 00:33:02:10

Greg Porter

I come home and I usually work in the shop at least an hour a day. I have a full time 40 hour, 80, 80 hour week. Sometimes job. And when I come home to unwind, one of the things I do is I go out in the shop and I work by myself and you’re working. At least I am working on very three dimensional objects, whatever they are.

 

00:33:02:19 – 00:33:28:21

Greg Porter

And that challenge is much like sketching your hand. When I get out in the shop and start moving boards around and the tools come on and you start looking at all of these muscle memory type movements that we do, whether it’s a table sale or whether it’s a welding torch or anything else that I work with out in the shop that left brain goes away in a heartbeat for me.

 

00:33:28:21 – 00:33:47:07

Greg Porter

And part of that is training. Like, I’m, I’m used to it. I do it a lot and I’m in and out of left and right brain all day at work from, you know, some moments I might be writing contracts and then 5 minutes later somebody might be at my desk asking for help on a design. So we’re sketching. So I’m in and out of it all the time.

 

00:33:47:07 – 00:34:18:15

Greg Porter

But I find when I get home at night, that’s the one thing that my brain really wants to do is turn off that left side and really focus a little bit of that right brain thinking or processing. And it’s interesting as you start working, or at least for me personally, when I start working with a piece how sometimes yeah, I might have a sketch on paper, but I leave it pretty loose.

 

00:34:19:02 – 00:34:41:00

Greg Porter

But how quickly you can start to solve those problems as you’re working with the actual piece and sometimes you can sit and rack your brain sitting on the couch or at the kitchen table or at your desk trying to solve a problem. But until you put the piece in your hand and you start working with it, sometimes you can’t solve that problem in what I would call the best way.

 

00:34:41:10 – 00:35:08:15

Greg Porter

And it’s it’s always interesting to me how quickly I’m able to solve problems when I have tools in my hand. And even at that, sometimes how how quickly I can solve the problem multiple ways and come at it from completely different approaches. And it’s I don’t know, my shop floor gets littered with, Well, that worked, but it wasn’t the best way to do it.

 

00:35:09:10 – 00:35:28:23

Greg Porter

And and sometimes, you know, I’ve, I’ve learned over the years that you have to commit. If you don’t commit, you’ll never know if it worked. But by the same token, once you commit, you have to be willing to throw it right in the bin if you don’t like it. And if you’re not, is that sunk in cost? And hey, I need to force this thing out.

 

00:35:29:03 – 00:35:47:22

Greg Porter

And sometimes if you’re working on a commission piece in your own timeline, you don’t have that luxury of throwing something away and starting over. But like you said, you can go back to it and you can build it again and you can do it the next iteration, the next layer of detail, the next time you handle that piece.

 

00:35:47:22 – 00:36:05:03

Brian Benham

Yeah. And put it in your back pocket for later. So yeah. And then I’ve pulled out drawings years later and I look at it and and I remember back to when I draw drew it originally and I’m like, Wow, this is really cool. But now, years later, I look at it and I’m like, That proportion is not, it’s not good.

 

00:36:05:03 – 00:36:24:15

Brian Benham

And it’s just because we’re always learning and always growing. And our, our design tastes are always changing, just like our tastes in clothes from the seventies to the nineties or the tastes in hair from the seventies to the nineties. When we look back at our high school pictures and all the kids have fufu hair, we’re like, Wow, that’s why.

 

00:36:24:15 – 00:36:44:08

Brian Benham

What were we thinking back then? But back then that was just normal. We thought it was the coolest thing. So we’re always just changing and developing and rewriting our brains into thinking new things and new thoughts. And and of course, sketching is helping you rewrite your brain and getting your thoughts out and letting you keep moving forward.

 

00:36:45:00 – 00:37:10:11

Greg Porter

It is. And I, I think I shared with you earlier before we hit the record button, I’ve actually taught the Betty Edwards method several times to groups of people. And when I, when I share with them on day one, you know, I think her first exercise is draw a self-portrait, take a mirror, draw a self-portrait. And some of those things are terrible.

 

00:37:11:16 – 00:37:28:03

Greg Porter

You know, we learn to draw smiley faces when we’re in grade school. And some of us never get beyond the smiley face. And, you know, you stare at yourself in the mirror and it’s like, holy cow, you know, where do I start? And, you know, your eyeballs look like footballs and, you know, all the things you learned in third grade.

 

00:37:28:03 – 00:37:50:07

Greg Porter

Right. And being able to tell people that sketching is a learned skill, you’re not born. People have this perception, right? That you’re either a good artist or you’re not. And you can’t you can’t acquire that skill. And sketching is very much just like anything else, like throwing a baseball or or driving a car it is a learned skill.

 

00:37:50:14 – 00:38:22:02

Greg Porter

And with practice, anybody can do it and anybody can do it very well. And, you know, after seven or so sessions of of class and Betty Edwards and kind of the final assignment is always draw that self-portrait again. And when you compare the two self-portraits with one another, and like I say, over the course of call it five to seven days, somebody goes from an absolute infant in sketching ability to someone who can make a likeness to their face.

 

00:38:22:08 – 00:38:55:12

Greg Porter

Now you’re not going to be Picasso or. Well, Picasso is probably a bad example. You’re not going to be a Renoir after one week of drawing. But you definitely can lay the entire foundation and learn the alphabet of drawing. In that amount of time. And I think that that in and of itself, we talked a little bit earlier about opening perceptions once you’ve gone through all of those exercises to help you perceive the visual world differently.

 

00:38:56:15 – 00:39:11:12

Greg Porter

All of those locks are completely undone for for looking at the world through that lens. And it’s just amazing, again, from my perspective, what that opens up from a creativity perspective.

 

00:39:12:15 – 00:39:31:24

Brian Benham

Yeah. One thing I like to add to that about becoming more creative you mentioned back when you’re a third grader, you drew like this and you like that. Some people never advance beyond that. And I think a lot of that is fear of being made fun of like when you’re a kindergartner, everybody is like, yay, we’re kindergartners now.

 

00:39:31:24 – 00:39:52:04

Brian Benham

We’re fun. We’re all just here to have fun and and whatnot. But then as you get older, reality starts to set in and people start to, you know, people’s personalities come out and some people are a little bit more dominant in their personality. Some people get jealous and they’ll tear you down or make fun of you or whatever.

 

00:39:52:04 – 00:40:15:06

Brian Benham

And I think that a lot of times will stifle people’s creativity because now they’re afraid to try. They’re afraid to put themselves out there. So I don’t know what the answer is to to that. But just another way of looking at it, like like why people always say, oh, well, I’m not creative anymore. And I think it’s just because you can’t be afraid to put yourself out there.

 

00:40:15:06 – 00:40:17:24

Brian Benham

You still got to do the draw, even if it looks terrible.

 

00:40:18:16 – 00:40:41:00

Greg Porter

Yeah. And you know something I bring up to everybody? Eddie Van Halen sucked at guitar one day. There was a day for sure picked up the guitar, and he was awful. And he would have been in that same position. Somebody could have made fun of him for thinking he could play the guitar, but he couldn’t. And he just like everybody else.

 

00:40:41:00 – 00:41:06:15

Greg Porter

I think there was a certain amount of genius maybe with Eddie Van Halen that the the average person doesn’t have, but he had parents who were musicians, and they encouraged him to keep going. And I think they probably helped his initial education probably progressed quicker than the average bear. But but he did. There was there was one day when he picked up that guitar and he had no idea what it was.

 

00:41:06:15 – 00:41:27:17

Greg Porter

And I think the same is true for generally any anyone who who you look at and you’re like, wow, that person can draw really well. I’m kind of jealous or penmanship or anything else that I’ve been studying back into looking at calligraphy again. That was something I was obsessed with as a kid. And I’ve gotten obsessed with it again as a as an adult.

 

00:41:28:01 – 00:41:49:03

Greg Porter

But you look at these people who can do this gorgeous copperplate calligraphy and you think, man, it’s effortless. I could never do that. And after about three or 4 hours of practice, you realize that, yeah, you’re not that far off from being able to do that. It’s going to take some practice to get, you know, good enough to do it quickly and do it every time without mistakes.

 

00:41:49:10 – 00:42:21:17

Greg Porter

But but you can definitely progress to a point whether it’s calligraphy or drawing or anything else. You can dress to progress to a point of proficiency. I would say fairly quickly. And it’s amazing. Again, I’ll go back to, you know, seven days of of class and all of a sudden you go from someone who can barely draw a circle with a smile and two eyeballs in it to someone who can draw something real from from life or from their imagination.

 

00:42:22:02 – 00:42:27:18

Greg Porter

And it’s amazing how how small that hurdle is to get over.

 

00:42:28:17 – 00:42:40:23

Brian Benham

Once once you get started, as I think you were telling me a podcast ago, maybe it was before we hit record. I can’t remember the guy’s name. He did a whole thing on surfing.

 

00:42:42:03 – 00:42:43:09

Greg Porter

Oh, yeah. Tom Sacks.

 

00:42:43:09 – 00:42:54:01

Brian Benham

Tom Sacks, yeah. And Tom Sacks is like, well, I’m going to go learn how to surf. And 80% of learning was done in 20% of the time or something along those lines.

 

00:42:54:09 – 00:43:23:01

Greg Porter

Yeah, yeah, it’s his curve. And, you know, it’s that, it’s that build up. You’re terrible, you’re a beginner, is actually much shorter than most of us think it is. And then, then it’s, then it’s the really steep curve to mastery. And there’s you know, that mastery can take an entire lifetime sometimes. But then he had what he called the fun zone, and that was you knew how to do it well enough to have fun doing it.

 

00:43:23:09 – 00:43:49:19

Greg Porter

And I think I think that is that’s the point we’re all after. We want to get to that. Once you get there, it’s like surfing or golf or skiing or any activity that you do. Once you get into that fun zone, you look at the people who have mastered it. You want to get there and the only way to get there is that 10000 hours or 20000 hours or whatever it is that we want to call it today.

 

00:43:49:19 – 00:44:15:06

Greg Porter

But but drawing is definitely that, you know, the the 10000 hours of drawing. I would tell you from a from a sketching perspective, sketching is not a 10,000, 10,000 hour mastery. I think it’s it’s more like a couple hundred and you get pretty darn good at it. And then then it’s a matter of, of, you know, the artistic expression, I think is where you start to see the mastery.

 

00:44:15:06 – 00:44:44:16

Brian Benham

And find people’s style. Like there’s a a guy Andrew I think his last name is Millicent. He’s work in state professor and he teaches permaculture and he’s not drawing like beautiful self portraits of perfect, perfect people, but he’s using his drawing skills to illustrate and teach permaculture and how, how the fields and mountains and all that absorb water and all of that stuff.

 

00:44:45:00 – 00:45:13:23

Brian Benham

And his drawings are, are really beautiful to look at, even though they’re very simple. They’re, they’re not highly technical, but they’re, they’re just really well done and very beautifully thought out. And then there’s this guy on Instagram. I follow that he draws at such a high, precise precision level that it looks like a photograph. It looks like like someone took a black and white photograph of of him and he’s drawing it himself as a self-portrait.

 

00:45:14:18 – 00:45:19:18

Brian Benham

And that’s just a totally different style and different way of drawing.

 

00:45:20:16 – 00:45:46:04

Greg Porter

You know, there’s there’s a great handful of videos on YouTube, and it’s student videos from one of the classes at MIT. And I can’t remember what the class is or who the professor is, but if you look up MIT professor drawings, you’ll probably find it on YouTube. And it’s somebody he’s teaching some kind of math and he’s drawing diagrams on the board.

 

00:45:46:11 – 00:46:08:19

Greg Porter

And he has this really cool way of drawing dash lines as fast as he can draw a line, he can draw a dash line that has perfect spaces between the dashes. And it’s it’s a certain amount of friction on the chalk is what allows him to draw it. Like he draws uphill, but he has a ruler and he uses this yardstick to draw, you know, series of lines and graphs and grids and things.

 

00:46:08:19 – 00:46:35:02

Greg Porter

And it’s it’s some of the most beautiful technical diagrams that you’ll ever see. And again, I think he made a conscious decision at some point in his career that he was going to provide these really great diagrams to his students rather than I think we’ve all watched math teachers struggle with the chalk and draw drawing, sign waves or whatever it is that they’re going to draw to teach our class that day.

 

00:46:35:10 – 00:46:57:09

Greg Porter

And he made a conscious decision to really dissect and and look at how he was going to sketch those things on his chalkboard. So anyway, one of those treats that you run across on YouTube going down a rabbit hole sometime when there’s the the list of videos you may want to watch on the right side of your screen that popped up one day and is just like, this guy’s awesome.

 

00:46:57:09 – 00:46:59:14

Greg Porter

So anyway, a little suggestion there.

 

00:46:59:20 – 00:47:05:21

Brian Benham

He had his definitely had his style of of drawing. So he had he had reached the fun zone.

 

00:47:06:09 – 00:47:18:10

Greg Porter

He definitely had reached the fun zone. And his students knew it. That that was that was what was great is there was an acknowledgment from the students that, hey, this guy is different and pretty cool but yeah.

 

00:47:19:20 – 00:47:37:14

Brian Benham

Awesome. So we started out talking about using drawing and creativity with Betty Edwards to solve problems. Has there been some crazy problem you have that you have solved? Just like in a really weird creative way?

 

00:47:38:16 – 00:48:16:11

Greg Porter

Oh, my I’m trying to think of an example. The answer is yes, but I guess I would say it this way the the buildings I work with are extraordinarily complex. When you look at all the systems inside, and I find that when you when you refine a design down and it starts to look simple, it starts to look effortless and you know, there’s not a bunch of weird ins and outs and things that don’t really line up and intersect.

 

00:48:17:15 – 00:48:52:18

Greg Porter

That to me, is kind of the ultimate in problem solving. You’ve taken this completely irrational web of craziness and aligned enough things that it starts to look extremely rational and that everything belongs where it belongs. It’s it’s way harder of a trick than than it sounds like. And when you look at it, when you walk into a building that is very refined like that, it doesn’t you think to yourself, well, their problem must not have been complex because it was solved so simply.

 

00:48:53:10 – 00:49:20:20

Greg Porter

And I think sometimes the most complex resolutions are those simple, simple iterations or simple resolutions to the problem. And so, you know, are there things creatively that I’ve solved through the right side of your brain and that type of thinking? Absolutely. I use it every day, and sometimes it’s over the span of several months where these things start to get put together.

 

00:49:21:06 – 00:49:52:02

Greg Porter

And I would tell you that’s that’s where I use those perception skills that Betty talks about in her book every day to solve those problems. If you don’t, I’ve walked into thousands of buildings where you’re like, oof, this guy did not. He was out of control in this person’s mind. Like, it never settled down for him or her or that team of people or they just didn’t ever address those things.

 

00:49:52:02 – 00:50:08:13

Greg Porter

And I know that’s sort of a esoteric way to to answer your question, but absolutely, I use those skills every day to refine designs into something that looks simple and elegant, but behind the scenes is extraordinarily complex.

 

00:50:09:18 – 00:50:15:05

Brian Benham

A maze of prints over and over and over again. Just.

 

00:50:15:19 – 00:50:16:07

Greg Porter

Yes.

 

00:50:16:15 – 00:50:22:01

Brian Benham

Electrical plan on top of plumbing, plan on top of lighting, plan on top of security. Plan on top of fire.

 

00:50:22:01 – 00:50:53:01

Greg Porter

Plan yes, on top of code restrictions and user demands adjacencies. I mean, you start to look at all those layers in a building. And quite honestly, it’s a small team of people that design buildings. A lot of times, you know, an 80,000 square foot building might be designed by three people on the architecture side, sometimes two. And so it’s a really small group of people that have to solve every one of those problems.

 

00:50:53:01 – 00:51:14:13

Greg Porter

Now there’s engineers who who designed the systems electrical mechanical and whatever else that the architecture, directing them to how those systems integrate with the rest of the building and the overall design concept. And that is yeah, it’s a it’s a long it’s a long story problem, right? It’s a story problem that takes you three or four months to solve.

 

00:51:14:22 – 00:51:32:18

Greg Porter

But hopefully when you do it, it looks good and performs well. And, you know, when it rains, you don’t leak it, all of those things. And you know, it doesn’t crumble when it gets a big wind load or a snow load on it as well. How about you, Brian, in terms of problems you’ve solved that have been very complex like that?

 

00:51:33:04 – 00:51:57:12

Brian Benham

Well, my have my example that originally came to mind or came to mind quickly was not complex at all. It’s actually a very simple solution to a mistake. I was I left one job site and I went to a new clients house to bid a bathroom remodel, and I left my tape measure on the old on the other job site.

 

00:51:57:12 – 00:52:14:11

Brian Benham

So I talked to the client what she wanted to do with her bathroom. And I was like, all right, well, let me measure it up. And I didn’t have my tape measure but I had my pencil. So I laid my pencil into end to end to end across the floor of the bathroom. It counted how many pencils it was wide in.

 

00:52:14:11 – 00:52:25:05

Brian Benham

So 12 pencils wide. And then when I got back to the office, I measured how long my pencil was and multiply that by how many pencil wides it was so I could create an estimate for her.

 

00:52:27:21 – 00:52:30:04

Greg Porter

That feels very Egyptian to me.

 

00:52:31:10 – 00:52:57:12

Brian Benham

Yeah. Yeah. It was just like, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t I can’t tell her, like, hey, I got to come back tomorrow with my tape measure because I’m an idiot. So it was just that was just the solution to the problem. I just, sorry, I’m going to measure this up. I shut the door and just counted my pencils across the of the floor and across the floor and around the countertop and figured out how much tile we needed and that worked out.

 

00:52:58:03 – 00:53:28:15

Greg Porter

Measuring in qubits or, or some other bizarre, bizarre measuring unit. So, yeah, I think I think we’ve done a pretty good job of covering the basics of the right brain type development that Betty Edwards talks about in her book. And for anybody out there that wants to, you know, take their beginner level sketching skills to the next level, I would highly recommend Betty’s book to anyone, but yeah, we’ll leave it there.

 

00:53:29:01 – 00:53:30:13

Greg Porter

I am Greg Porter.

 

00:53:31:09 – 00:53:51:06

Brian Benham

I’m Brian Benham. And thank you for listening to The Maker’s Quest. Podcast. We will leave a link on our website to Betty Edwards book, and you’ll also find links to my YouTube channel and Greg’s YouTube channels as well. And our social media’s Instagram accounts and all that stuff there too. Thanks for listening.

 

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