Continuing with the exercises outlined in Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards, today’s lesson is about getting better at kicking the right side of your brain, into gear, and turning off the left, by focusing on contours.

Edges have a very specific means to in drawing that is different from everyday language. Betty describes it like this:

In drawing, an edge is where two things come together, and the line that depicts the shared edge is called a contour line. A contour is always the border of two things simultaneously – that is a shared edge.

So when you draw, you become aware that an edge has two sides. For example the edge of the boat is shared with the sky and the water. Put another way the water stops where the boat begins – shared edges. If you draw one, you have drawn the other.

The outer edge of the composition (also very important) is part of the picture.

The Exercise

In this exercise Betty asks us to draw the detailed wrinkles of our hands, without looking at what we are drawing.


The goal here isn’t a good picture. It’s to get you to look at the wrinkles in your hand in a way that you never have before. You are going to perceive detail and lines you didn’t even know were there. That’s what artists do. They perceive and see things differently.

For this exercise it’s recommended you tape your canvas (paper) down, look at the palm of your hand (in a comfortable position) and then without thinking, draw all the wrinkles on your hand.

Here’s my attempt.


As you can see it’s pretty ugly. But what was amazing was that while drawing I saw things I have never seen before!


Little rivers of wrinkles. Intricate, deep chasms of lines, rivers, streams, criss crossing my hand in ways I had intellectually known were there but never saw.

This exercises is good because your L-Mode (left sided analytical brain) rejects what it sees (it lacks the language to try what it sees so it gives up). Which of course kicks in the right side (which is what we want).

To learn more about drawing check out these previous posts:

Drawing on the right side of the brain
Three exercises to get you going
Vases and faces
Drawing upside down

Or better yet, buy Betty’s excellent book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.