Right Brain Exercises for Artists

Taking a Line for a Walk

Right Brain Exercises for Artists

Marion Boddy-Evans

The theory behind right brain exercises for artists is that the left brain easily gets bored and switches off, leaving the right brain 'in charge'. This is not to imply that the right brain exercises are boring or dull, rather they may be something that feels 'unnatural' or that you can't see the logic in doing. But try a right-brain exercise at least once, ideally twice; you may well be very surprised by the results.


This right brain exercise is about making marks on a sheet of paper which tracks the way your eyes move across a subject as if your eyes and hand were directly connected. The aim is to make marks at the same kind of speed at which your eyes move, so as your eyes move up, down, across, so does your hand.

Time Needed

20 minutes.

Art Materials Needed

  • A sheet of paper at least A2 in size; newsprint is ideal to start with, rather than expensive paper.
  • A kitchen timer or stopwatch, so you can see at a glance how much time you've left.
  • Pastels work very well for this right brain exercise. Alternatively, use a water brush filled with ink rather than water, or hold a small container of paint in one hand and a thin brush in the other. A pen has the advantage over a pencil that you don't need to stop to sharpen it and it removes the temptation to stop and erase any 'wrong' marks.

What to Do

  1. Choose a subject that's not too simple, whether it's a landscape, a still life with several, varied objects, a vase of flowers, or a figure (get the model to choose a pose they know they can hold for half an hour).
  2. Set the kitchen timer to half an hour and put it somewhere that you can see it at a glance. Try to refer to it as little as possible – it'll ring when the time is up. Don't continue after it's rung, rather start another drawing and see if you can't get more down the second time. Keep all results so you can compare them.
  3. Spend the first five minutes capturing the essence of the subject: the overall placement of the objects. Fill the sheet of paper from edge to edge, don't make a tiny drawing in the center of the sheet.
  4. Now work on the drawing, observing the subject closer and closer. On a figure, for example, look at the creases in the elbow, the shadows around the collarbone.


  • Keep your eyes mostly on the object and not the paper, focusing on observing the subject, rather than the marks on the paper.
  • Try not to focus on the outline because we don't look at objects like that, except when we're drawing. We take in the whole object, from top to bottom, side to side, then look more carefully at particulars. This gets easier with practice.
  • Work big, using your whole arm and approach your piece of paper boldly and confidently.
  • Try to get the whole object in, stretching to the edges of the paper. Don't be timid – at most you're going to mess up a bit of paper.
  • If you find that you feel you've 'finished' the drawing before the timer has rung, try using several colors and 'going over' the subject again in a different color.
  • Squinting at the subject will make the highlights and shadows more prominent.


This exercise can be done with either a short time limit, two, five, or 10 minutes, or a longer one. We suggest not more than half an hour as it can be difficult to keep up the pace as you get tired.

Examples of Taking a Line for a Walk

  • Take a look at these three finished examples of this right-brain exercise. They were done as exercises, not with the intention of making a 'masterpiece'. None is a 'perfect' work and each has its own problems and successes.