In Chapter Five of The Power of Your Other Hand, I introduced bilateral drawing. That is defined as drawing done with both hands at the same time. Since the book was first published in 1988, many therapists and art therapists have applied bilateral drawing with clients. One of these is Cornelia Elbrecht, who has written a whole book on the subject entitled, Healing Trauma with Guided Drawing: A Sensorimotor Art Therapy Approach to Bilateral Body Mapping (North Atlantic Books, 2018). I recommend this book for anyone interested in either trauma work or the benefits of bilateral drawing.
In this post, you will see some examples of my own bilateral journal drawings and a video by Amanda Joy Wells, a graduate of our Creative Journal Expressive Arts and Visioning® Coach Training programs. Some of these drawings illustrate techniques I introduced in The Power of Your Other Hand and later books. You’ll see these in the video below. Other drawings show new variations on this method from my own journal. I will also discuss benefits of bilateral drawing based on my observations of clients and students for over 40 years.
This kind of pattern is called mirror symmetry and is the first prompt in Chapter 5 for bilateral drawing. In observing clients and students, I notice that when asked to draw with both hands simultaneously, this is the most common pattern they make. It is spontaneous and apparently very natural. That makes sense because the human brain and body are actually a mirror symmetry design. So is the common symbol for the human heart. Think of making Valentine cards as a kid by folding paper in half and cutting half a heart. When you open it, a full heart appears. That’s how you can tell it is mirror symmetry. The halves mirror each other. We also make paper people cutouts this way. Why? Because humans are constructed in a mirror symmetry design. So are butterflies, another image that often appears spontaneously in bilateral drawings.
I decided to continue drawing with both hands at once and expanded onto 2 pages, also known as “a double page spread”. Each hand held a different color crayon and even changed colors from time to time. Each hand was drawing the same pattern, but as a mirror image of its “partner’s” drawing. I felt more and more relaxed with each drawing.
On another day, shortly after this, I did a single page drawing, again using both hands, each with it’s own color. Again, this was accompanied by relaxing recorded music. This time I used another prompt from Chapter 5 of The Power of Your Other Hand. In this prompt, you draw with both hands, using 2 colors, and each hand “does it’s own thing.” I found this quite energizing and relaxing at the same time
I hear this a lot from people doing bilateral drawing. Regardless of which particular prompt they are using, drawing with both hands seems to help people slow down, relax, enjoy the moment (mindfulness) and what is happening in the now. The report a feeling of freedom, playfulness and urge to be more creative in many ways.
Amanda Joy Wells created this excellent video of bilateral drawing. It demonstrates the benefits and the amazing experience of drawing with both hands at once. Enjoy!
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