Spatial vs. intellectual
I have collected "how-to" art books for years, but I just read a fascinating book, "Drawing with your Artist's Brain," by Carl Purcell. "Learn to draw what you see, not what you think you see."
For me, this book takes the mystery out of drawing and makes it fun. He says, "Before you can draw like an artist, you need to see like one. Push aside your know-it-all intellectual brain to maximize the power of seeing and unveil the secret to creating better art. Your brain processes visual information entering through your eyes in two distinctly different ways: spatially and intellectually. The first and faster is the spatial process. Its primary function is to keep you informed about the constantly changing space around you by recording where and how big things are. It perceives shapes and spaces, dark and light patterns, vertical and horizontal orientation, size relationships and the relative locations of spaces."
"The spatial part of your brain does not identify these as trees, cars and people; that kind of identification comes later. All of this is done on autopilot, just at the threshold of your consciousness. When you parallel park a car or walk through a crowded mall, you use this spatial tool. Its primary job is to navigate you through space safely. The analytical or intellectual portion of the brain processes the spatial information not as visual images, but as data."
"When you identify the shapes you are seeing as skirt, blouse, hair, etc., you are using the intellectual brain. This is the right tool for just about every other conscious activity of your life. But when you use this part of your brain to draw, the results are disastrous. The intellectual part of our brain creates symbols to stand for but not look like the complex visual information it receives."
This book explains why some people are better at certain skills than others. It can pertain to any profession, not just art. For instance, I am amazed at men that I have seen running backhoes or Bobcats, how they seem to know exactly what to do with built-in precision. I once knew a dressmaker who could drape a piece of material over a person and be able to cut it out without a pattern.
I always thought that very few people would have this ability, but this author says we all have the ability. The key is to see relationships of angle, size, position in space and values of light and darkness.