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Right Brain. Artist. Left Brain.

by Moshe Mikanovsky on 5/5/2011 10:27:24 AM

This article  is by Moshe Mikanovsky, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews.  An emerging artist searching his way in the art world, he loves to share what he learns.  With over 20 years of technology experience, Moshe combines his technological background and his passion for the arts with the goal of "working his dream".  You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.


We have all heard it before. The right side of our brain is the creative side, the side where all the creativity juices are controlled. We learned how to draw using the right side of our brain. Some of us have even taken some aptitude tests to find out which type of job we are suitable for, and part of these tests might have resulted in identifying our dominant hemisphere inside our skulls. We know that if we are mostly right-brained, we might have random thoughts, which help us think of solutions out-of-the-box, our non-verbal communication skills are strong and we are more inclined to explain ourselves in pictures or many words.


But I believe there is much more than that to the right-brain-left-brain conundrum.


I recently came across an amazingly inspiring speech on TED by brain researcher Jill Blote Taylor, who, herself, has gone through a brain hemorrhage and a stroke in the left side of her brain, and was able to give a first hand account, not just as a patient, but also as a brain researcher, as to what actually happens while in this life-threatening and near-death situation. It is worth the full 18 minutes and 42 seconds to watch and listen to Dr. Blote Taylor’s account, minute by minute, and witness her emotional insight.


In her account, Dr. Jill (as she refer to herself on her website), explains how the right hemisphere of our brain is in charge of all the sensors of our present state – seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting, feeling. It is basically responsible for the present, for the here and now. And in the present, it can feel one and whole with the entire universe around it.


The left hemisphere on the other hand, works in a sequential way. It knows and remembers the past. It plans the future. It takes all the information gathered throughout time and processes them to create logical sequences. Basically, it is responsible for the past and the future. While losing, one by one, all her abilities to walk, talk, read, write, and recall her life (all learned abilities controlled by the damaged left-side of her brain), she felt a euphoric sense of new reality, one connected to the world, with her senses heightened and she felt the life force power of each of the molecules making her existence. Only the remaining undamaged part of her left hemisphere helped her saved herself, telling her that something was wrong, and through a painstaking process, she was able to get help.


Dr. Jill’s story and vision of what each side of our brains do, or what we can actually become once we are tuned with our brain, reminded me of a book I recently read, “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. Being “a guide to spiritual enlightenment” and using my left-side-of-the-brain logic, I was a bit skeptical to the effect of Tolle’s teachings on my life. The concept of living in the present is not new and is taught by psychologists, as well: the past cannot be changed. The future is not here and as much as we plan for it, our actions are always in the present. So there is no other time than the present time and that is the only time we can control. In his book, Tolle explains this concept as the spiritual essence of human beings, wrapping all faiths, their definition of God and spirits, into one central them, the now. He shares his teaching on how to learn to live in the present, and how to achieve, or strive for, spiritual enlightenment, by living in the now.


How does it all circle back to us, as artists?


I think it is more than just being a creative people. More than just utilizing our right-side of the brain in better ways. Think about it. What is art? It is the manifestation of our sensory system in illogical ways. It exists only in the present, as we immerse ourselves in observing and/or creating the art. The more we focus our sensors to what we see, what is around us, we can better represent it in the art form. We forget where we are and who we are and we are just there. At that moment. And our artwork is a manifestation of our inner selves. Other people tap into our present. When they observe our art, it is their present, their sensors telling their right side of their brains that they are seeing something beautiful/great/gruesome/provocative. Our moment in time becomes their moment in time.


But then, we also need to make a living. And that is where our left brain takes control. Planning our future, learning from our past. Calculating how to get there. What we need to learn, what we have to develop. Sometimes it takes over and creates “surviving-art”. Art that will sell well because of marketing studies shows it sells well. Art that makes a lot of money because it is trendy and sought-after. But it might not be us. We reside in the right side of our brain, and we have to train ourselves to tap into it and be our best creative selves.


And that, for us, is a spiritual salvation, isn’t it?







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Related Posts:

The Battle Between the Hemispheres

10 Ways for Artists to Use Mind Mapping

Creativity and Balancing Your Brain

Training Your Brain

Topics: FineArtViews | inspiration | Moshe Mikanovsky 

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Tuva Stephens
Thanks for this posting. I was successful for several decades in teaching students how to use their right/left brain to be able to see like an artist. So many students would tell me, "I can't draw." Next thing, they had proof they could by dated comparison drawings.

Carol Schmauder
I love the article, Moshe. You have pointed out some very important things to remember about the function of the brain. My son was once assaulted by some thugs and had to have a part of the right frontal lobe removed. It was interesting to study what effects that might have on his personality.

That aside, I like the way you explained the brain's function as it pertains to us as artists. When I paint I definitely forget where I am and who I am. As you described, I am just there. I enjoy that state of being and love the journey I am on. It sometimes saddens me that the left side of the brain has to do its part to, and I have to tend to the business of it all.

Thanks for this post.

Carol McIntyre
Wow! Dr. Bolte Taylor's talk is truly inspiring and worth watching. I encourage everyone to listen.

Thank you for sending that link along and for your opinion on how this info may relate to our work.

Michelle Leivan
I loved it and shared it :) Great Article.

Joanne Benson
Loved the article! Loved the link and Dr. Taylor's talk. Fascinating!

Moshe Mikanovsky
Thank you everyone for the nice comments.
I knew when I saw that video that I must share it with everyone I know! Its so amazing!


Jo Allebach
This was an absolutely wonderful talk. Thanks for the link. If we ever do figure out the brain it will be so wonderful for people with mental illness and stroke survivors. And as it is been said. When I am painting I am in the now in my moment in time.

It can be a difficult task to sort out the right and left brain tasks and to actually use the right lobe is often another matter indeed

Dalia Bar-Dror
Ahalan, Moshe,

about the left/right sides of the brain - here is a little nice exercise u might like:
i remember the very first drawing lesson i had in an after school activity art class, taught by a real artist.
we were about 40 kids, (15-16 yrs old), very self concious, and not wanting to look less good than the others, or just plain rubbish.
the still life she put for the exercise was a simple bottle with one stem with a flower in it. the exercise was to draw it with our OPPOSITE HAND. (left if u are right handed and vice versa). the reason was to release ourself from these understandable concerns, cos now we're all 'equally rubbish', even the best of us, and we all got a jenuine 'excuse' for getting a bad drawing, and no one should expect great results with such restriction.
therefore, we all were free to draw with no fear or care - and amazingly - we got some really good results!
then she told us that we have just used our 'non used' side of the brain, and that this is a way of getting more from ourselves, using the 'road less traveled' of our brains.

this one little 'trick' stuck with me since then! :-)

Dalia Bar-Dror
as i was telling u about that little exercise, i meant to mention this artist/teacher, but forgot.
so, yes, here are her details, as she deserves to be properly mentioned:

her name was Nitza Brezniak. she was a gorgeous, tall blond with huge blue eyes, and she was a real fantastic artist. a small group of 'hard core' students, (5 out of the original 40, including me, who never missed a lesson all year), of this class i mentioned, visited her at home when she missed one lesson for being sick, (with 'flu', as she explained), and saw some really impressive drawings and paintings done by her, on the walls.

sadly, shortly after - she un timely (only in her 30's), passed away from the horrible leukaemia. (we were never made aware of it while she was alive).

by the way, i googled her name, and to my disappointment, (maybe cos she died about 30 years ago, way before the internet era) - no one uploaded any of her work or any mention of her.

the other important benefit gained from that exercise, that i forgot to mention, (and that's my own understanding of the probable reason why we got actual good results) is:
when u are not using yr usual hand, u also (un knowingly) live at the door all the mis-notions u have and often use while drawing:
people tend to fall into drawing what they know, rather than what they see. for example: they will draw the standard, basic shape of an eye or lips,
(even though people's eyes and lips rarely actually have that shape, and their model's eyes and lips look completely different too).
then they wonder why their drawing doesn't resemble the model... :-)

when we were concentrating on holding the pencil with our 'wrong' hand - we were also (again, un knowingly), concentrating on 'copying' what we saw in the still life - to our paper.
therefore - we got actual good results!


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