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This article is by Keith Bond, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews.  You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.

The stereotypical artist is highly right brained. The right brained person is more intuitive, emotional, visual, thinks holistically, synthesizes and puts things together, etc. While the left brained person is more analytical and takes things apart, methodical, uses logic and reason, detail oriented, ordered, etc. Each of us uses both parts of the brain, but for certain tasks or situations, one side often dominates.

As I mentioned, the stereotype is that the right hemisphere dominates for artists. I disagree.

For a long time, I have had a theory that highly creative people – such as artists – have a strong connection between both hemispheres. The ability to communicate between hemispheres and use both sides of the brain enables greater creativity.

Let’s suppose an artist is painting a landscape on location (just as an example – it could be any subject in any medium).

The artist must first respond in some way to the subject. The right brain is triggered. But the artist takes the time to ask what caused him to respond. He analyzes and jots a few notes in his sketchbook. These are left brain activities.

He does a few thumbnail sketches. But they are nothing more than what many artists do with a view finder. He is replicating what he sees in nature. Left brain. But then the artist begins to allow intuition to enter and he becomes free to rearrange the elements in the composition to make it stronger. He decides upon a focal point and organizes or arranges the composition to support and lead the eye to the focal area. Communication is happening between both hemispheres.

Let’s take it further. As the artist paints, he analyzes the values and colors. How light or dark is this object compared to the adjacent object? How blue or green is it compared to the other object? How sharp or soft is the edge? These are analytical left brain functions. Yet the emotional and intuitive right brain comes into play as the artist chooses how to use color, value, and edges to his advantage – to express some idea or emotion.

As the artist edits and selects what to include or what to exclude, both analytical and emotional decisions are being made. Throughout the painting process there is continual back and forth between the analytical and the intuitive; between logic and emotion; between right and left.

When an artist is in the “zone”, often the right brain is dominating (this is probably where the stereotype comes from). Intuition and emotion flow freely. But, many of the great artists will not call a work complete until viewing it with a fresh eye a few days (or even weeks) later. This allows them to analyze and see if the painting is working. Left brain again.

The left brain is where the technical abilities are. The right brain is where the feeling comes from. In my mind, the greatest works of art have both technical ability and feeling. A technically perfect painting with no emotion is static. An emotionally charged work with no skill is a mess. Thus, my theory that strong communication between the hemispheres is what makes an artist great.

I recently found several sources that support my theory. The findings suggest that creativity is indeed increased when communication happens between both hemispheres. Here is one report of one study I found.

Your thoughts? Am I right or am I being too analytical?

Best Wishes,
Keith Bond


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