Shifting into right brain

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Dear Artist,

Yesterday, Marjorie Ewell of Cape Coral, FL and Galloway Twp, NJ wrote, “How do you get yourself into a right brain mode? How does a right-brained person translate that into painting? I’ve experienced it in working with oils. Time disappears and one is totally in the present. Watercolor is another matter. There are so many things one has to think about in the process that I find myself much more left-brained than I want to be.”

Thanks, Marjorie. Shifting into right brain, while automatic and unavoidable for many painters, is a skill that can be learned. Your mention of the planning that goes on in watercolour as compared to the relatively brain-free nature of oils (and acrylics) gives a clue to right brain access.

The objective is to get into a dreamy flow where the subconscious interacts with the inevitable march of practicalities. Here are a few ideas:

While painting, try an unrelated and contrapuntal distraction — perhaps the telephone or the radio. Surprisingly, input that occupies one part of the brain can open the creative gates in another.

Try to put so much basic technique and creative formula into your process that some of it becomes second nature. Like automatic writing or speaking in tongues, confidence builds and a right-brain rush occurs. This is a key to dipping down into the deep well of imagination.

Repetition of strokes or motifs also serves as a hypnotic beat. Similar to counting sheep at bedtime or chanting a mantra, a variation is to focus on the movement of your brush. Brush-tip fascination has the additional benefit of building stroke quality and painterly élan.

As you mentioned, the ideal is to become simply and naturally lost in your work. The sense of timelessness is one of its markers. Your carefully planned design and composition (often in the form of your unique stylistic tendencies) are the structure on which the right brain’s spirit feels the confidence to come out and play. Right-brained joy begins when structure is safely in your pocket.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “At one time, human nature was split in two, an executive part called a god, and a follower part called a man. Neither part was consciously aware.” (Psychologist Julian Jaynes, in The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, 1976)

Esoterica: Current research indicates that true creativity doesn’t spring from the right brain alone, but rather from a rapid interplay between our two hemispheres. Statistics show that women are better able to access this ability than men. In “complete brain theory,” god and man (woman) are combined in one. Think, therefore, of a shift to right brain mode as shifting to the goddess (god) within.

 


The Inner Game of Tennis
by Natalie Italiano, Philadelphia, PA, USA
 

090109_natalie-italiano-artwork

“Harmony”
oil painting, 20 x 16 inches
by Natalie Italiano

I paint in oils, and often think about how similar it is to meditating, this state of getting into the “zone.” I like to listen to music while I am painting in order to help me get into this flow. I find talk radio or books on tape to hinder this process, and to keep my left brain too engaged. The well known book from the ’70s, The Inner Game of Tennis, has many ideas about accessing the right brain state.

 

 

 



There are 2 comments for The Inner Game of Tennis by Natalie Italiano

From: mikki — Sep 01, 2009

Truly a beautiful painting, Natalie!

From: Jane — Sep 07, 2009

I think the fruit is exquisite and the composition done so well!

 


Living with interruptions
by Tim Adams, Eureka Springs, AR, USA
 

090109_tim-adams-artwork

“The Flat Iron”
watercolour painting, 9 x 12 inches
by Tim Adams

I have been trying lately to learn to work with interruptions, switching more easily between right and left brains. In the past I needed absolute stillness and alone time to paint, getting out of joint if I was interrupted. But now I just set up in the corner of the family room with my wife, the kid, dogs, cats, TV racket, and interruptions all around and just go for it. I just have to remember they are not all masterpieces and enjoy myself and don’t let the switch between brains upset the applecart. I got the idea after watching a plein air painter carry on conversations with tourists and paint at the same time. It takes a little practice, but you can float back and forth. Now I paint with my 9-year-old daughter who seems to need a lot of attention while she paints. “More yellow please,” she says, but I just have fun with her and don’t let it bug me.



There are 4 comments for Living with interruptions by Tim Adams

From: Anonymous — Sep 01, 2009

way to go Tim,how she will remember you when she has grown..

From: Jackie — Sep 01, 2009

You are a truely good Daddy.

I must try your method-it is hard for me to keep being interrupted. The older I get the harder it is.

Thank you.

From: tatjana — Sep 03, 2009

Yes, life it too short not to use it the best we can. I love having my husband in the studio. He get’s amused when he gets up to go to the bathroom and I ask – where are you going? Sometimes he answers with a bark.

From: swede56 — Sep 04, 2009

I’m really impressed… She says “please”?

 


Observations on the right brain
by Diane Voyentzie, CT, USA
 

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“Hudson River Evening”
original painting
by Diane Voyentzie

I have been very interested in right brain/left brain for a long time. Betty Edwards’ Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, a book that I read years ago, began my search for information. I found that when I am painting, I can’t hold a conversation with someone… I begin to get “dabbly.” I also learned that any activity that is automatic, ie, driving, walking, dancing, swimming, running, etc. is right brain… The left brain is then left free to work out problems. That is why, when driving, often things come to you that you haven’t thought about before. But on the other hand, if you are on your cell phone while driving, it takes your major right brain concentration (eyes) away, and also accesses your left brain (verbal). You have both sides of your brain trying to do two differently difficult tasks, and doesn’t do either well…

Shifting into the right brain is relatively easy. Wherever you are, just focus on the negative spaces around objects… one example is to look at the negative spaces between branches of trees while taking a walk… Major right brain!



There are 2 comments for Observations on the right brain by Diane Voyentzie

From: Anonymous — Sep 03, 2009

Lovely painting, very mystical.

From: Reggie Sabiston — Sep 04, 2009

This explains why I have difficulty talking on a cell phone while driving and also why I have difficulty paintings trees. Good to know. Thanks.

 


Keys to ‘Flow’
by Melanie Peter, Gainesville, FL, USA
 

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“Hudson River Evening”
original painting
by Melanie Peter

According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, in his books Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience and Finding Flow, flow is an optimal experience characterized by:

— a sense of playfulness

— a feeling of being in control

— concentration and highly focused attention

— mental enjoyment of the activity for its own sake

— a distorted sense of time

— a match between the challenge at hand and one’s skills

Matching the level of challenge with one’s skill level seems the key to “flow.” As you suggest in #2 in your list, develop enough skill and technique so that you “know” what you’re doing, and yet take a challenge that pushes beyond what you “know.” Too little skill and you are anxious; too little challenge and you are apathetic. Balanced between these is optimal experience.



There is 1 comment for Keys to ‘Flow’ by Melanie Peter

From: Bobbo Goldberg — Sep 05, 2009

Thanks, Melanie. I’m currently undertaking a very challenging task, learning to play the theremin well. It’ll take a while. Theremin, an instrumemt played without physically touching it, is an easy instrument to play… badly. I do notice that, sometimes, when I’m distracted from the hand positions and techniques, I hit the notes quite easily, seeming to “know” where they are. Other times, I remember “aerial fingering” and “da rules” and couldn’t hit the broad side of a middle c with 3 ears. To hear an example of a superbly played theremin, go here. Point is, sometimes the basics, while a necessary part of the foundation, are a distinct ripple in Flow. Balance, I suppose, is everything.

 


Use of story CDs
by Deborah Elmquist, Port Orange, FL, USA
 

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“Sew Many Memories”
original painting
by Deborah Elmquist

As an oil painter of 40 or more years, I know exactly the feeling. In flow — a period of working when time is suspended and you are not aware of anything else around you — is the ultimate experience. Years ago at an art show, a painter shared her secret for getting into that place. I didn’t believe her because my understanding of what an artist had to do was be alone in silence or with soothing music. She told me to get a book on tape/CD of something I would like to listen to. Her theory was that words and stories were the department of the left brain and by listening to a story you were keeping that part of the brain “occupied” and out of your “art business.” The left side is the critical and judgmental side that keeps sticking its nose into your artistic endeavor. Removing that voice of constant judgment allowed an artist to keep the flow moving. BAM! It worked. I was in flow within the time it took to get into the story. Another plus to this ritual was that I couldn’t wait to get back into the studio and begin, which for some artists is a daily battle. I couldn’t wait to hear what was happening next in the story. Try it. Go to your public library and check out a CD or tape of a book you haven’t had time to get around to. Remember, it has to be a story and not a non-fiction piece.



There are 10 comments for Use of story CDs by Deborah Elmquist

From: Anonymous — Sep 01, 2009

I love your Sew Many Memories painting shown with your post. It shows you’ve been painting out of your right brain! Beautiful piece, and it tells such a story!

From: Vernita TX — Sep 01, 2009

Oh, that was me above. Forgot to add my name to the comment.

From: Jennifer Bellinger — Sep 01, 2009

I agree Deborah! I tried them years ago on my studio sound system..found I couldn’t follow the story..the sound was too dispursed, I guess. Then I tried a boombox that sits right next to me and that worked..now I spend less time going to the kitchen when my painting isn’t going well and work through the problems glued to my easel by a good story! Good for my painting, good for my weight control! A side note..has anyone tried texting while painting? Car & Driver, August 09, has an article “Unprotected Text” investigating if text messaging on your phone while driving is “more LOL than OMFG”. For parents of teens, there is software that detects when the car goes over 10mph and locks the phone’s keyboard! Let’s see, if you are a very fast painter that would mean….

From: Jan Ross — Sep 01, 2009

Deborah, your painting, “Sew Many Memories” truly captures the feeling of nostalgia you must have about working with fabric, thread and needles. It’s a joy to behold! I’ll have to try using a story CD, as I’ve used music and cable news (which I mentally block out) as kickers to find my ‘creative zone’.

From: Elaine Vice — Sep 01, 2009

Hi Deb. Long time no see. I’ll have to try your suggestion and perhaps it will help me get over my current “painter’s block”.

From: Carolyn Watson — Sep 03, 2009

The book on tape idea is great. Our library has hundreds to choose from, so I will be listening while I paint! Many times while I paint I “listen’ to old movies on TV, ones I don’t really have to look at to follow the story, and on a channel without distracting commercials. Later when I look at that painting I remember the movie I was “listening” to while I painted it. I also love your sewing machine painting. It is a subject I like to paint also because I grew up watching my mother sew.

Thanks for sharing!

From: X.B. — Sep 03, 2009

Carolyn, that’s exactly what I do! Love those old movies, simple stories, good enough that they don’t need watching to enjoy! What would we do without TCM! Left Brain is like bringing a little child to ‘work’ with you, they get easily bored and need something to keep them occupied.

From: Betty B. — Sep 04, 2009

I listen to story tapes on my mp3 player while I take my morning (1 hr) walks. It keeps me longing longer, but fantastic as it seems my mind constantly drifts from the story I am hearing to thoughts and ideas about my current art project….and I come up with some really great ideas and plans!!

From: Carol Barber — Sep 04, 2009

I love listening to Terry Gross on NPR while painting. Just hearing the theme music gets me excited and ready to paint.

From: Dayle Ann Stratton — Oct 03, 2009

Oddly, I am the opposite when it comes to story: I’ll find myself brush suspended midair, listening. Some music works. News works. Random distraction works, as long as it isn’t directed at me. What actually happens, I think, is that my brain works to shut out the distraction and drops me into the “zone”. A friend of mine who is a farmer says the same thing: he can get into the groove of working that way. So it might not be just artists and athletes, but anyone.

 


Watercolour: both sides now
by Linda Thury, Nevada, MO, USA
 

Many people, especially non-painters, seem surprised that I use both sides of my brain. I have a BS in engineering with post-grad classes, a BA in art/graphics, and an MA in teaching (math). I tutor college Algebra/Calculus and teach watercolor classes.

Through the 20 years in engineering, I tried several art forms (watercolor, pottery, stained glass, fiber art), but kept coming back to watercolor. I now focus on watercolor. Watercolor has a “flowing” personality. Some painters find this the curse of watercolor, and consequently have a hard time with watercolor. Reinforcing the myth that watercolor is a difficult medium, but in reality this “flowing” is the soul of watercolor.

As I tell my tutorees, you need to know the rules and do the steps. There is no easy way. You need to memorize, remember, and practice. A watercolor painter needs to know how her paints react. Watercolor flows with water and the lighter you paint the more water. In order to get in the zone (right brain), you need to be able to lay down color confidently, without thinking about it, during the painting process.

True you need to plan with watercolor, because you can’t just paint white over a mistake. This doesn’t make watercolor hard, you just need to be careful. My engineering background helps the planning (left brain), and my experience lets the paint flow (right brain). Sorry, Marjorie, there is no easy way. You can only have that confidence through practice, practice, practice. I have been painting seriously for 8 years in watercolor, and still find new methods. Sometimes painting with a friend helps you get in the mood. Good luck.



There is 1 comment for Watercolour: both sides now by Linda Thury

From: Meredith — Apr 06, 2010

I’m a math major, art (oil painting) minor… glad to find someone just like me!

 


A left-handed day
by Pamela Haddock, Sylva, NC, USA
 

090109_pamela-haddock-artwork

Untitled
watercolour painting
by Pamela Haddock

I am a watercolor artist and have worked in the medium exclusively for 20 years, but one of the things I have been doing lately is having a left-handed day. I am right hand dominant, though as a child I was very ambidextrous and encouraged through school to become dominant right hand — (they thought it would make life easier). HA! Anyway — I resolve the night before that the next day will be a left hand day and do everything left handed. It takes some thinking — down to which hand to hold the soap in when washing my hands. When I draw during that day I work with the left hand. What I have discovered is that proportion and perspective become drastically easier — I can lay out my points for perspective with my left hand and transcribe (more steadily) the lines that connect with my right. I also noticed while looking at a still life the negative space around the still life became more pronounced than the positive still life. It was almost overwhelming. Proportions don’t need to measured, they become organic. I use the brush to sketch out the drawing on the paper or substrate with my left hand — because my dexterity is not as pronounced from lack of use with my left, I sometimes have to straighten some things up a bit, but overall I have found it to be a most rewarding process and I am catapulted into the right brain. It takes a while to get comfortable with it. But I figure — I carry that side of my brain around with me all the time why not find a way to access it more easily?



There are 2 comments for A left-handed day by Pamela Haddock

From: Anonymous — Sep 02, 2009

I’d love to know… it this “untitled” painting one you did with your left hand? Do you paint left handed on those left handed days?

As an Art Instructor, I found early on that working ‘left handed’ to help lefties understand brushwork, was not only fun for us both, but also inspiring for the entire class. That is, we *can* have more creative ‘thought’ than we previously knew!

From: Carolyn — Apr 07, 2010

My son who was very artistic, learning disabled in several areas, and had poor fine motor skills early on, had his pencil removed constantly from his left hand and placed in his right. Eventually, he did everything but write with his left. His unique and unusual art efforts were thought to be way outside of the box. The result was that all efforts at both writing and art – due to criticism – were progressively limited and inferior. My advice to teachers and parents, encourage all EFFORTS by any student and always seek one word of encouragement. From a former teacher and current artist.

 


Thinking about thinking
by Ron Unruh, Surrey, BC, Canada
 

090109_ron-unruh-artwork

“Lourmarin Fountain in Place L’Eglise”
acrylic painting
by Ron Unruh

Your letter got me thinking, you might say, with my left brain. Customarily I don’t do much thinking about how I think. I realize thinking is critical and persuasive. Thinking for Rene Descartes was the evidence he required to verify his existence. “I think, therefore I am.” To arrive at his conclusion Rene was using his left brain.

According to this theory of the structure and functions of the mind which was developed through research in the late 1960’s the human brain has two ways of thinking. The right hemisphere or right brain is visual and processes information in an intuitive, subjective and simultaneous way, looking first at the whole picture (holistically) and then the details. The left brain is verbal and processes information in an analytical, objective and sequential way, looking first at the pieces then putting them together to get the whole. American psycho-biologist Roger W. Sperry was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1981 for his 1960’s work in this research field. , although subsequent research has shown things aren’t quite as polarized as once thought (nor as simple).

I took the test. Apparently according to this quiz I am 75% right brain dominant. So with the other 25% I must have managed a great deal of administrative and organizational and journalistic projects over my lifetime. My son Jeff will appreciate this line. “If the left brain controls the right hand, then only left-handed people are in their right minds.” Judging from the most of the material I read on the subject, we have pretty much bought this concept.



There is 1 comment for Thinking about thinking by Ron Unruh

From: Dayle Ann Stratton — Oct 03, 2009

There has been much brain research since then that demonstrates that functions of the left and right brains are not nearly that distinct, and that many if not most tasks, as Robert points out, are a collaboration and exchange between parts of the two halves. Some interesting talks on TED (www.ted.com/) recently highlight some of this research, and even relate it to the artistic process.

 


Working while talking
by Redenta Soprano, USA
 

090109_redenta-soprano-artwork

Untitled
original painting
by Redenta Soprano

Years ago I took a class with Robert Bateman. He is as wonderful a teacher as he is a very successful artist. One of the things I remember him telling us was that he did some of his best work while talking on the telephone in the morning. I realized that I did some of my most relaxing work while I was listening to books on tape or talking on the phone as well. It seems while the left brain was occupied with conversation, the right brain could happily do what it loves to do best. However, at those times I could draw or shade or paint only.

On the other hand, when I had to work out a composition, prepare to teach a class or measure for a mat or frame I couldn’t have any conversation going on at all. I needed every bit of my left brain for the job at hand.

As a teacher, I understand now why it is so hard to demonstrate a technique and talk at the same time. It took a long time for me to have a smooth monologue of instruction without long, embarrassing breaks of silence as I was demonstrating. The right brain would simply take over. I had to force myself to continue to talk while drawing and painting. It is almost palpable when you feel one side take over the other.



There is 1 comment for Working while talking by Redenta Soprano

From: Bobbo Goldberg — Sep 05, 2009

I have the good fortune of being familiar with Ms. Soprano’s work, and of having taken her classes. She’s a treasure. As an artist, she combines profound spirituality with training as a botanical/scientific illustrator. Form is imbued with soul. As a teacher, she is patient, precise, loving and inspiring. I encourage readers to visit her website at http://www.spiralfern.net .

 


Yoga and focusing
by Susan-Rose Slatkoff, Victoria, BC, Canada
 

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“Genghis Khat”
original painting
by Susan-Rose Slatkoff

I did a three-month intensive yoga development course. Every day we wrote at least one or more papers giving our personal response to the topic at hand. We spent at least eight hours daily in class listening to the papers of others. It would have been very easy to have our minds wander off. Swami Radha, the founder of the ashram, had suggested that we do some sort of hand work while listening. I did counted cross-stitch, others knit, drew, embroidered. Amazingly, I was able to stay far more present for the papers while the other part of my mind was being entertained with the craft work. We have different parts of mind, and I also found that I could move into right-brain when I did some spiritual practice first.

Also, Eugene Gendlin has created a technique called FOCUSING, where you use your body and mind to focus on some issue. This technique can also be used to find yourself in that creative flow mode. Sit and remember a time when you were being creative, and flowing. Concentrate on it. Then switch into watching your body and what is happening there. This can lead you into that creative space. Then go and paint.



There are 2 comments for Yoga and focusing by Susan-Rose Slatkoff

From: Anonymous — Sep 01, 2009

Delightful painting! Unusual perspective, great colors, and you’ve really captured the cat’s attitude. I’d love to see more of your work.

Libby, south Florida

From: SUSAN-ROSE — Sep 04, 2009

Thanks for the very kind words Libby — I’d email some images to you, but I don’t have your email address.

Susan-Rose

 

 

woa
 
082809_cathy-harville-artwork

High tide

acrylic painting
by Cathy Harville, Gambrills, MD, USA

 

You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Kelly McChesney who wrote, “I’d love to know how to get OUT of right brain mode. Maybe then I could do all of the administrative tasks required by my business.”

And also Carole Munshi of Alexandria, VA, USA, who wrote, “‘Right-brained joy begins when structure is safely in your pocket.’ And I say… Like lots of money.”

And also Kate Wickham of Arlington, TX, USA, who wrote, “Yes, many artists are using watercolor in a very controlled manner, but please don’t say it’s harder to stay in the right brain because of the medium.”

And also Michael Aronoff of Saltspring Island, BC, Canada who wrote, “A male artist creates with his anima and the female artist creates with her animus (Jungian philosophy). If one can dialogue easily between the two we have a flow. I like to light a candle and make the experience a numinous one. I invite the Divine to teach me. It helps me to open to the muses. Channeling is good.”

 

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Shifting into right brain

 

 

From: Faith — Aug 28, 2009
From: Faith — Aug 28, 2009

Sorry, it reads incorrectly! 90% are right-handers (i.e. left-brainers? NO!).

From: Anna Davis — Aug 28, 2009

I am not left-handed myself but have always enjoyed the following statement: “If the left brain controls the right hand, then only left-handed people are in their right minds.”

From: Gary M. Irish — Aug 28, 2009

Shifting into right brain is actually getting into the “Zone” — where time, personal problems, worries are put on hold and innate creativity abounds. These are left brain matters that can easily be vanquished for a time when needed. Bette Edward’s book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” is the best at learning to control and isolate the left side of the brain. I taught at the graduate school level using this book as a guide. In only one session the class would let out a collective cheer as they realised their new control over the right and left side of their brains! The premise is the left side of the brain does not like complicated things and will turn off allowing the right side to dominate for the magic of creativity. It is a very simple premise but absolutely profound in its power to find the personal creativity within. Talk about freedom, control and excitement!

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Aug 28, 2009

From your esoteric: Statistically, women are supposed to be better able to access this ability (right/left brain interplay) than men.

Why? Because our culture continues to suggest that men- in order to be men- shut down their sensitivity to things like beauty and art. Sensitive men are frowned upon. Hopefully one day soon all of humanity- regardless of gender- will have access to a functional working right/left brain and most judgment against sensitive men will cease to exist. And the world will be a better and richer place for all.

From: Donal — Aug 28, 2009

People love explanations that isolate bits of life into a matrix of comprehesible understanding. One person adds this or that piece, but another often moves it around, removes it, or cements it (we’d like to think) into place, having added to it. Julian Jaynes had a compelling notion that was, insofar as the evidential support went, not a particularly sound accretion to the matrix. Yet.

It’s very tempting for artists of all media to speculate on the uber abstractions of the activity of artists. We are rarely very good at it, but it’s fun. Visual artists that work in paint and crayon do their best work silently. Even a great landscape is mute of speculative or didactic philosophy. On the other hand, it can be — and if it’s great, usually is — ripe with the very stuff of successful accretion into the corpus of understanding, the matrix of knowledge that comprises our species’ intellectual attainment. We can talk about it in general terms. “The subject of the painting is light.” or “…captures the spirit of…” that sort of thing. Beyond that, the media and the support do the speaking.

Right brain, left brain, neural response, synesthesia, talent, inspiration, muse, training to render, training to see. There are all sorts of ways we want to jack into the species legacy intelligence, but in the end the true contribution of an artist cannot be reduced to words of explanation, as much as we enjoy trying.

From: Rick Rotante — Aug 29, 2009

Too much talk about right and left brain. I’ve read the studies and worked with Betty Edwards Book.

What it comes down to for me isn’t right or left brain but habits, good work habits. Lately I’m doing much more drawing of ideas for projects. I spend days working and reworking the drawing on paper until I’m ready to start the painting process on canvas. All the time spent on the drawing absorbs me as much if not more than the painting. I keep regular hours for working. I know what I need to do and do it. This may seem like simplification of the issue, but if you establish good work habits and treat them honestly and with diligence, your brain; right and left; will take care of itself. And, as I understand it, we switch back and forth constantly while working. It’s all a natural process that happens without our interference. Take each task as it comes and complete it and move to the next one. Your creative self comes from your heart first not your brain.

From: Russ Hogger — Aug 29, 2009
From: Consuelo — Aug 30, 2009

The greatest gift was to be born left-handed, Thank ya Lord.

From: Charles Chapman — Aug 30, 2009

I agree with Gary Irish. As a wood worker who has shifted from linear work (square) to round work(turning/lathe) the zone is definitely more evident. Creativity is all over the brain, being aware or open to the creativity is where we need to be, to get in the zone.

I don’t know if being more male or female, in ones thinking is how I would describe what is happening. Several researchers in the study of creativity do not think it is more prevalent in male or female. I do think that pushing the Zone is important to greater creativity

From: Pepper Hume — Aug 31, 2009

As I learned long before the left brain/right brain thing: Discipline is the first law of art. Or: Discipline is the foundation that sets you free. Or: Discipline gets you off the ground so you can fly higher. In all these manifestations of the same concept, “discipline” means learning the rules/techniques/processes to the extent that you don’t have to think about them – they become context within which you create.

From: Brad Greek — Sep 01, 2009

I’ve went over 40 years of painting without ever worrying about which side of the brain was used. LOL Just paint the damn thing!! LOL

From: Peter Berndt — Sep 01, 2009

Shifting into right brain functioning occurs spontaneously, i.e. without conscious control, all the time in probably everybody. Over the years, as part of my psychiatric practice, I have worked with writers, musicians and visual artists in training them to make the left-to-right brain transition on purpose. The necessary methodology that I use is one which I developed from clinical hypnosis techniques, simplified and stripped down to their essentials. The suggestions that you give in your article are a good beginning but fall far short of the potential that can be achieved with these methods.

I wanted to make this response in order to indicate that there is in fact relevant technology out there that goes quite a bit deeper than is generally appreciated.

From: George Connell — Sep 01, 2009

My strategy for achieving ‘mindlessness’ is to stand tall and pull an imaginary plug from the back of my head, tip my head backwards, and allow the accumulated detritus to fall to the floor. After a minute or so, I replace the plug, pick up a broom, and sweep the droppings into the corner of my studio. It works for me, even though many friends tell me that mindlessness and gazing up at the stars is a normal day to day modus operandi for me.

From: Eileen Keane — Sep 01, 2009

It’s all fine and good to talk about accessing the goddess (god) within but what if you’re totally empty? I find myself doing the same thing over and over because I am like a vacuum. What can I do to get inspired again? I listen to music, look at other art mediums; nothing’s working. Do you have any advice for someone like me?

From: Michael Aronoff — Sep 01, 2009

My thoughts are that a male artist creates with his anima and the female artist creates with her animus (Jungian philosophy) I f one can dialogue easily between the two we have a flow that works.

Anyways that is my take on it.

I like to light a candle and make the experience a numinous one. I invite the Divine to teach me. It helps me to open to the muses. Channelling is good.

From: Vicki Ross — Sep 01, 2009

I love to paint with music…however, quite by accident I discovered that if my iPod was playing through the earphones I could ‘disappear’ more effectively than if music was just playing through speakers. Then, my tutor Timothy Tyler introduced me to books on tape. They are a glorious way to quiet the inner voice that keeps trying to be in control. Hours can pass…

From: Claudio Ghirardo — Sep 01, 2009

One thing a friend of mine told me is to start drawing, or in this case, painting with your left hand. According to him, this will trigger right brain thinking and after a while, you can switch back to your right hand to paint.

From: Frances — Sep 01, 2009

Well, that’s interesting. I wonder if waking early in AM and staying awake is related to painter’s block. At those times focusing on breathing helps.

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki — Sep 01, 2009

This sounds very confusing. Didn’t you say that the left brain is the one who plans and makes decisions – so that would be the “executive” or “god”. Not the right brain which is the unconscious follower of the structure. Maybe I misunderstood since this would throw away the theory of artists having to turn to the goddess within. This would mean the opposite – we would have to hide from the “executive” goddess in order to activate the unconscious play.

From: Kate Wickham — Sep 01, 2009

Someone thinks it’s harder to shift to right brain in watercolor. I disagree. The link above goes to one page of my website that demonstrates the right brain at work with watercolor. I started this painting by randomly putting water on my paper – lots of water using a paint mop instead of brush. Then I added a little yellow to see what I had, started adding additional colors at various stages of drying. Let it dry, then finished up.

Yes many artists using watercolor use it in a very controlled manner, but please don’t say it’s harder to stay in the right brain because of the medium.

From: Helen Kirk — Sep 01, 2009

I have been getting them now for nearly three years and have been scrolling through the earlier letters, and I can’t see an answer to this question: When do you know you are good enough to start trying to market your work? How long, in terms of experience, should you have been painting for before you can feel that your art has reached its level? I am in my forties and only started painting about four years ago. I am currently studying in my last semester for my Advanced Diploma in Fine Art. I am attaching the paintings I have done over the course of this year – I think there is a marked improvement from the first painting I did (Rockpool III) and the one I have just completed (Waterfront at The Rocks). The thing is, I thought the Rockpool ones were great when I did them (and my classmates and the tutor said so), but now I feel I’ve improved so much that maybe they aren’t so good after all. I’m assuming you keep improving as long as you keep painting; but the curve must level out.

From: Cindy Wider — Sep 01, 2009

Once again I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your twice-weekly newsletter. Your vast amount of knowledge on art is refreshing and never ceases to amaze me. There is always something new to learn from you, thankyou so much. I especially like the bit of Esoterica at the bottom of your recent newsletter article and feel compelled to write to you and add to this conversation on the interplay between the two hemispheres of the brain.

I gave up drawing at the age of 14 years believing I just weren’t talented enough. I didn’t paint again until the age of twenty-three years (thats twenty years ago now:) when I contracted C.F.S/M.E and suffered many debilitating symptoms including many of my cognitive abilities such as short term memory loss, no sense of time, being unable to walk further than my bathroom and back for many months. I set myself goals to get to the letterbox in my yard and once I got there I realised if I could do this I could do anything and so asked myself the question ‘What do I want to do more than anything else in the world?” the answer that came to me arrived in an overwhelming emotion; all I wanted to do was to learn how to paint and draw.

Suddenly I began to paint realistically like never before, however I had difficulty in composing my own original art. I then studied for my diploma in art and so began an incredible journey of healing and self-discovery. Over a ten-year period I grew from believing I couldn’t draw to becoming one of the city’s most prolific and highly respected artists, sponsored by the government to hold several exhibitions. I now live in Noosa Queensla and am a gallery represented artist, author and art-educator.

If you can create the time, please see my attachment where I share with you my philosphy on drawing and the most recent ‘before’ and ‘after’ drawings that course participants are achieving in the virtual classrooms I teach at Drawspace.

From: Fred Hulser — Sep 01, 2009

Your letter today about right vs left brain highlighted a conundrum I am experiencing between what Bill Herring (see your quotes) calls a light/dark approach vs a cool/warm approach. My background is in light/dark but my experience is telling me cool/warm is where the action and excitement is. You can see this conflict in the paintings on my website (and the paintings you have chosen for my previous writings indicates a bias toward cool/warm). I gather from your books you have experienced this transition. Any advice for those trying or needing to make this transition?

From: Janice Robinson-Delaney — Sep 01, 2009

I am so sorry I was so out of the information loop when the ‘left and right brainer’s ruled the roost, I have no idea what was the basis of that colloquialism, but my parents were in their last years and my life was not channeling sides of the brains…

From: Gail Harper,NY — Sep 01, 2009

…the inner game of music ia also a great read for we painter,….sculptors et al

From: Dorenda Crager Watson — Sep 03, 2009

This comment is for Helen Kirk….in answer to your question as to when you are good enough to market your work…you are always, and never, good enough to market your work. :) Just begin. Hopefully you will always continue to improve and find that your work gets better as you know, and practice, more. (I have paintings that I did 10 years ago that I thought were the “end-all-beat-all” works of my career…I now look at them and laugh (and cringe a little.) My point is…start marketing now…learn the business of marketing…put your feelers out to what people think of your work. One of my favorite “tricks” is to enter art shows (start local) and stand around my painting (without wearing the standard art show name-tag) and listen to what people really think about the work…it is a great teacher and very humbling to do this. Take what is said with a grain of salt and continue the process of making your art. I guess the short answer (in my humble opinion) is “begin now.”

From: Kathleen Zann Isacson — Sep 03, 2009

As a watercolorist I have learned to combine left and right brain functions by playing music while I paint. I only listen to music with lyrics in a language I don’t understand (to limit distraction) and I choose songs that I feel compliment my subject (such as French singers for my Paris series).

This serves to create a mild distraction, and also sets a mood, so I can concentrate on the temperamental watercolor medium but still lose the self consciousness that comes with left brain thinking.

It works for me.

From: janet Sellers — Sep 04, 2009

For my students -and me- I have them do some brain gym/ lazy 8’s; also, just having a warm up routine such as stretching and drawing large circles on the page in clock wise and counter clock wise directions seems to open the channels between spacial and critical thinking in the mind and body.

I remember to have my students do it (or else the class crawls along) yet frequently, I don’t do it for myself until I remember, um, what is it I need to do to get “there”?

Golfers have their routine before each shot, to ready the mind/body connection with each stroke. Settle in to one, and your body will let you “go there” – it just wants to know you know what to do when you “get there”. ;)

 

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