Monday, September 6, 2021

Are there "right-brained" and "left-brained" artists?

Many artists are familiar with the method of drawing instruction based on the lateralization of the brain into right and left hemispheres. The method was inspired by scientific studies from the 1970s which proposed that the right and left sides of the brain employ different styles of information processing. The left side (which controls the right side of the body) tends to specialize in language, certainty, categorization and fragmentary parts, while the right hemisphere tends to regard the world in a more holistic and metaphorical manner.

Researchers have learned a lot since then, and neuroimaging studies have demonstrated more clearly what parts of the brain are activated with certain tasks. While there is some truth to the claims of lateralized functions, and while the method can be useful for many beginning artists, some of the more extreme claims aren’t supported by evidence.

For example, some argue that certain individuals are “right-brained” and others are “left-brained,” or that one hemisphere exclusively handles a given task. 

Neuroimaging studies show that in a normal brain, the two hemispheres are deeply interconnected, and they work together to solve most drawing or painting tasks, whether it’s analyzing shapes, measuring proportions, or representing contours.
This is a sample excerpt from my new article in International Artist Magazine called "What Brain Science Teaches Us About Painting, Part 2"

You can learn more about the recent science of lateralization in the book by Ian McGilchrist called The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World


Unknown said...

I'm glad right-left brain stuff is a myth, but what do you suppose explains why there are more left-handed artists?

doforanimals said...

Ha! I was just discussing this very topic with a friend yesterday! In high school, I noticed many creatives I admired were left-handed and I was intrigued by the connection between left-handedness and creativity. I am right-handed so taught myself to be left-handed to become a better artist(!). Many awkward years later, I gradually went back to being more right handed, but it was an interesting experiment at the time, LOL. BTW, I broke my right arm last week so am back to using my left hand!

Susan Krzywicki said...

In its day, the left-brain/right-brain theory was such a potent and easy way to discuss things! And fun!

This more nuanced-based information, though, combines into another social trend: see people as individuals in all their complexity and appreciate all of that.

And, I still wanna hear more about the left-handed observation...