Lately I’ve really been mulling over this idea of what it means to be a ‘real artist.’ I think it all started when I read this blog post asking us to identify the rules we are imposing on ourselves. It’s a fascinating question, right?
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I was subconsciously feeling guilty for incorporating the left side of my brain into my art. After all, ‘real artists’ are supposed to be gushing pure, un-bridled creativity 24 hours a day, right? Using my analytical side seemed wrong, almost like I was breaking the secret pact that all artists must sign at the beginning of their careers.
Well, that’s just baloney.
That said, I can see where I might have picked up the idea. For many of us, learning to let go of our left brain is a critical step in our development as creatives. I can’t tell you how many exercises I did in middle-school art classes that were designed to shut down the left side of my brain. We would be instructed to draw something upside-down, or draw it using wire instead of pencil, or even draw with our eyes closed. And these exercises did achieve what they were intended to do. They taught me to stop assuming I knew what I was seeing, and instead to actually see it.
But there was also an underlying assumption built into these exercises: you can’t tap into your creativity without first completely disabling your analytical side.
And I didn’t just embrace it, I generalized it to all my creative endeavors.
But, what if we gave ourselves permission to use our whole brain when we wanted to be artistic, instead of just the “creative” side? What would that look like? For me:
I would let myself check out books from the library on color mixing theory, and then I’d read them and use what I learned without feeling like a fake.
I would flip through astrophysics articles about black holes and the increasing speed of the expansion of the universe, and I’d let myself be deeply inspired.
I would allow myself to geek out over all the nifty tools in photoshop, and I would do a happy dance when I learned a new piece of html because I could use it to beautify my website.
I would race to the top of my building to watch in awe and take photos as the storm clouds rolled in. Then I would look up cumulonimbus on Wikipedia to learn everything I could.
I would take notes about the qualities of my new brand of paints, so that I could better understand its subtleties.
Doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
What about you? Do you find yourself stuck in one side of your brain or the other? Does it define you? What would happen if you allowed yourself to use both sides at once?