In 5th grade I took an art class where we did some of the drawing exercises presented in the book: Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards. I remember being pretty amazed at the results, but I had no idea why my drawings were so much better when I was encouraged to draw the lines and shapes I saw without trying to recognize what they were. If I just drew lines instead of thinking about drawing the arm or the leg, somehow the end result was remarkably more realistic and artistic. It seemed almost magical.
It wasn’t until much later in life when I was taking figure drawing classes that I started thinking about this. I had also become very interested in cultivating my intuition, and while these things seemed vastly different on the surface, through practice I started to realize that seeing with an artist’s eye and seeing with an intuitive eye were very much connected. Both of these activities engage the right brain, and in our left-brain dominant culture I think it helps bring us into balance to give our right brains a little extra attention.
Let me pause here and say, I’m certainly not an expert on the brain. My general understanding of right and left brain functions is that the left brain is in charge of things like verbal skills, analysis, and linear thinking. The right brain seems to be in charge of intuition, visualization, spatial recognition, synthesizing and that sort of thing.
I simply discovered through the process of making art that I became much more intuitively sensitive. The inspiration that fuels my creative endeavors is closely related to the source of my intuition. It’s not uncommon for me to enter the studio with an unresolved issue and emerge a little later with a great answer that I hadn’t even considered before. Likewise, I’ve sat down to meditate and walked away from the experience with fabulous creative inspirations… in fact, I rarely have artist’s block. If anything, I get so many ideas and inspirations that I feel like I’ll never be able to actually do them all. lol!
However, growing up in a world that seemed to applaud and favor my left-brain skills only, I didn’t always feel like I had access to this cornucopia of inspiration. I yearned for some sort of creative outlet for years. I would buy art supplies, set everything up…and then get really stuck. I’d stare at the blank page, and get frustrated because I had no idea where to begin. My linear left-brain thinking gave me the notion that I needed to have a fully formed idea of what I wanted to make, and then I should just sit down and create it. I would judge every mark I made and start to feel more and more defeated until I just stopped. I abandoned a lot of artwork in early awkward phases, but something kept pulling me back.
We often think that creativity is easy for “creative people”, but every creative person I know will tell you that it’s a journey that has good days and bad days. Sometimes being creative is joyful and sometimes, well, it’s painful. You meet up with your inner critic in a big way, and for years that kept me in a cycle of short-lived creative bursts that would fizzle out when my art didn’t match my left-brain’s idea of what it needed to be.
For me, making art has been healing because it actually makes my left brain take a break and quiet down. It’s also a tool I use to get unstuck in my life. Somehow working through those places in a painting helps me work through them in my day to day. I had the pleasure of sharing some of my process this weekend in an Art & Alchemy workshop that I taught. It was an amazing afternoon where I introduced Tarot cards as a way to activate the intuition for personal guidance and inner discovery. We grounded this inspiration through making an art collage. Everyone ran into moments where they felt stuck and the inner judgment cranked up… but we kept working through it and came out on the other side. Some amazing things were created.
I believe we can learn a lot about ourselves by noticing the way we approach creative endeavors. Personally, I know that when I’m making a piece of art, I’m actually transforming something within myself. I may not understand or be able to label exactly what that thing is, but I know that I feel different later. I notice that somehow my perspective on the world has shifted just a little bit and something that seemed difficult doesn’t seem like such a big deal anymore. Creativity and intuition work together for me now and using these skills nurtures my right brain, gets me “unstuck”, and brings me into balance.
Wishing you creative abundance and a happy right-brain. xo