A Stereotype That Prevails: Being Left- or Right-Brained

I’ve been called “the briefcase-toting artist” by some who are implying that I’m both “right-brained” and “left-brained” at the same time. This theory, whose validity is challenged by some professional analysis, is clearly a stereotype that prevails.

According to public belief, one side of the brain is creative, (right) and one is analytical (left). Most people are either one or the other. You know the stereotypes. The “bean counters” such as tax preparers, book keepers, attorneys, and accountants are more “left-brained.” They use the left side of the brain to think analytically. They use procedures that keep things in check, and organize numbers into the proper places. Their outcomes are predictable.

Art creativity exercise by Lee Hammond

This is an example of the “Puzzle Piece” theory that I go into detail with in Lifelike Drawing.

A “right-brained” person tends to be freer in their thinking. They prefer the more creative, changeable side of life. They think outside of the box, and aren’t afraid to deviate from the norm, creating wild and wonderful things that people have never seen before.

Both of these personalities are essential to the wellbeing of the human race. One offsets the other. We (artists) live out our creativity in our work. We let the creative, right side of our brains carry us out into the world, craving inspiration. But, we depend on the lefties in our lives to maintain order. I would be lost without my accountant, my tax guy, and my attorney. How would I ever manage to run a business and file my taxes without them? I dread tax season, for my brain just doesn’t like to work with numbers. I hate contracts because they’re so rigid! I pawn it all off on a “left-brainer.” Funny thing is, they LOVE it! It’s what they do!

I was blessed with the personalities of both of my parents. My mother was a crafty girl (a true righty). Growing up, she was always creating something in the yard–she laid an entire brick patio all by herself! She was constantly painting rooms, crocheting, and cross stitching. Contact paper was her best friend. She covered everything with it. I think contact paper is to women, what duct tape is to men. She even taught me to knit when I was five years old. She encouraged my creative side, and kept me well-stocked in crayons, markers, and fresh tablets of clean paper.

My dad, on the other hand, was a lefty and a staunch business man. He climbed the ladder of success, and was mostly self-taught (just like me!). He was an avid reader, and instilled the love of reading in me. I’ve always loved working with the public, and just like dad, I now do public speaking effortlessly. He was the one who introduced me to Zig Ziglar, Norman Vincent Peale, and Wayne Dyer. He was a mentor in the insurance field, and gave motivational speeches. Now, I’m writing a motivational book, and I feel like I’m finishing my dad’s work.

Yes, I am the perfect split of my parents’ personalities. At times, I think I’m going crazy thanks to them! I do love the business end of my job, (except for the financial records … yuck!) and I feel like I’m a good business person. I’m constantly negotiating business deals and new opportunities. It’s no wonder I’ve become an artist who writes books and runs a business! But, I’m also driven by my creativity, and have more projects in the works that any one human being could possibly finish. One minute I’m writing, the next I’m cross stitching, and a moment later I’m working on a painting. The next day I’ll work on six or eight drawings, and then go back to writing. It’s a whirlwind existence, but so much fun!

Yes, the title is correct … a “briefcase-toting artist” sums me up pretty well. I feel lucky, for some flounder when it comes to the business of art. The term “starving artist” is not a myth. It happens to many, who are so “right-brained” that they can’t navigate the business world. Then, there are some who want to be creative, but they’re just too “left-brained.” These folks do well in things like architecture and engineering, where things are more black and white. I teach many who think this way. I find them pretty rigid, for they want strict procedures and color recipes. I don’t try to make them something they are not. I just adapt and make it all work.

For artists who need more discipline, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards is a brilliant book. She shows us creative minds how to view things differently, with more of a “left-brained” perspective. I find the psychology of it fascinating. I use the same theory in some of my books (including Lifelike Drawing), offering the puzzle piece approach. By breaking a recognizable subject into random shapes, the artist can draw it more accurately. It makes things more analytical, and keeps our memories from interfering with our perceptions. It’s not about what something is, it’s about what it actually looks like.

How do you see yourself? The truth is, there is no right or wrong. I offended one person (she hasn’t spoken to me since), when I said I couldn’t imagine doing bookkeeping as a profession. Being one herself, she thought I was making fun of her, like it was beneath me. She took it wrong … I meant that I literally could NOT IMAGINE it. My brain doesn’t work that way. I sometimes envy a job that is more predictable, since mine is a roller coaster ride that changes every day! I wish she would let me explain. Oh well…

It takes all of us to make the world go around. Embrace your individual personality, and do not try to label yourself. Be whoever you are, and think in a way that comes naturally to you. If you need help, be like me and just hire the people who can fill in where you need advice. I’m not proud. I’ll always ask for help if I need it. Whether it be my accountant for my taxes, or my attorney for looking over a contract, I don’t hesitate to call them! They’re on speed dial. I guess that’s the business part of me showing up again!

Now, I must get off the computer and go back to the old drawing board. I must retrieve a drawing from my briefcase, and get busy!

Until next time!


Edited by Cherie Haas, online editor of ArtistsNetwork.com

Lee Hammond has been called the Queen of Drawing. That may not be fair these days, since in addition to providing the best drawing lessons, she has also created fantastic books and videos filled with the same easy to follow acrylic painting techniques, colored pencil techniques and more. Click here to see all of the instructional books and DVDs that Lee Hammond has to offer!

Free download! Easy Acrylic Painting Techniques by Lee Hammond

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