Shifting into right brain

August 28, 2009


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: 

1. 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.  

2. 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.     

3. 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 Úlan. 

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 

Best regards,


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.

Current clickback: "Should I give up?" gives some hope to an artist in despair, 
and some of the possible re-jigs that might get things flowing again. Included 
is more work by Dana Finch, as well as some remarkable and varied input from 

Read this letter online and feel free to give your own methodology for getting 
into right brain mode and accessing the full potential of your artistic brain. 
You can also write Robert directly at