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The Image of an Artist
Yesterday, an artist friend and I were discussing the silly images people have of artists, and how some artists seem to dote on this image for its own sake, whether it really fits them or not. I compared it to growing old and the luxury of being able to claim a degree of senility to mask what really is nothing more than cussed contrariness. He compared the persistent romantic stereotype of artists to viewing the six-o'clock news and concluding that all Americans are either murders, thieves, drug heads, or sex fiends. My friend has a way of slashing through to the truth! He and I are both fairly left-brained I think, and as a result, have a rather no-nonsense approach to art, creativity, and the artistic temperament that often goes with such activities.

It would seem that the right-brained artists amongst us have a tendency to cherish the romantic "image" of the artist more, often using it as a crutch, and sometimes even going so far as to love the image more than the daily drudgery and hard reality of being an artist. My friend wanted to make the point that "...the flow of genius that runs through great artists is the same flow that runs through the hearts and minds of great scientists, mathematicians, inventors, explorers--and great humanists. It is an absolute dedication to discovering the truth--and the drive to never ever give up!" And while I agreed with him to a point, I would note that the examples of creative vocations he mentioned were mostly those traditionally associated with left-brained pursuits. What I questioned is whether the creative energy really is the same in left-brained and right-brained individuals (allowing for the fact that there are both in both the arts and sciences).

I'm not sure about scientists, but I've dealt with a number or right-brained artists in a classroom setting over the years, and at least to an old left-brained codger like myself, they do seem to be strange animals. They are difficult to teach (or should I say direct) and from my experience at least, do seem to have different thought processes with regard to creativity. They don't think things through; they have flashes of insight. Their creative urges come much more from the "gut" than from the "head." Moreover, once they have set themselves on a course, they are like steering the Titanic. And, there seems to be an underlying emotional instability that at differing times both help and hinder their artistic output. As an educator, I always tended toward moving these individuals more in the direction of a "whole brained" approach to their work, allowing them to better cope with the real world of art, rather than bouncing around in their own, imagined art world.

Contributed by Lane, Jim
2 March 1999

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