An Introduction to Right Brain


It's not the LSD.  It's the hallucination.

As a point of distinction, there have always been those far more interested in accomplishment than achievement. Many confuse the two as being one in the same, but they’re not. Achievement is nothing more than just one, singular accomplishment – possessing no particular superiority, relative to other completed tasks that require aptitude, talent, or proficiency. Many artists know or sense this. Others who create require that it be explained to them. Ergo, this paragraph.

A little too esoteric for your Right Brain? Okay ... Said another way: Writing the book is the accomplishment. Selling the book is the achievement.

There are those who would argue that achievement is the result of a series of accomplishments. But, in fact, most accomplishments are also comprised of multi-level components. For the Right-Brain, it’s a pointless argument and an unnecessary consideration. For all that matters is the end result, regardless of the pathway to one’s arrival.

But while the rational Left-Brain function can become confused when referencing or consulting with its emotional Right-Brain counterpart, the artist has always needed to be somewhat conversational with 'Left-Side'. For while appreciation has seldom required it, an active involvement in the arts most often involves the application of ‘tools’, whether they be brushes, musical instruments – or even ballet slippers. Yes, even computer-based word processors. In the ideal, when the apparatus has been determined with the selective assistance of the Left-Brain, the tool – itself – falls into the background. If well chosen, the Right-Brain can soon return to the emotional familiarity and comfort (or angst) of creating.

Yes, emotion has sometimes been associated with the tools of creation, and there are varying degrees of connection in this bipolar relationship. It’s far more difficult to have an emotional relationship with a camera lens than, say, a musical instrument. After all, few assign affectionate pet-names to their lenses. But guitars? Oh, yes. And while losing a lens may often result in a telephone conversation with the insurance company, the loss of a musical instrument can prompt a call to the local Depression & Suicide Crisis Center (many artists already have the number at hand). Yes, there are those who have become emotional over a camera – the one that had traveled with them across Europe, perhaps, both sharing a ‘common experience’ (as thought). But the emotional connection to an instrument can be profound – even when it’s never left home. It’s more often connected to a ‘time’ – or perhaps several of them.

This is not to necessarily place the seemingly organic Zen of musical instruments in higher esteem than the cold steel and aromatic plastic of hardware, mind you. Rather, I speak of a Right-Brain consciousness that is often distracted by the mechanisms that merely assist in creation. And when such tools dominate the endeavors of the emotional Right-Brain, you’re probably better off living in the more analytical Left-Brain, crunching numbers as an Actuarial ...

Curiously – and, perhaps, disturbingly – there are now more night courses and Community Center classes devoted to the use of PhotoShop, than there are for photography, itself. It’s been argued that these are of higher relevance – serving a greater need – because a piece of software is more ‘complex’. But no. That’s a lie. In art, there’s an even higher degree of complexity, known as nuance. Known as subtlety. Known as self-expression. Perhaps it can be said that nuance or the articulation of emotion can’t be taught. But it can be guided and developed. And much of education has often missed such considerations. What, after all, is a Liberal Arts education other than an attempt to examine and elucidate Right-Brain intuition and psyche with the clinical analysis of Left-Brain packaging? And, yes, I was a Liberal Arts major.

"I sometimes think that the problem with the current state of the Media Arts is that actors think they can sing, singers think they can act ... and everyone thinks they can fucking direct. Pick two, I say ... Okay ... three ... screw it."

- Joseph -

It’s been said that the best guidance for the artist is in the examination of works by others who work in one’s chosen medium. Writers should read. Musicians and composers should listen. Painters and photographers should look … and see. But this isn’t entirely true – not as presented. Composers should read, listen, look and see. All artists – of any medium – should have a familiarity with most other mediums. It not only makes for the better artist, it makes for the better – and more enriched – individual. Just don't feel obligated to actively participate in all mediums. You may end up producing a real 'Super 8' mess ... You don't want that.

Now, with all of the above said, one may wonder why I devote so much page space to the tools of artistic creation in the ‘Right-Brain’ column. I do it, in part, so one can hasten the selection of brushes and canvas – for new and evolving artists, in particular – allowing them to get on with the creative process, itself. And yes, the apparatus can be interesting – often more so as it relates to some of the older tools and techniques … the ones that spurred and helped define a generation of artistic vision and innovation – long before the often mechanized and entirely soulless output of today.

But most of all, let your Right-Brain wander and imagine, letting the Left-Brain appliances fade into the background, to offer little more than a supporting role. It’s not the LSD, it’s the hallucination.


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