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The Key to Creating Original Art: Harnessing the Right Side of the Brain

Posted by Scott Christensen on

As a professional artist, coming up with new, head-turning masterpieces on a regular basis is what I get paid to do.

As many other professional creatives know – it’s not always easy. It’s a balancing act. Delving into the unknown and trying something that is new to yourself and your audience can be risky but I’ve learnt that the rewards are there; if you stay true to your heart. 

I painted “Enchantment” after months of dealing with a family tragedy. My mother had a massive brain haemorrhage while cruising New Caledonia. Given only hours to live, we met her at The Royal Brisbane Hospital early on a sunny Saturday morning. She came direct from a lifesaving care-flight where she was in coma and medically paralysed to withstand the flight. She was fighting for her life and the prognosis was not good at all.

Hours, days then weeks went by… She emerged from her coma and has defied all the doctors the whole way through her ordeal and I’m happy to report that she is right now beginning to take her first steps, seven months after the event. 

During this major distress I managed to produce what I think is my most creative work of art to date…

Coming up with exceptional ideas on a regular basis is not only a great skill for artists to learn but original and creative idea generation is useful for all walks of life and all ages. The ability to change your situation to your liking at any stage of life requires consistent good idea generation (followed by action…).

With my Mother’s brain injury, I took it upon myself to play an active role in her cognitive rehabilitation… To the point where I held my family off from visiting to make sure I had time to talk deeply with her to begin to connect the mental/neurological pathways. 

Over the years I have been fortunate enough to listen to countless hours of audios while I paint – And fortunately I’ve always had a keen interest in the brain and its infinite capabilities… I'm always exploring methods to increase function so as to increase my ability to paint better paintings. Whilst learning about Mum’s condition I read “A Stroke of Insight” by Jill Bolte Taylor - A neuroanatomist that had a major stroke and wrote about her recovery.

Book:   TED Talk:

The most compelling things I’ve discovered are the differing left and right side functions of the brain but more importantly: The best ways to utilise the brain for creative thinking Eg: Coming up with compelling ideas to create original art and a compelling life. 

The basic theory here is that your left side is responsible for logic and analysis and the right side is responsible for creativity, intuition and imagination. Obviously to function properly we need both working in unison, however when it comes to creative visioning and idea generation – the left side of our brain only gets in the way. 

The left side will produce the thoughts like “Hey – don’t be stupid! That’ll never work!” …And this only shuts down what could be a truly unique and brilliant flow towards a mesmerising final art piece.

The trick is to get the give the left side a job to do and keep it busy so your right side can wander and explore. 

The best ways that I’ve found to work with this approach are walking and driving for ideas. While the left side navigates the steering and gear changing or the upcoming steps and balancing the body, the right side of your brain can begin to wander. Now you really should be walking or driving through somewhere inspiring, close to nature.

The prerequisite to making this process work is to have a notebook or visual diary beside you and be prepared to stop and write or sketch. These ideas need to be captured. 

For the painter: Once the great painting idea is thought, it needs to be captured in a visual diary as soon as possible, otherwise the inspiration for the idea fades before you return to your painting space… It just won’t seem like such a brilliant idea after-all. (That left side of the brain will have its way, while you are trying to remember the idea.

But if you capture that idea on paper and immediately take the time to expand on it and work it into a half-decent composition, including some notes on colour, size, feel or emotion that you want to portray - it begins the process of developing it... and your unconscious mind will help that process also. When you get to the studio you have something to work with. You can then change it up and improve on it… Or it may be just the seed for the next generation of that initial inspiration…  

Taking an active role in your own creative visioning is vastly better than getting to the studio and finding yourself looking at a blank canvas with a blank mind.

I’d love to hear your thoughts or the best ways that you come up with your own creative ideas…

Please leave a comment below!



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