A Left-brain Approach to a Right-brain Profession
Updated: Oct 1, 2020
In school I studied both mechanical engineering and studio art, an endeavor many told me was unique, especially because the two subjects were so different. In conversation, the right-brain vs. left-brain comparison often arose, given that engineering is typically associated with left-brain thinking and art with right-brain thinking. At some point, in my hubris, I assumed the identity of one who was neuro-fluid (a term I made up just now), meaning my brain was not dominated by one hemisphere but rather communicated efficiently across both. However, now, perhaps in the spirit of rampant cultural tribalization, I realize one hemisphere is in fact easier to identify with: the left.
I am analytical, detail-oriented, and I think in words as opposed to images. I am not particularly imaginative or empathetic. Alas, as an artist the assumption is that I am a creative, right-brain thinker. I don't think that is the case, though, and I don't think art is reserved solely for right-brainers. In my mind it is identical to engineering, in essence. It is a system of problem solving. While the principal problem of engineering is to advance technology, the problem of art is to advance culture, and, just as there are systematic approaches to solving individual problems within engineering, there are methodologies and techniques to accomplish tasks within art. For example, an artist must reconcile the variables of color theory, perspective and brushstroke in order to solve his equation.
This might be a contentious view for an artist, but it is how I approach art. Every painting is a problem which must be broken down and solved in logical steps. Each brushstroke is a truss that is essential to the metaphorical bridge. Every color has its own yield strength. Every sketch is a prototype.
But, it is not just each individual painting that I pursue in this way. Rather, it is also the lifestyle more generally. My life is highly organized to maximize efficiency. Even though I am self-employed and thus should have a flexible schedule, I adhere to a rigid routine. I wake up at 4:30 every day. I work a pretty exact 10 hours a day, Monday through Saturday. I go grocery shopping at the same time every weekend. My workspace is always organized, and everything is always where it should be so that I don't waste time looking for something. In fact, someone once told me my studio was so neat that it made him anxious (he must have been a right-brainer).
I don't mean to elevate structure and routine above a freer approach in the art profession, but I just want to illustrate how I utilize my left-brain tools to fit within a right-brain oriented profession, because those are the tools that I have at my disposal. Creativity does not come so naturally to me, I don't think, and it's almost as if I have to use brute force to be creative, which is to say that I have to use my analytical, linear thinking to realize what otherwise might be intuited. Admittedly, that's how I like it.