Right Brain, Left Brain

My mind is in a bit of a whirl this morning. As a self-taught student, I rarely have a straight course of art study laid out ahead of me. Oh, sometimes I think I do, but as often as not experience soon changes the direction I’m going in, sends me off on other pathways, or in one way or another totally disrupts my lesson plans.

And oddly enough, these distractions, disruptions, and detours tend to come along at precisely the right moments. I think it’s still part of that awesome sense that the cosmos is revolving, and let’s take just a moment to consider what that actually means.

Cosmos is a word that comes from ancient Greek. The philosopher Pythagorus used cosmos to describe the universe, seeing within it a purposeful order. The opposite of cosmos, by the way, is chaos.

What’s happening for me at this time in my study of art is that my order of things is changing. My thoughts about art are shifting. My ideas are moving around, and sometimes I’m not sure what’s real and what’s not.

It’s interesting to look back at some of the comments I’ve made about recent paintings.

When I posted a painting I titled Woodland Reverie, I wrote that “I wanted an almost surreal feel to the earth itself. I wanted the painting to feel a bit fluid, as though the scene might change if you turned away then looked back a moment later.”

And only a few days ago I shared another woodland scene and I wrote about a feeling of “getting lost in the woods” of impressionist painting.

Certainly my intuitive feelings about art itself — and my place on the pathway — found expression in the scenes I painted.

In recent weeks I’ve learned a lot about trusting my intuition more. That’s a good thing for an artist, right?

Landscape painting isn’t all about what we see around us. It’s more than recreating scenes from nature. At least, in impressionism, that’s how it is, and as an evolving artist, I want my paintings to reflect not a simple vision, but a scene replete with memories, moods, atmosphere, and emotion. These are things that come from that much-touted right side of our brain.

Art is an illusion. Knowing that — and recognizing it — was one of the first steps for me toward truly becoming an artist. Again, we’re considering art from a right-brain perspective. That’s fine. But what of the left brain? Does it, too, have a role to play in the creation of and appreciation of art?

Or to look back at where I ended up with yesterday’s post, is there a point where intuition becomes a detriment? As my disastrous painting yesterday shows, it’s definitely possible to go too far, to get carried away, and as my personal art cosmos revolves again, I’m being taught that logic and reason still need to play a part in the creative process.

Here’s a bit of what I’m currently reading and studying. This comes from The Classical Drawing Atelier by Juliette Aristides:

Without understanding the elements of design, artists have to rely solely on their intuition when composing a picture. While intuition and feeling are, of course, a major defining element for an artist, they alone are not enough to consistently achieve a mastery of composition that rivals that of nature. Intuition and feeling without the knowledge and judgment of design principles are a liability in art—for without the knowledge and the know-how of design principles, the composition can easily appear chaotic and disjointed.

I’m thankful now for the time I’ve spent wading through the verbiage of Denman Ross and his Theory of Pure Design. I won’t pretend to understand it all, but at least I’ve had some exposure to design principles. I’m grateful to have a bit of a foundation beneath me to support me as I move forward.

Interesting, really… first the earth is shifting about in a surreal landscape, and now I’m speaking of finding a foundation. The order around me is changing — veering off into chaos at first to later re-settle into a new order. I’m getting lost yet finding myself at the same time.

Just for fun, I couldn’t resist running to my easel to literally splatter a bit of paint on a canvas in a joyous expression of all that I’m learning, and as a symbol of the trust and faith I have in the process.

Cosmos Framed
Cosmos by Judith Lynne Kraus – Oil on 8 x 10 canvas panel

I’ve been testing my limits, finding boundaries, and learning to bring both reason and intuition to my art. There is a place for both, a need for both. I’m reminded of the adage to follow your heart, but take your head along with you.

I think it’s much the same with art and with all creative adventures. We can only go so far with heart alone. We need the logic and practicality of our head, as well. Our right brain is a useful tool, but we can’t go through life with half a brain, you know. We need both hemispheres.

As my cosmos re-forms around me in new shapes and patterns, I look forward to seeing how my head and my heart work together through my art. I am excited to see a personal style emerging. I can’t wait to see what it is!




  1. I love your oil painting, Cosmos, Judith. I also enjoyed your contemplation on the right brain/left brain dichotomy of art. I have only just begun painting and have not formally studied it. Possibly I should. Your post is quite inspirational for me. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, LuAnne, for your comments. I haven’t had any formal study either, so I’m figuring it out as I go. Art has become an important part of my life, and I am always happy to meet fellow travelers on this journey.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my gosh ! This Cosmos painting is glorious ! It might be my favorite of yours so far. That, and a few of your recent landscapes , are ones I’d feel enriched my life if I were the type of person to hang art on my wall and those paintings hung on my wall. In other words , I could gaze at them daily and be enriched.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Your painting is so beautiful and dreamy! And I absolutely loved this: “The philosopher Pythagorus used cosmos to describe the universe, seeing within it a purposeful order. The opposite of cosmos, by the way, is chaos.” Perhaps that’s why when things are chaotic it helps so much to think in macro terms, to realize how tiny we are, and therefore how insignificant our worries and problems are in the grand “orderly” scheme.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are so right! Sometimes we need to step back and see the “big picture” — just as we do when we’re creating art. And thank you for the kind words about the painting. I loved making “Cosmos”.

      Liked by 1 person

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