You as Artists

"Creative thinking may mean simply the realization that there's no particular virtue in doing things the way they always have been done." Rudolf Flesch

Woman painting image

This article may to some appear to be a simple exercise in drawing a face, but in reality an article devoted to changing your style of perceiving a task and generating solutions.

Buzan's underlying idea in this section is the combination of left and right-hemisphere styles of processing resulting in whole-brain thinking.

This idea relates to the concept of plasticity in the brain and that we can change our cognitive problem-solving styles. There is substantial research to support this claim.

It is accepted in scientific literature that the left hemisphere has a dominant role in language in the vast majority of right-handed people.

Both Broca and Wernicke, in the mid 1800's, observed that damage to the left hemisphere resulted in aphasia. In fact, the distinction of left hemisphere (verbal), right hemisphere (nonverbal) has, in the past, shown to be the most robust observation concerning differences between the hemispheres.

In addition to the research with brain-damaged patients, it appears that split-brain patients are, at least initially, unable to speak from the right hemisphere. However, there currently is a great debate centering on the surgically separated right hemisphere.

You will recall that Roger Sperry initially studied the split-brain patients at the California Institute of Technology. One of his first findings was the verbal / nonverbal distinction.

Two of his former students, Michael Gazzaniga and Eran Zaidel, are now studying split-brain patients on the East and West coast, respectively. Much of their research deals with the language abilities of the right hemisphere.

Briefly, both men have observed that a number of their parents have, following the operation, developed the ability to speak from the right hemispheres. The nature of the debate centers on the question of whether right hemisphere language is a universally occurring phenomenon or whether it is an oddity observed in only a minority or split-brain subjects. The nature of the debate is extremely interesting and the interested reader is referred to Zaidel (1983) and Gazzaniga (1983).

The above findings suggest that the brain does appear to have more flexibility and plasticity than previously thought. Findings such as these suggest that, the more we research the abilities of the two hemispheres, the more overlap there appears to be. Therefore, if we call ourselves right-brain or left-brain people, we are limiting our ability to develop new strategies.

One particularly fascinating finding demonstrating plasticity concerns Buzan’s work with Olympic athletes.

He has observed that, when you force an athlete to train with his or her non-preferred or non-dominant hand, there is a greater increase in overall performance.

It appears that while both hands develop increased proficiency, the non-dominant hand has a greater increase relative to the dominant hand.

The ultimate result is an increase in overall balance and performance.

This resulting state of increased balance is analogous to whole-brain thinking.

A great deal of the scientific literature has shown that the right hemisphere appears to have an advantage in performing spatial task. For example, Gazzaniga and LeDoux have observed that a right-handed split-brain patient was better at drawing a cube with his right hand (controlled by the left hemisphere) than his left hand (controlled by the right hemisphere) when tested before his operation.

However, when tested after his operation, he was more proficient with his left hand (right hemisphere) than his right hand (left hemisphere) at drawing the cube. Results such as these suggest that the right hemisphere has an advantage concerning spatial tasks.

In this article Buzan is suggesting that, when drawing a face, you break it down into its elements and analyze each element in order to gain the correct perspective. For instant, he points out that the eyes one-eye width apart and one-eye-width from the side of the face.

This process of breaking a task down into components and analyzing it in a serial or step-by-step manner appears to be left hemisphere-processing style. A great deal of research has supported this claim.

Recall that Bever & Chiarello (1974) had found that musicians analyzed a piece of music using predominantly a left-hemisphere step-by-step style, while non-musicians analyzed a piece of music using predominantly a right-hemisphere holistic or global style.

It appears that, by using this analytical style in order to draw a face, Buzan is involving processing from both hemispheres, resulting in a more whole-brain balanced participation.

Betty Edwards, in her book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, also stresses the importance of drawing faces as an exercise to involve the whole brain.

She suggests that we need to learn how to see rather than learn how to draw.

Edwards presents a number of exercises that, she contends, attempt to engage the right hemisphere rather than the left hemisphere.

One such exercise is drawing upside-down images. She suggests that copying an upside-down image will disengage the left hemisphere from knowing or interpreting the image.

Her claims regarding hemispheric involvement in upside-down images are intriguing and thought provoking. Her book is an excellent resource, providing many exercises that may be helpful to you in terms of developing your ability to see.

Another interesting exercise for you would be to draw with your "wrong" hand.

In most right-handed people, the right hand is controlled primarily by the left hemisphere, while the left hand is controlled primarily by the right hemisphere (Springer & Deutsch, 1985). A way, then, to ensure right hemisphere involvement, would be to attempt with the left hand.

The advantages of this exercise have been shown by Buzan's work with the athletes to result in better balance and greater overall performance.

It is critical that people have the ability to see new directions and perspectives. Often, we are in business meetings, attacking the same old problems with the same old solutions leading to the same old unsatisfactory results.

It is during times such as these that whole-brain, integration thinking is tremendously important. It is the integration of right hemispheric global thinking that takes a new perspective, with left hemispheric analytical thinking that makes the new approach workable.

Exercise such as Buzan's that require the abilities of both hemispheres will strengthen your ability to create new ways to solve problems.


Bever T, Chiarello R. Cerebral dominance in musicians and non-musicians. Science. 1974;185:137-139.

Edwards B. Drawing on the right side of the brain. JP Tarcher, Inc, New York; 1979.

Gazzaniga M. Right hemisphere language following brain bisection: A 20-year perspective. American Psychologist. 1983;38(5):525-537.

Gazzaniga M, Ledoux G. The integrated mind. Plenum Press, New York; 1985.

Springer S, Deutch G. Left brain, right brain. WH Freeman & Company, New York; 1985.

Zaidel E. A response to Gazzaniga: Language in the right hemisphere: Convergent perspectives. American Psychologist. 1983;38(5):542-546.