Saturday, April 26, 2014

artists' brains -- different from you and me

Drawing on the right side of the brain: A voxel-based morphometry analysis of observational drawing” asserts that artists may have increased neural matter in the parts of their brains that deal with visual perception, spatial navigation and fine motor skills. Huffington Post-Apr 22, 2014

Goofy sort of research with elements of prank, but plausible enough to get a headline. It isn’t surprising that the physique of the athlete is generally superior to the average office worker. Athletes at all levels work their bodies in all sorts of ways beyond just practicing the skill-set for their particular sport to achieve a condition simply called ‘shape’. You can spot them in the supermarket loading up on bulk protein, a toned outline under tight skin, and maybe they inspire better choices among the rest of us, more fruit and less cake. Doing a brain-scan isn’t so convenient and even if it was true it would be beside the point. Of course the brains of artists are different because they ‘train’ -- they look at stuff. Does it make their brains bigger -- who cares? The fact is they see more and anybody can. 

To do it requires no sweat but it does take energy. One has to apply consciousness to mundane surroundings wherever one happens to be, and a surprising thing begins to happen. It’s been widely reported -- the more you look the more you see. Vision becomes “the only form of eating that produces its own meat”, a translation I’m sure but the intent is clear. The difference between the perception of an artist and coequally the viewer of art, and the rest of the population can’t be seen externally but it’s there. They’re seeing more in the same places. Their perceptions are in shape. 


  1. I've felt this to be true for a good while - the notion that what made an artist were his (or her) observational skills - artists see what others miss. Skill with various techniques and mediums can be learned, and certainly observational skills can be honed, but I maintain (I admit, from anecdotal evidence, or from observation) that some brains are more attuned to observing - perhaps which gave our species an evolutionary edge (along with more pragmatic, "left brain leaning" types) that insured the survival of the species. This is simplistic, I acknowledge, as most of us have some degree of input from both "sides" of the brain - and I believe most, if not all, human beings are capable of making art - maybe it defines the species, but I don't think we can all learn to a Ingres or a Van Gogh. Steve Armstrong

  2. I believe this is very true. I driving towards a hillside full of various types of trees. Mentioned to my passenger, who traveled that road a few times a week, all of the various shades of green. She looked up for almost a full minute and finally said, "Oh, my gosh. I'd never noticed."