Southpaw Artists are a Rare, but Superior Breed (yes, I'm biased)

art education inspiration

The PLight of the Lef-handed Artist - Comic by Karen Strum

If you are a left-handed artist you might be more unique than you think! Sure, lefties make up about 12 percent of Americans, however a French study reported in Revue Neurologique in 1995 studied 500 artists and determined only 2.8 – 4.7% were left-handed, an even lower percentage than the general population.

The myth that artists tend to be left-handed has been propagated over time asserting famous artists such as Michelangelo, Rembrant and Picasso were left-handed. However, forensic evidence shows otherwise. The orientation of shadow hatching used by an artist can show their hand preference (right-handers typically find it easier to hatch from right to left, and left-handers are more likely to hatch from left to right). Based on this information only a few of the supposed left-handed artists remain: Raoul Dufy, M.C. Escher, Hans Holbein the Younger, Paul Klee and Leonardo da Vinci.

The right brain is more active in left-handed people and it may give southpaws and extra edge in the art world. Roger Sperry at the California Institute of Technology led a research group that tested patients who had undergone surgeries that severed the connective tissue between the two hemispheres of their brain. They found right-handed people had no trouble writing but were unable to draw due to the left brain being cut off from the right hemisphere. Mental rotation, another strength of the right brain, is the ability to rotate images in your mind allowing you to recognize an object from different angles. Artists are required to manipulate spatial representations and have a vivid imagination, a propensity for mental rotation is a valued skill.

Studies often relate creativity and a high IQ. Researchers believe you need an above-average intelligence to be creative and left-handedness has often been associated with genius. Twenty percent of all Mensa members say they are left-handed. Some of the famous “smarties” include: Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, and Isaac Newton. A study conducted at St. Lawrence University found that more left-handed people had IQs over 140 than their right-handed counterparts. So if you are a southpaw artist, chances are there's something special rattling around in that brain of yours.

Life isn't all sugar and spice for the left-handed artist. The link between creativity and mental illness has been studied for centuries. Correlations can be drawn to major mental disorders, some of which may benefit the artist. Gail Saltz, associate professor of psychiatry, stated people with mild-to-moderate mental illness have more divergent thoughts. Having the ability to come up with many solutions in a short period of time without being restricted to traditional rules of logic is often seen in artists. When researchers examined patients with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, they found that 40 percent were left-handed. The world renowned artist Vincent Van Gogh was posthumously diagnosed with schizophrenia and many believe he was left-handed. The greatest strength of left-handed artists might be their biggest weakness.

Whether you see left-handedness as a manifestation of artistic genius or a harbinger for cognitive impairment, be cautious when stereotyping someone’s hand preference. When you make snap judgments you are using a mental shortcut which is fine, however these beliefs can lead to bias. The stereotype that left-handed artists are geniuses can lead to an innate suggestion that right handed people can't create art at a high level. In reality, however, right-handed people are just as capable as the left-handed when it comes to art. I am a bit biased, being a southpaw artist, I feel like I have an extra edge. But I think anyone who has achieved success in the art word will tell you, that great art simply takes a lot of practice.

 READ  MORE: Current Left-handedss Research


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About the Author: Karen Strum is a Tampa Bay illustrator available for freelance projects. A unique cast of characters in her style can be designed for use in advertisements and materials for which you want something extra special. Karen's cartoons use retro imagery and vintage color palettes that add charm to every image she creates whether it is a comic, logo, diagram, book cover, or concept image. [Send an Email]


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