Amanda Jolley

Reflection on pattern and abstraction of the subconscious

the Right Side of My Brain

Welcome to the DRSB web!I’ve desired to know how to draw for years. After several tries with “learn to draw or sketch” books with instructions and suggestions, I’ve finally decided that The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain was worth the time investment it would take to read. It is more than a “learn to draw” book, but rather a “learn to see” book as it delves into the functions of the left and right sides of the brain. Combine this with the Artist’s Way and I have a fresh perspective on the walls I’ve built around creativity.

According to Julia Cameron, author of The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain:

The left hemisphere [of the brain] analyzes, abstracts, counts, marks time, plans stop-by-stop procedures, verbalizes, and makes rational statements based on logic.

Using the right hemisphere, we understand metaphors, we dream, we create new combinations of ideas. When something is too complex to describe, we can make gestures that communicate…and we are able to draw pictures of our perceptions.

Her book has many more examples of L-mode (left hemisphere mode) and R-mode characteristics. I absorbed them all eagerly, fascinated. All the while a thought was making its way to the surface:

I have been taught somewhere along the way that R-mode is bad and L-mode is good.

Now I understand why I loved playing the piano. I knew the keyboard well and would switch to R-mode as I played. I felt free and alive, but I never felt comfortable playing the piano in front of others. Somewhere along the line, I also learned that revealing one’s soul was bad and that is what I did in R-mode. No wonder it has taken me this long in life to let go and truly express myself. I was putting my soul under the guillotine every time I left L-mode.

I entered college with a piano scholarship. As part of the scholarship, I received money and also piano lessons from an excellent instructor. The catch was that I had to accompany vocal soloists to receive the scholarship. I made it through two semesters and then caved because of the pressure of having to play in front of others. But my piano instructor was so unbelievably fabulous. I could play in front of him. He introduced me to some of my favorite music and taught me so much. After the scholarship ended, so did my piano playing. I was 18.

Back to L-mode, this is the mode in which I have learned to function. Something deep within me kept turning me towards the creative, but every time I would get slightly involved, my L-mode self would tell my R-mode self that I didn’t have time to do those unimportant things, like learning to draw. And my R-mode was still was extremely self-conscious. 

As I began down the path with my altered hymnal, something inside me awakened. Still the only time I would allow myself to work on the pages was when I was alone. (Being a homeschool mom with a self-employed husband does not allow for much alone time.) The more I worked on the book, the more I wanted to learn. With the more I learned and experienced, the more I felt that this is what I was supposed to be doing. And then my L-mode would kick me in the pants and tell me that I was wasting time again.

The combination of these two books have given me a creative freedom that is also allowing me to be fully who God created me to be. I no longer view the creative mode as a “treat” that I might get at the end of the day – if I have time and am not too tired. My right hemisphere is rejoicing as I allow it freedom to roam almost all day. I am once again reminded of the childhood me that always thought of herself in 3rd person. My life was a story that was being continually played out. I was narrator and also the main character, She.

Some side affects of this freedom include a little messier house, and a lost concept of time. My stomach is the only clock left. Okay, also the coffee alarm. The difficult part is breaking bad habits and finding that delicate balance between creative freedom and irresponsibility. I am also learning to allow the kids more creative freedom in their school day. School can take longer this way, but is much more enjoyable along the way. In this I am also still finding balance.

And now, because I am practicing and learning to let go of all fears, I’m revealing my first self portrait and my hand. These were to be done with no instruction yet as to how to draw. After I work my way through the entire book, I am going to post a comparison self portrait. I’m hoping by then to conquer that dang nose.

At this point, I would appreciate no comments about my drawing, even if they are encouraging. Thank you.

amanda ∞

10 Comments on “the Right Side of My Brain”

  1. I know very well the battle between the right and left sides. A book that helped me come to terms with who I am was Upside-Down Brilliance: The Visual Spatial Learner. I read it when E was learning to read and she didn’t want to do it in the popular phonics-oriented process. I think that I actually learned more about myself from that book than I ever did about E. I think that I still have it if you want to borrow it.

  2. amanda….thank you for your blog and your willingness to be vulnerable and write about your creative journey and spiritual journey.

    2 weeks ago I saw the magazine Artful Blogging for the first time and it touched that part of me that has been hiding for the last few years. I came home and began to search for artful blogs, wanting very much to find some that combined art with spirit. Yours was the first one I found 🙂 I have enjoyed every post and getting to know you in a small way.

    Your post this morning was so encouraging for me. I set aside my creativity in art and it is dying to be set free again 🙂

    Time to overcome my fears (and procrastination and exhaustion and etc) and create! Thank you again amanda….


  3. Amanda, The brain is so fascinating! My oldest son is very right-brained in his daily thinking. It is his main mode. He is so visual and dreamy and mechanically inclined. Now if I can just get him to access L-mode and do his math LOL!
    Bless you for so openly sharing your journeys each week with us. You are inspiring. Love, Tami

  4. I like your blog. Its very interesting and informative. Feel free to comment on the art on my gallery page.

    Glad you enjoy the blog. You’ll have to share the link to your gallery page.

  5. Bravo for accessing your right brain and letting it come out to play. I do hope it finds it’s way back to the piano as it sounds like that is another talent that went dormant due to L-brain thinking. I can almost hear the music playing on the wind.
    Loved learning about these books you shared too.
    Have fun with the drawing!

  6. I am fortunate for having visited – thanks for sharing your insite so openly.

  7. Amanda,

    I think your drawings are very good.

    Marissa’s deficits are classified as a right brain weakness by many of the professionals that see her. She has even been diagnosed with a non-verbal learning disorder. Her left brain, that controls language and is important in learning in school, is largely intact.

  8. lol! Amanda, a messier house and lost concept of time are old friends of mine. It is like a suspension of time when I create….hummm, I wonder if that same thing happened in Genesis? A suspension of time while creating… I must look into that further.

    In the meantime, enjoy!


  9. I understand how HUGE it is to come to a place where you can show your work. As a recovering creative who has done the Artist’s Way, and now writes and makes sea glass jewelry ~ I too hid underground for years. I applaud your willingness to step into yourself as an artist.

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