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Why I’m Not Insane: How Art Saved My Brain

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By Lesha Maureen Porche

 

So many people automatically equate art with this loosey-goosey-no-rules-just-go-with-it attitude towards art. They automatically assume artists just do whatever they want, whenever they want, however they want.

 

But what they miss is that while the right side of the brain is scientifically the side that performs creative, spatial and relationship-based instinctual “gut” feeling functions, we artists need the left-brain to keep us sane.

 

Or, at least I do.

 

I have bi-polar affective disorder type 1, an anxiety disorder, and a couple other alphabet soup diagnoses. Despite being disabled in many ways by these very real illnesses, it has been my family, my doctors, therapists, and very much art that has helped me to transition from being an emotional cripple into a person capable of:

 

1. Producing a good volume of decent art on a regular basis.

2. Forming healthy relationships.

3. Improving my communication skills and interpersonal skills

 

And, most importantly…

 

4. Keeping me clinically sane.

 

Many equate art with “mad geniuses” like Van Gogh and assume that an artist’s mental illness makes them capable of bursts of intense creativity. I cannot testify that that is not the case, but I can say unequivocally that a left-brained (rational, analytical, language-based) approach to my art has vastly improved its quality, quantity and, yes, creativity.

I could be in the rare percentile that uses both sides of the brain to do the same task. I have no way of knowing outside of clinical testing. And, frankly, it’s enough for me to know that the methods I’m using are not only working now, but are improving my art with each new piece. The motorcycles on the cover you see are my latest work—if you compared it to work from 2011 you might not even know it was the same artist.

 

This is because I became more disciplined, more rational and more analytical about my art. These are all left-brain functions.

 

I’m not saying that my right-brain isn’t in primary control of my art—I’m saying it’s the horse running the race, but it’s the left-brain holding the reins. This in turn has helped me do the same in my mental health struggles. I may have unexpected bursts of instability, but because I step in and use rational analysis (left-brain) I’m able to become stable again. Just like the left side of the brain harnesses the right side of the brain, art in my life is an indispensible part of who I am. Two halves of a brain make us whole. Likewise, I am not complete without art. Art isn’t just what I do for a living, it is what I do to stay sane.

 

This is how I approach my art instruction—with techniques that allow you to switch on your right side if needed, and then switch on your left side to keep it “smart.” For beginners, this means they get more technical, language-based feedback, not just generalized comments. For intermediate and advanced students, I can show how to harness creativity to work even better using both sides of the brain.

 

If you’d like to get started in using integrated art in your life, hit me up. I teach from my studio and would love to keep you sane, too

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