Leftists

Don’t let the title of this post fool you. This isn’t about Karl Marx or radical politics. No one visits Museworthy for that stuff (although I’ve resisted the urge to rant and vent on these pages a few times). No this is about something far less weighty, and probably much more interesting and engaging.

All my life, I’ve harbored a ridiculous, frivolous, and irrational jealousy (one of many!). This is really stupid, so consider yourselves warned. Are you ready for my stupidity? Ok. I’ve always wished – desperately wished – that I had been born left-handed. When I see someone pick up a pen and begin to write, I become envious when I notice that they are left-handed. See? I told you it was stupid. So how did I develop this fixation? Honestly, I have no idea. I just really dig left-handers.

Maybe it’s because lefties have the whole right brain thing going on. You know, the cool half of the brain. That’s right, I said it! Somebody had to. The magnificence of the right brain includes musical and artistic ability, imagination, spatial awareness, emotional expression. Ooooh, such good stuff! I swear, I was born incorrectly oriented. And to make matters worse, I am really right hand dominant. I can’t do crap with my left hand. I can barely write my name legibly. Now we right-handers have the left brain running the show, and that would be logic, math and science skills, language, and linear awareness. BO-ring!!! :falls asleep, snores:

I realize I’m being childish 😆 But I still respect left-handers for their impressive brain functions and their small, exclusive numbers. I think lefties comprise just 9 or 10% of the population. And that is super cool. Very subversive and non-conformist. Has that little “renegade” touch. More men are left-handed than women, and left-handedness is believed to be a hereditary gene. When you think of all the persecution left-handers once endured, back in the superstitious dark ages when they were thought to be heretics and freaks, possessed by demons and evil spirits, they’ve earned outsiders’ thick-skin and street cred. So my message to lefties is this; don’t fret about scissors and coffee mugs or your silly computer mouse. You have many great ones in your camp, and this right-hander and her art blog wants to pay you your due respect. I will even hook my left wrist over my keyboard as I type, in empathetic tribute to your struggles in a right-handed world.

One of the most famously left-handed artists was Raphael. A skilled master. A handsome ladies’ man. A giant of Renaissance art. Not exactly a bad guy for southpaws to claim as one of their own. Hey, I’d be proud. It is said that left-handed artists will often (not always) draw figures which face to the right. And this Raphael drawing is a good example of that:

Leonardo daVinci was a hyper-accomplished polymath and overall genius. Was there anything this guy couldn’t do? DaVinci was left-handed, possibly because he suffered some paralysis in his right hand. Do you think that kind of disablity would stop the guy? No way. Left-handedness in art is most discernible in drawings, specifically in the cross-hatching. In this drawing by Leonardo, Old Men, you can see the left-handedness in the cross-hatching strokes. It’s best observed by clicking on the image twice to enlarge. Beautiful technique and detail:

Michelangelo is placed in the famous left-handers list, but really he was ambidextrous. I imagine that gift would be incredibly advantageous for a sculptor. And in the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo did make Adam left-handed, touching the finger of god with his left index finger.

A more true-blue lefty was Hans Holbein the Younger, German artist of the Northern Renaissance:

Dutch draftsman and printmaker Albrecht Durer was another notable left-hander. This is Nude Woman with a Staff, pen and brown ink, 1498, with more observable cross-hatching.

If this display of art hasn’t made the case for left-handed skill and giftedness, I can offer two more words that will silence any lingering doubters: Jimi Hendrix 🙂

Rock on Jimi, and lefthanders be proud . . .

28 thoughts on “Leftists

  1. Stephanie says:

    Hi Claudia,

    I understand your jealousy. I have a left-handed brother and a left-handed sister and I always envied right brain domination. However, I recently heard that left-handed people, particularly women, tend to have shorter life spans. There is a higher incidence of cancer and various disorders associated with left-handedness.

    So jealousy be gone!

    Love,
    Steph

  2. Stephanie says:

    I just reread my post and it was so left-brained of me. 🙂

  3. Merrel says:

    I’m right-handed, and I don’t think that I’m envious of a left handed person per se. If anything, I lament that I’m not ambidextrous.

    Imagine being able to work on two parts of a drawing at once or painting with to brushes at once!

    This is the kind of early New Year’s Resolution I could stick to – learn how to use my left hand to write — then draw.

  4. Jeff says:

    I have a theory… one I can’t prove, though. I think that it’s not being left-handed, per se, but being left-handed in a world of predominately right-handed people, that contributes to this phenomenon.

    It’s pretty well-established that the “left brain” isn’t always on the left. For many left-handed people, it’s on the right. The most effective artists are those who are able to marry the left and right brain functions seamlessly… who can allow the right-brain to be dominant while still getting help from the left brain when necessary. Although we often think of artists as being right-brained people, that’s not really the case, at least prior to the advent of the development of the “avante garde” and the bastardization of non-representational art into nothing more than whimsey.

    The right-brain controls concrete spacial relationships, which is incredibly important in any visual art, but all of the artists you mention made use of left-brain functions. In other words, they drew on both sides of the brain. Measurements – in fact, anything that deals with abstract symbols like numbers or letters – causes the left brain to come to the forefront. A good artist can use the left brain, and then fall right back into R-mode. I think people who have to deal with the challenges of a world full of tasks and objects designed exactly the opposite of the way they would have done them is the kind of brain-challenge that develops the ability.

    Who kinows if I’m right, but it seems reasonable. 🙂 I’m right handed, but have one thing in common with Da Vinci – I’m also mirror-image ambidextrous. Unfortunately, I can’t claim even a fraction of his talent or natural brilliance. Being left-handed probably wouldn’t have made me that way, either, but I still feel that it is one factor (among many) that contributed to that genius.

  5. ray says:

    Start training your left hand if it means that much.

  6. babahr says:

    Awww move over rover, and let Jimi take over.

  7. artmodel says:

    Stephanie,

    Funny! 😆 Yep, you sure did offer a left-brain analysis of left-handedness (does that make sense?).

    But those statistics you mentioned are something for we right-handers to feel a little better about.

    Thanks for commenting, Steph!

    Claudia

  8. artmodel says:

    Merrel,

    Yes, I can imagine what an incredible advantage it would be for an artist to have ambidextrous ability. That would be some New Year’s resolution, to train your left hand. Go for it!

    Claudia

  9. artmodel says:

    Jeff,

    Very, very interesting comments. Your theory is fascinating. You introduced a kind of Darwinian element to the subject, about lefties having to adapt. Because of the right-brain’s ability to perceive spatial relationships, people just naturally assume that that is at the heart of visual art skill. But how easily we forget that left-brain functions are critical for art as well.

    Thanks for your great comments!

    Claudia

  10. artmodel says:

    Ray,

    Not a chance! I’d never get there successfully. Plus I don’t have the patience.

    Claudia

  11. artmodel says:

    Bob,

    Oh yeah!!! 🙂 But the question is this: are you experienced????

  12. ray says:

    There’s your answer, you said you dont have the patience. Thats about 90% of the
    challenge.

  13. fred says:

    There’s a book “The Power of Your Other Hand”, by Lucia Capacchione, that suggests drawing and other practices using the non-dominant hand, whichever one that is, as a way of “channeling the inner wisdom of the right brain”.

    Left and right hand division of labor (and probably left and right brain division of labor) is more complex than it might sometimes seem. String instrument players, for instance, do the more delicate, precise task of fingering with the non-dominant hand, and the more forceful one (bowing, plucking or strumming) with the dominant.

    In seeing, the right half of the visual field of both eyes goes to the left hemisphere of the brain, and the left half of the visual field to the right brain. Right handed artists tend to work sitting or standing to the right of the subject and light source, to avoid shadows under the pencil or brush, but of course this means they are seeing their subject more in the left visual field, or in other words, with the right brain.

    I’m a righty and have done limited experimentation with drawing with the left hand, but your posting inspires me to try it again.

    It’s often been noted that a high percentage of the powerful and highly motivated are left-handed, including among recent US Presidents Ford, Bush Sr, and Clinton. You may have noticed Obama is left handed. George W is of course hard right!

  14. exbrun2 says:

    It seems certain activities and professions related to those activities are predisposed toward left-handedness. In my day job I work in event and media production and frequently work with video editors. Five of the seven video editors with whom I work are left-hand. It makes one wonder.

    All I can say is thank goodness for the corpus callosum……

  15. Rog says:

    Claudia,

    I must muck up everybody’s ideas here. Did y’all know that in the the early 1900’s an extremely high percentage of Dairy Farmer’s were left handed. My father showed me a class picture from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. It had 32 students sitting in 32 left handed desks. It was a Dairy Science class, and he explained that he was one of the only two who were right handed. They made the desks left handed specifically for the Dairy Farmers. I guess this means you need to meet some Dairy Farmers. Then you may find your peace.

    …rog

  16. Chantal says:

    Now you’ve only gone and made me care about something i had never thought of before lol!
    Great blog by the way – have been loving having a browse and will definitely be stopping by again to me amused or inspired. The pictures in the image gallery are stunning (just been on a Robert Henri hunt after seeing that one pic!).

    Chantal
    http://chantalpowell.wordpress.com/

  17. artmodel says:

    Well, if it isn’t Fred Hatt! 🙂 It’s about time you commented, friend! But I’m not surprised you made your commenting debut with such a great and informative one.

    I hadn’t thought about string instrument playing until you just brought it to my attention. I played violin in the school orchestra, and you brought back a lot of plucking and bowing memories!

    And yes, I did notice that Barack Obama is left-handed. But he comes across as such a left-brainer. Not in the ambition, drive and all that, but the thoughtfulness and judiciousness. Ah, but it’s like you said. This stuff is not so black and white.

    Thanks Fred!!! Monster artist/photographer of Museworthy. We’ve had your visuals here since this blog’s inception. And now we have your voice 🙂

    Claudia

  18. artmodel says:

    exbrun2,

    You made me have to look up “corpus callosum”! But I’m glad you did. Right brain-left brain connector. Thank goodness for it indeed!

    Interesting observation about the predominance of left-handers in the video editing field.

    Thanks for your comments.

    Claudia

  19. artmodel says:

    Rog,

    That is really bizarre!! Dairy Farmers? What’s up with that? It’s funny you mentioned about the desks because I went to an old, historic high school that used the old desks with the connected chair. Every one of them was designed for right-handers. The left-handed students were stuck with them and had to struggle.

    Claudia

  20. artmodel says:

    Chantal, welcome!!

    So glad you stopped by and posted a comment. And if I prompted you to care about a new subject, well then my work here is done 🙂 Really, though, that’s so nice to hear.

    I visited your lovely blog and enjoyed it very much. Terrific to meet you in the blogosphere, and I do hope you comment again!

    Claudia

  21. 100swallows says:

    Hey, Claudia, are you sure Rafael was left-handed? I can’t remember reading that anywhere. And the cross-hatching in the drawing you show would be backward for a lefty (compare with Leonard’s). Is the percentage of geniuses and cool people higher in lefties? I wonder. Maybe that’s just another myth. I know plenty (like me) that don’t have any magic power. (Was Harry Potter…?)
    Nice post, nice pictures, as always.

  22. artmodel says:

    100Swallows,

    Raphael is one of the few artists I’ve actually known for a fact to be left-handed. But certainly don’t take my word for it. An excellent book came out just last year by Ed Wright, devoted to famous left-handers throughout history. Here’s a link with an excerpt on Raphael:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=ysmj8vITtzcC&pg=PA75&lpg=PA75&dq=raphael+left-handed&source=bl&ots=wsdEkK1nR2&sig=S0LEnfk3_K6RElnBZlx6B713mmw&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result

    Yeah, that hatching isn’t consistent with a left-handed stroke, I noticed that. But who knows how he held his pencil or if he, perhaps, turned the drawing to accommodate his angle? I have seen left-handed artists do that.

    One of those “Famous Lefties” websites actually had Rembrandt on the list! I had never heard that before. I tried to verify with at least another source, but couldn’t find anything. I didn’t trust the info so I left it out. I don’t see any left-handed qualities in Rembrandt’s work, do you?

    As for you being a lefty, well then of course that adds to the “geniuses and cool people” theory!!! You just slam-dunked it, my friend! Harry Potter, I’m not so sure 😆

    Thanks for commenting.

    Claudia

  23. 100swallows says:

    Thanks for going to the trouble of looking up that link and marking the references, Claudia. He doesn’t say where he got his information, does he?
    Right-handers like you are what makes the world go round. (Left to right?).

  24. artmodel says:

    100Swallows,

    Oh, I’m pretty sure the physical book itself has the references and citations, etc. I didn’t think all Wright’s sources would be in that short excerpt. Just wanted to show you the Raphael part.

    “right-handed” Claudia 🙂

  25. CaroleS says:

    Yes, that Left Handed History of the World is a v. interesting book if you’re into things left handed. I’m glad to hear you think left handed people are cool. Mostly, right handers don’t give a thought to what it’s like for us having to live and adapt to a world designed for right handers.

  26. artmodel says:

    CaroleS,

    I totally think left-handers are cool! Always have, and I’m sticking with it 🙂 And rest assured that there is at least one right-hander out here who sympathizes with your plight in right-hand world tyranny. It’s not fair!

    Thanks so much for commenting.

    Claudia

  27. Patrick says:

    Nice! When I was in kindergarten in 1979 the teacher tried to make me use my right hand to write. Perhaps she was superstitious and narrow minded. I refused to conform and remain a happy lefty. Your article is nicely written. I enjoyed it very much. I’m a guitarist and song writer so I really appreciated the beautiful ending touch of Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) by Mr Jimi! I’m on my phone now but later I’ll favorite your blog on my laptop. Thank you for sharing this : )

    • artmodel says:

      Patrick,

      Glad you found my blog! Also glad you resisted the pressure to become a right-hander. That was a common practice for a long time in schools. Very silly and unnatural, forcing children to conform. Imagine if they forced that upon Jimi? Ugh.
      Lefties rock!

      Thanks for posting a comment!

      Claudia

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