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Bait and Switch

During our last chat, I was slap-dashing a loose close-up of Robert Plant in an attempt to regain my sanity after OCD-ing over architectural elements in a certain New Orleans street scene.

I signed the piece today after declaring it officially DONE.

So how did this painting go from fueling the flames of dysthymia* to inducing outbursts of childish mirth? My theory is the power of hemispheric bait and switch.

Say WHAT, you say? Well, this is a gross oversimplification, but you've probably heard or read about brain studies that link certain functions and activities with more or less activity in either the right brain or the left brain. Although there seems to be a lot of crossover, the left brain seems to be more involved in verbal, logical, organizational, and analytical tasks, and the right brain is stronger in creative, spatial, and playful activities. Many art educators (including my mentor, Olya Losina) believe that the best thing an artist can do is to get the left hemisphere out of the way so that the right is free to draw and paint and do all the stuff that it does better than the left without the left hemisphere constantly evaluating, judging, editing, and complaining.

Many artists get in trouble when they start something that's supposed to be fun (right hemisphere) and then somewhere along the line, begin to take it too seriously. This gets the left hemisphere involved. Some tell-tale symptoms of this rude intrusion by Leftie might include such things as negative self-talk (e.g. "This really sucks!"), frustration with one or more technical aspects of the composition (e.g. linear perspective), constant awareness of the slow passage of time, and wishing you could be getting a Pap smear instead of working on that painting.

In my last entry, I recounted the experience of leaping into the Robert Plant close-up with my whole right brain, "just for fun," and managed to finish and sign it before my left hemisphere realized it had been dragged into the studio. This was the "bait" portion of the bait and switch. I tricked my brain into the studio thinking it was just there to have fun. As soon as the serious, analytical left hemisphere, that only wants to create outstanding works of art, realized that I was there to PLAY, it shut down, leaving the more creative right brain to do its thing.

After the Robert Plant was completed and signed, my unencumbered right hemisphere perused the New Orleans night scene. Here's where the "switch" comes in. The tiny architectural details and perspective lines went unnoticed. So did the subtle changes in hue and value I needed to make. What I DID see, however, with my right brain was an opportunity to pull some characters from other night street photos I'd taken in New Orleans into the lower right corner of this composition to make it more fun. The man with the red cap and sweater is yelling into the ear of his companion with the purple backpack because it's so loud out in the street that a person can't think straight. Maybe they're talking about the smiling woman in the foreground, who became the focal point of this piece. I decided to call her Loretta. Every day is Mardi Gras in her mind, and her life is one big parade. I never would have thought of these fun additions to the piece with my left brain stewing about cross beams, light fixtures, and the angle of door jambs.

Once I brought these three into the composition, all those things that were driving me batty just fell right into place. Even the blasted perspective lines on the right side of the picture. I give Loretta full credit. I think she gave my left hemisphere the evil eye.

And somehow, by inviting new characters onto the street that weren't even in the scene, my New Orleans street scene is more authentic than my first attempts to remain true to the photograph.

*vocabulary word

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