This is Your Brain on Mixed Media

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My older daughter, Olivia, taught me something about being open to learning new things a decade ago when she was in a gifted and talented program at her elementary school.

Kelli Perkins' Tulip Quilt made of fabric
paper and mixed media.

The class had been discussing the Theory of Multiple Intelligence, and Olivia was explaining to me how one of her strongest intelligences was spatial.

I agreed, and said that I was "no good" at spatial intelligence. To which Olivia replied patiently, "It may not be one of your strengths, Mom, but you can work to improve it." 

It's no wonder they called that program "Sage." 

Since then, despite being "spatially challenged," I've worked on ways to improve the spatial abilities hidden deep in the right side of my brain. Everything from playing Scrabble® to working on puzzles to drawing a map when my inclination is to write directions. Making art a lot helps, too.

Most artists are right-brain thinkers and need help developing the left side. They know something's wrong with a piece, but they have trouble articulating what it is. They want to approach a gallery to show their art, but the idea of writing an artist statement and doing all of the other paperwork overwhelms them.

One side may be stronger than the other, but we need both to function well together to bring out our creative best. 

An artist I admire, Kelli Nina Perkins, has a great list of exercises on how to balance your creative energies in her book Stitch Alchemy: Combining Fabric + Paper for Mixed-Media Art. Here is an excerpt adapted from the book.

Right Brain Exercises

1. Go topsy-turvy. Encourage your right-brain view by working upside down. Turn an image 180 degrees and re-create it by seeing shapes and lines rather than the whole picture. 

2. Color a word. Write down a word representing a complex idea, then translate it into a picture. 

3. Sing for spontaneity. Repetitive actions release creativity as they keep the left brain busy so the right brain can get the ideas out. Sing or repeat a mantra while working creatively to distract the critical left brain and allow spontaneous thought.

Left Brain Exercises

1. Be a critic. Look at a piece of artwork by someone else and write a critical review. How could the artist improve the message? Focus on the techniques involved, not just the feelings.

2. Paint with words. Choose a painting and employ as many adjectives to describe it so that your reader would end up with the same image in his or her mind. Have someone read your description and sketch it out to see if they arrived at the same conclusion. 

3. Step it out. List the steps you would take to re-create a famous work of art, whether the artist created it that way or not. It's comforting to the left brain to know that even wildly creative endeavors can be broken into manageable stages.

Kelli and her mixed-media art.

Stitch Alchemy is full of exercises like these that help you explore and expand your creative thinking. Kelli also packs the chapters full of tricks, tips, and techniques for infusing your artwork with color, pattern, text, and texture.

Stitch Alchemy is truly a mixed-media how-to book that every artist should have.

Right now, Stitch Alchemy is one of the books featured in our Hurt Book and Overstock Sale, which means it and hundreds of other titles are deeply discounted, even though the books are perfectly usable.

These products are going fast, so don't miss out.

P.S. How do you exercise your left- and right-brain "muscles"? Leave a comment below!

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