Thought Leadership

Drawing on the right side of the brain

By Colin Walls

It is now nearly half a lifetime since I made my first visit to California. When I went there, I have a number or preconceptions. The first one was that the US would be a bit like England, only bigger – after all they spoke the same language. The reality was that it felt more foreign than most other European countries in many ways and I frequently had difficulty making myself understood in some shops and restaurants. Another expectation was that California would be the home of many weird people with lots of “alternative” ideas. In this respect, I was not disappointed …

Since I was in Silicon Valley, I was, of course, surrounded by technology and most of the people were either business oriented or geeks, but the legacy of the 1960s was still there and I ran into quite a few people whose world view was, well, different. One of them was a colleague, who did a perfectly normal job [technical support], but she had a variety of outside pursuits that resulted in many interesting conversations. She was very keen on a number of self improvement regimes and had been on a wide variety of courses. One was about learning to draw.

I guess there is nothing “alternative” about drawing, but the technique she was being taught was called “Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain”. This was a clever title, as it incorporates two different examples of word play. The word “drawing” referred to what you do with a pencil, but also the sense of drawing out or extracting [like drawing water with a pump]. And “right” referred to the opposite of left, but also the idea of being correct [which I have used myself]. The goal of the course was to stimulate the student to employ the right-hand side of their brain by applying a variety of techniques, including the use of the left hand and left eye, which are connected to the right side of the brain.

This idea fascinated me. As I have written about before, handedness and using the brain in creative ways interests me. I was not able to take the course, as I was only visiting the area for a short time, but later I found the book, which was authored by the course leader. Given that this technique is supposed to unlock the latent ability in anyone to draw, I was sure that this would help me progress in this heretofore elusive talent. I still have the book today. One day I am going to devote some time to working through it and releasing my potential. Maybe I should book a couple of days leave and dedicate some time to this …

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at