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Monday, February 17, 2014

"Opening Channels of Creativity" Guest Blog

Good Monday Morning! 
Hope everyone survived the snowstorms that seemed to be relentless last week on the East Coast with no damage or war wounds to speak of!  I have to admit, I wish I was more productive during the down time when most everything was closed but felt like hibernating and just going slow (I need to get over that feeling quick as there are tons of things for me to get ready for in the next couple of months which I'll be discussing with you over the next few weeks)!   
So it was a blessing with I was approached by  the super sweet and talented 
  Cindy Michaud  about writing a guest blog post about  her exercise recently where she worked with her non-dominant hand over a 30 day period.
Today she is sharing  some of her art with us and tips for taking on a challenge such as this. 

It's not surprising that when you shift your way of thinking and doing, you open yourself up to new "channels of creativity".  Read on for more on Cindy's experience!

“Opening Channels of Creativity”

Cindy Michaud (

We all get stuck: our art adventure hits a wall and we feel drained.  We feel un-creative. While there are 1001 reasons this happens, I know of one sure-fire way to cure it.  Get unstuck with a little-used method guaranteed to re-open your channels of creativity:

Work with your non-dominant hand.

If you are right-handed, commit to several days of working only with your left hand.  It is a direct way to connect with the side of your brain (the right hemisphere) which controls creativity, spontaneity, and imagination.  Stimulating the opposite side of your brain (left-handers need to reawaken their right side) opens neural communication while strengthening those synapses we hear so much about.

I know all this because I experienced it first-hand, I mean left-handedly, before I did the research.  Faced with at least a month of recovery from surgery, I had two choices: abandon my creative pursuits (which would definitely drive me crazy) or work with my non-dominate hand (which might make me crazy).  I chose the latter.  To add a little motivation I committed to it publically for 30 days.  Yep, 30 days of sharing with the world art done strictly with my left hand.  (I might as well strip naked for a selfie, right?) 

Before I share the benefits (and there are many) let’s break it into manageable parts. Don’t jump in with your usual tools and expect anything more than frustration (which, hint, is part of the ride).

Controlling the hand and controlling the arm are two different functions.  Start with the hand by using a small piece of paper or a page in your journal.  Smooth paper and a pen flow best.  Start by making squiggles, loops, arcs and corners.  Play with pushing and pulling the pen.  Feel your brain warming up?

Write your name.  Take it slow, savor the movement involved. 

My brain needed to break each letter into a set of instructions: go up, up, up to the right and come down to the line making a loop (that’s an “l”).  Talk to yourself.  Your hand and brain might need to rest between letters.  Try a longer word and you will get so engrossed in shaping the letters that you may forget how to spell it. 

What seems automatic with the dominant hand takes time with the non-dominant.  Be patient.  Use different pens and note the feel against the paper.  This is like doing sit-ups, no one sees you do it, but they will eventually notice the results.

(Relax, it is hard work stimulating the brain and forcing the hand into foreign positions.  I likened my right hand to the bossy older sister, often jumping ahead of the plan and wanting to direct everyone while the left hand was my compliant middle child, anxious to please and eager to learn albeit slower to perform.  Some days I sat on my right hand to keep it from interfering.)

Are you game to continue?  Here are some ways to simplify your exploration:

1                      1-      Draw something simple from memory.  If you like leaves and vines or prefer faces, draw things familiar to you.  These subjects are new items to your off-hand and you will see a freshness in the interpretation.
             2-      Next, copy an object.  Try a contour line drawing of your coffee cup.  Do only the outside edges and have your eye move in tandem with your pen: slowly.  Notice every dip and chip and turn and curve.  It may take 15 minutes to do the cup.  Breathe. 

contour line drawing of a fellow artist

             3-  Feel free to turn your paper.  Your body will want to contort and twist for some movements but moving the paper is better.  Your hand won't care if it is upside down.

                           4-   Add color.  Whether you want to start with color or do the pen first then add paint, I found that simple watercolors were the easiest.  (Since I could not get the tops off the acrylics or oils, this tip came intuitively.) Soft, luscious, drippy colors made my non-perfect drawings take on new energy and I began to look forward to brushwork.

Above was drawn in ink and
then the color was added.

 Left was done with watercolor first and then ink drawings on top.

The right one is only watercolor, no ink drawing at all.

                        5- Commit to working with the non-dominant hand for a period of time.  This is a training process and you will not progress if your attempts are sporadic.  It will be aggravating if you don’t see a benefit.

              6- Branch out and try new combos.  I actually did some gluing of letters, an abstract in acrylic (with help on those tube tops) and played with pastels.  I had a sense of exploratory freedom I often lack.

And speaking of benefits? There are so many! A new-found confidence emerged.  I had set my bar very low: get something on paper every day.  So imagine my thrill when the left hand began to produce results I liked.  Another outcome was improved observation.  I learned to “see” with extra attention, sending the brain and hand minute details that I previously would have missed.  This is a huge benefit. Also I noticed a lack of fear and hesitation.  Since I had such low expectations I felt free to fail, free to jump in without hesitation or anxiety.  And finally, I gained a positive patience with my work that I did not feel before. The art became relaxing and fun, I was not rushing.  In fact, studies have shown that working with the non-dominant hand helps short-tempered people become less aggressive.  Who knew? 

And yes, before you ask, I intend to continue to involve my left hand in art.  It’s hard to explain the creative channels that were opened by this 30 day exercise.  My new work has a special style and personality; I see a creative looseness and spontaneity in it that I want to keep.  Had I not been forced to employ the non-dominant hand for a period of time I seriously doubt these benefits would have been realized.  So go ahead and bust through that dry spell. Your off-hand will surprise you by unveiling some new creative channels.

Cindy Michaud works primarily in oils.  To see more of her work or to contact her, visit her website at  She also invites you to sign up to receive her blog every Friday via email ( where you will be treated to jewels of information about art and the creative, dedicated people who produce it.  Cindy enjoys sharing her own adventures as well as the journeys of other artistic souls.  (For more stories about her 30 days as a left handed artist go to her blog and search "30 in 30" or "left handed work.")  

Thank you Cindy for joining us today and for sharing your journey. I, for one, am very inspired!


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Anonymous said...

Great post Cindy.... I tried one piece with my left hand. I have a long way to go in the patience department.

ellen vargo designs said...

Absolutely LOVE this idea... I'm definitely going to try this... thank you!

Cmichaudart said...

It's that vein of creative patience you will tap into Lou! Ellen, let me know how it goes, I am a real "believer" and I'd love to hear other experiences! thanks for commenting.

Amy said...

Having watched this process unfold I can attest to it's benefits, not only for the artist but for those following along, mining Cindy's lessons for help in switching to the non dominant side of the brain!

Carol Schiff Daily Painting said...

I never thought I would get excited about the prospect of using my right hand, but, I am! Thank you Cindy...I am expecting big changes in my art!

Cmichaudart said...

Thanks Amy, you never know what might emerge from those new connections. And Carol, I would love to know what you find on the left side of your brain.....using that right hand!

Lisa said...

A new-found confidence, lack of fear and hesitation, positive patience ,helps short-tempered people become less aggressive........what growth and what a stretch!

Artsy Matilda said...

Watching your 30 day journey unfold was a real learning experience. Now that you've explained how to do it here, I do believe I am going to take the plunge. I find it fascinating, from all points of view. Thanks for the info and the insight!

Cmichaudart said...

Go,Go, Go A. M. - it is the perfect way to set fear aside and enjoy the results!

Cmichaudart said...

Glad you enjoyed Lisa, come stretch with me....

Johnna Schelling said...

fantastically delightful, sharing with all my art friends.

Johnna Schelling said...

fantastically delightful, sharing with all my art friends.

Cmichaudart said...

So glad you enjoyed Johnna, please share it, happy that you will!

Unknown said...

Hi Cindy-
I just got off the phone with your sister, Amy, who had sent me your most recent post-surgery reflections on painting with your non-dominant hand. I am in awe and am fascinated by what you were able to paint and how this brought you a new perspective.
I would enjoy receiving your Friday blog.

You and Amy are quite the artistic pair!



Cmichaudart said...

Carol- great to hear from you, yes, I'll be happy to sign you up for a blog feed. Stay warm, hope to cross paths again soon.