My Left-Brain, Right-Brain Crisis

You would assume a perfumer might be right brain dominant, yes? Well I have news for you…But first lets start at the beginning….

I have always wanted to learn to draw well. I’ve dabbled over the years in a bit of painting and drawing (recently its been more of the finger painting kind!), but I’ve never taken the time to learn. I guess I always assumed you’re either an artist or you’renot. I’m not. (Well not a visual artist, anyway). But with age I’ve embraced my lack of skills as an opportunity to develop, and so I have signed up for a drawing class.

Last week was my first lesson. I was looking forward to shocking everyone by myhidden-and-suddenly-released talents, but, alas, the only person surprised was me.

(Now, I need to clear something up here – I’m not at all vain or proud; just the person that always assumes I’m going to win the lottery (always shocked when I don’t), be the surprise fastest in the fun-run, be discovered by a talent agent, start modern dance classes at 40 years old, and be asked to go on an Australian tour; lets just say I have no shortage of aspirations, dream, goals, and I always suspect there’s more to me, and everyone, than we realise ourselves).

So back to art class…

I am sitting in front of an easel being taught how to draw a cube which is sitting on apedestal in front of the class. Too easy, I assumed, and didn’t pay super-close attention to the instructions, because, of course, I know how to draw a cube. So 30 minutes into a 2-hour class I sat back in my chair and thought, “I’m done. Now what?” And this was the result:

I thought it was fine until the instructor made her rounds, and pointed out all my mistakes. And suddenly I realised I had failed to engage in the creative process; rather, I had used the limited knowledge I already had and gone ahead without considering new information and details. Embarassing. But a great lesson. And so, another 45 minutes and several erased lines later (who knew it could take over an hour to draw a cube!), I ended up with:


Ok, it’s no Mona Lisa, but its a whole lot better than my first effort. And more importantly, it got me thinking in a whole different way.

We’ve all heard of left-brain vs right-brain theory, but I don’t know much about it really. So I did some research (left brain) which I really enjoyed (right brain). I enjoy many right-brain activities, not the least of which is perfumery, as well as creative writing, singing, cooking, shopping (*smiley face*) and others. I assumed I was more right-brained because I tend to prefer more creative pursuits. But then I took a left-brain vs right-brain test . Apparently I am 60% left-brained! Does that mean I’m less creative than I thought? Let’s be specific; this was my report card:

“In addition to being known as left-brained, you are also known as a critical thinker who uses logic and sense to collect . You are able to retain this information through the use of numbers, words, and symbols. You usually only see parts of the “whole” picture, but this is what guides you step-by-step in a logical manner to your conclusion. Concise words, numerical and written formulas and technological systems are often forms of expression for you. Some occupations usually held by a left-brained person include a lab scientist, banker, judge”

What! A judge or a banker! But I make fragrance for a living!

So here’s what I discovered about left-brain vs right brain: being creative or artistic doesn’t mean you know how to draw or play an instrument. Being creative is a way of thinking, a way of viewing the world. Conversely, just because you are left-brain dominant, doesn’t mean you aren’t creative. It’s just that you (and I) see the world in a more analytical, sequential, detailed way, rather than a feeling, intuitive way.

By the way, smell, for the most part, aggravates the limbic system and the right side of our brain,  which is associated with memory of events, times, places and emotions. It is subjective, and looks at the whole, not at parts of certain things. Which is why we also need our left brain to help us smell;  to recognise and rationalise things .We use it for meaning, analysing, understanding, knowledge and language. The left hemisphere helps us describe in words what we are smelling and connecting with in our right brain.

As perfume-lovers or creators our right hemisphere provides us with rough information such as  “floral”, “earthy”, “fruity”. The left side of our brain will look break it down to specific parts, such as “jasmine” or “mint”.

So, good news – I am not yet a visual artist, nor will I be named The Honourable Judge Liz Cook any time soon. Or… maybe I could do both…?

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