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Are Left Handed People More Likely to Be Artists?

Updated on January 11, 2018
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Katherine is a well known art blogger who has been writing extensively on art on 'Making A Mark' for the last 10 years.

Are you a left-handed artist?

Are artists more likely to be left-handed?

Are people who prefer to use their left hand more likely to be artists?

Do left-handed artists make better artists than right-handed artists?

Which famous artists are or were left-handed - and what's the evidence for this?

Find out about left handed artists and answer a quiz about which hand you prefer to use

Adam's left hand - The Creation by Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel, Vatican City
Adam's left hand - The Creation by Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel, Vatican City | Source

POLL: Does being left-handed mean you're more likely to be an artist?

The prevailing rate of people who are left-handed in the general population is now thought to be around 13%

There is a notion that people who are left-handed are MORE LIKELY to be artists - but is this true or is it an 'urban myth'?

In order to test this out, I've constructed this poll to try and provide some insight into this interesting question. Bear in mind that the people interested in this subject tend to be left-handed!

PLEASE READ ALL THE OPTIONS BEFORE ANSWERING

Are you a left-handed AND an artist?

See results

Are you a left handed artist? (Poll Results in 2011)

It's likely that this hub tends to attract people who are left-handed. However I conducted a very similar poll on artists who read my very popular art blog in 2011 with the following results:

  • 31% of those responding identified themselves as left-handed artists
  • 9% identified themselves as ambidextrous artists
  • 58% were right-handed artists

Source: Are you a left handed artist? (Poll Results)

As a result of comments on that poll I revised the options for this poll.

However I cannot replicate the neutrality of the population of people answering the poll!

Making A Mark Poll - Are you a left handed artist?

Are you a left-handed artist?
Are you a left-handed artist?

Being Left Handed

What does being left-handed actually mean?

This is a definition from alt.lefthanders Frequently Asked Questions - Q01. What does being left-handed mean?" being left-handed means having a preference for using your left hand for a variety of tasks, including reaching, throwing, pointing, catching.

It also implies a preference for using your left foot for tasks such as kicking, as well as the preferred foot with which to begin walking, running and bicycling.

However, there are no hard and fast rules for determining which hand or foot the Lefthander prefers to use for a particular task.

Most will prefer to use the left hand or foot for delicate work.

One may also have a dominant left eye, preferring to use the left eye for telescopes, camera sights, and microscopes.

In general, being left-handed means having a dominant right side of the brain.

AND

According to J.B. Sattler ( Das linkshndige Kind in der Grundschule, page 17) a better test to determine which hand is dominant is to note which hand is usually/preferably used to

  • be put up in school
  • switch on/off lights
  • brush teeth
  • comb hair
  • hammer
  • water flowers
  • throw dice
  • pick up/count things
  • open window/door
  • use a screwdriver
  • sew
  • throw a ball etc.
  • draw ,paint, write

However using your left hand might also be because it's not possible to use your right hand eg due to paralysis

Video: Why are some people left-handed?

What percentage of the population are left-handed?

What do we know about the percentage of people who are left-handed in the "normal" population?

It's believed around between 8–15% of world population are left-handed although this figure can increase depending on what sort of definition is used for 'left-handed'.

Did You Know?

The words "adroitness" and "dexterity" derive from the French and Latin words for "right," while "gauche" and "sinister" derive from the words for "left."

The language of left handed - Nicknames and other names for being left-handed

One of the more irritating aspects of being left-handed are the names that are given to people who are left-handed - and some of the words which those names are derived from

A LIST OF LEFT HANDED ARTISTS - or are they?

There are numerous lists of famous left handed people and left-handed artists - but it's difficult to find verification for some of these

Lists of left-handed artists

Note that very few, if any, lists cite evidence for their assertions as to who is left handed.

It's very clear some lists have just copied other lists without looking for any verification

Just because it's on the Internet doesn't make it true!

A List of Left Handed Artists - or is it?

Many artists have been identified as being left-handed - however normal probability rates means a certain percentage of artists are always going to be identified as left-handed and some of them are going to famous!

The interesting questions are:

  • How to determine whether or not an artist is left-handed
  • Whether or not more artists are left handed than right handed.
  • Whether or not all the famous artists identified as being left handed are really left handed!

The right handed hemisphere of the brain is associated with creativity and the notion is that people who left-handed are more able than right-handed people to access their right hand-brain abilities.

Which doesn't mean everybody who is left-handed is a naturally gifted artist - just as it doesn't mean that everybody who is right-handed is a gifted mathematician!

How to identify a left-handed artist Academic research suggests three possible methods:

  • studying the direction of hatching. Right handed artists tend to hatch from the top right to the bottom left - and left handed artists tend to make marks which are difficult for right handed artists to replicate. In my view this is a more conclusive way of testing for right or left handedness. However one needs to find areas of drawing where the hatching is completely unrelated to representation of a contour or the way that hair or fur grows. Most often it's consistent Left to Right hatching in the background which is the give away.
  • looking at portraits of painters The problem with this is that self-portraits are often done using a mirror and this will show right handed people as being left-handed. Portraits and/or photographs of artists of the past by other artists might be more conclusive as to their whether individual artists are right or left handed. Today it's less of an issue as there are more photographs of artists at work. There again photographs can be printed the wrong way round!
  • Independent verification through writings about the artist. Being left-handed (or ambidextrous) is still sufficiently unusual as to rate a mentionThe list below includes people who have been asserted to be left-handed artists - and indicates the evidence for this.This list will be updated over time.

  1. Leonardo da Vinci - see below
  2. Michelangelo Buonarotti - see below
  3. Albrecht Durer - see below
  4. Henry Fuseli - see below
  5. Pablo Picasso - see below
  6. M. C. Escher
  7. R Crumb - see below

Leonardo da Vinci - Painter, Sculptor, Architect, Engineer and Scientist

Leonardo da Vinci is one of the prime exponents of hatching and writing in a way which would be very difficult for a right-handed person to do. He's understood to have had impaired movement of mobility in his right hand so it's not known whether his lefthandedness was genetic or acquired.However he was unequivocally left-handed.

A pencil drawing of Sedge by Leonardo da Vinci - note the left handed hatching of the background

Sedge by Leonardo da Vinci
Sedge by Leonardo da Vinci

Michelangelo Buonaroti - not a leftie? - Painter and Sculptor

Michelangelo is quoted in several lists as being left-handed but NONE of the lists that I've seen identify the source for this stated "fact".

Contemporaneous artists writing about Leonardo comment on the fact that he was left-handed while those writing about Michelangelo fail to do so - suggesting there was nothing worthy of comment.

There is a frequently quoted notion that Michelangelo was ambidextrous on the strength of his painting of Adam as left-handed. Interestingly his entry in wikipedia makes no reference to this fact.

One of the main ways of telling whether or not somebody is left-handed is to look at their preferred direction for hatching - and his hatching indicates he is right-handed.It seems possible that some commentators may have confused him with Leonardo da Vinci

Albrecht Durer, German Painter, Draftsman and Printmaker

Durer also seems to fall into the category of being described as left-handed with no academic sources cited for this conclusion.

My observation of his drawing would suggest he was meticulous about representing contours and hair growth accurately and would use whichever method of hatching was appropriate to the subject matter.

The word "left handed" is often associated with his work - but within the context of the fine art prints which were created where subjects would all appear left-handed when printed due to the reversal of the image during the printing process

Henry Fuseli, English Painter

Left handed hatching evident in drawings

Plus lefthandedness cited in an article - Leonardo, Left-Handed Draftsman and Writer by Carmen C. Bambach

"The third case concerns Henry Fuseli (1741-1825), who was ambidextrous until 1772, when, during a sojourn in Venice, a fever turned his hair white and gave him a permanent tremor of the right hand that forced him thereafter to draw only with his left."

M. C. Escher - graphic artist - Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898-1972) is one of the world's most famous graphic artists.

A hugely talented and very well known graphic artist. Accredited as being left handed by academic research. Plus he is of course modern enough for people to know for certain.

R. Crumb (American Comic Illustrator)

It's always nice when the evidence for being left-handed comes from a book written by the artist and photographs of the artist!

Practical Matters for Left Handed Artists

One of the particular challenges for left-handed artists is that some art equipment seems to assume an artist is right handed.

Do please share your experiences to help others. Leave a comment below and identify:

  1. What you had a challenge with
  2. How you resolved it

© 2010 Katherine Tyrrell

Comments and Feedback - Comments are welcomed.

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    • profile image

      Rich 

      12 months ago

      I'm a left handed artist. On the first day of one of my painting classes in college, my instructor handed out forms for the students to fill and, then he sat back down at his desk. "OH MY GOD!", he exclaimed. All of us looked up to see what he was excited about. He said, "With a show of hands, how many of you are left handed?" 16 of the 17 students raised their hands.

    • profile image

      Anne Blankdon-Hemans 

      14 months ago

      Wow! This is absolutely fascinating and like you said I am interested because guess what? I am left handed and very proud to be different. I hadn't realised we were such a small minority tho. At work - in my workroom, there are more left handed people much to the chagrin of the right handers as the computer mouse is permanently on the left.

      What I hadn't appreciated was the right leg to kick a ball or to squint through a camera view finder. I do both and also own a set of left handed golf clubs!

      One big issue was finding a left handed painting palette as the right hand ones really chafe my right thumb. Thankfully you can buy those now.

      I am racking my brain to think of something that challenges me as a leftie and I honestly can't come up with anything. I've either become used to the situation or they accommodate us a lot better.

      Thanks for thus Katherine. It's really interesting. Will re read this again shortly so there may be more comments

      Anne

    • profile image

      Tyra Pflughoft 

      3 years ago

      i'm a left handed artist, but my dads a left handed bad artist he imitated that. lol

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      5 years ago from Canada

      I just found it funny on the video of Picasso and the comment that he is not left handed. The thought popped into my brain 'yep but he is no artist either lol'. And I know I will take flack for that comment. Very interesting concept.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      In elementary school I had a friend who did great cartoon drawings. I challenged him one day because I told him I thought someone else was doing the work and he was just bringing it to school and bragging that it was his. He took out some paper - a sketch pad he always had with him - and did a drawing right on the spot. I wasn't shocked that the drawing was great! I was stunned by the fact that he was left-handed! I had never noticed before! His handwriting and his art was beautiful!! Great lens! Enjoyed it very much! :)

    • SecondSally profile image

      SecondSally 

      6 years ago

      Very interesting stuff. I was thinking of a student I had (a lefty) who struggled with many "left brain" activities. He always seemed very restless. I showed him how to draw some simple 3D shapes one day, and he was suddenly focused and fascinated with drawing things. He took to it quite readily.

    • emmajowebster profile image

      emmajowebster 

      6 years ago

      about 65% of my year at art school were left handed

    • ryokomayuka profile image

      ryokomayuka 

      6 years ago from USA

      I'm a lefty. I like to do art and write stuff. I love learning now stuff. Great len

    • profile image

      paintingsgalore22 

      7 years ago

      Very interesting lens... this made me think.

    • makingamark profile imageAUTHOR

      Katherine Tyrrell 

      7 years ago from London

      @RinchenChodron: Inn the wider scheme of things "yes". For the purposes of this lens it's written for visual artists - so I guess that would mean

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 

      7 years ago

      I'm left handed and a dancer - do you consider that art? Great lens.

    • WildFacesGallery profile image

      Mona 

      7 years ago from Iowa

      I'm a right handed artist but my mother who is a painter is left handed.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      7 years ago from Central Florida

      Very interesting topic. I've lensrolled it to Left Handed Gifts for Left Handed People.

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