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
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 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
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?
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.
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
- water flowers
- throw dice
- pick up/count things
- open window/door
- use a screwdriver
- 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
- alt.lefthanders Frequently Asked Questions - Q01. What does being left-handed mean?
[ Usenet FAQs | Web FAQs | Documents | RFC Index ]alt.lefthanders Frequently Asked Questions
- Three Myths and Three Facts About Left-Handers | Psychology Today
Are lefties really more creative yet doomed to die early? By Christian Jarrett, Ph.D...
- 11 Little-Known Facts About Left-Handers | Huffington Post
By Katie Kens There's no denying it.
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'.
- Why are more people right-handed? - Scientific American
Most humans (say 70 percent to 95 percent) are right-handed, a minority (say 5 percent to 30 percent) are left-handed, and an indeterminate number of people are probably best described as ambidextrous.
- The surprising geography of American left-handedness - The Washington Post
Data on the left-handed is hard to come by.
- Science Explains Why So Few People Are Left-Handed
Left-handers aren't very common. In fact , they only represent about 10 percent of the human population. But a new study suggests that the reason lefties are in the minority isn't anything suspect
- Left-handedness - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Left-handedness is the preference for the left hand over the right for everyday activities such as writing. A variety of studies suggest that 8–15% of world population are 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
- Left handed language
Left handed means something bad in most languages and left-handers have always suffered abuse
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!
- Art History - A List of Left-Handed Artists
A list of 44 left-handed and ambidextrous artists.
- When Left Is Right: International Left-Handers Day | The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Masha Turchinsky, identifies a number of artists in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art who are left-handed - and suggests a drawing activity to celebrate International Left-Handers Day 0n August 13th
- Art History - A List of Left-Handed Artists
Left-Handed Artists: An alphabetical listing of visual artists who were/are gauche, sinister and otherwise work(ed) with their left hands.No evidence cited for assertions
- Right, Left, Right, Wrong! - Other Handedness Issues - Handedness and Artistic Ability
Right, Left, Right, Wrong! - Other Handedness Issues - Handedness and Artistic AbilityQuestions whether artists were actually left-handed
- Being Left Handed - Left Handed Artists
No evidence cited for assertions
- 8 Famous Left Handed Artists - Famouswhy
8 Famous Left Handed Artists - No evidence cited for assertions
- Famous Left Handers - Artists
Famous Left Handers: M.K. Holder's list of left-handed actors, artists, authors, musicians, athletes, politicians, U.S. presidents, and historical figures. No evidence cited for assertions
- One hundred famous left-handed people | UK news | guardian.co.uk
Today is the annual lefthanders' day. Here we list some famous southpaws.No evidence cited for assertions
- 100 most famous left-handed people of all time
Includes a list of left handed artistsNo evidence cited for assertions
Academic research into left handed artists
- [Left-handed painters]. [Rev Neurol (Paris). 1995] - PubMed result
PubMed is a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine that includes over 19 million citations from MEDLINE and other life science journals for biomedical articles back to the 1950s.AbstractThe role of the right hemisphere in the building of ou
- Three Myths and Three Facts About Left-Handers | Psychology Today
Are lefties really more creative yet doomed to die early? By Christian Jarrett, Ph.D...
- The Left-Brain-Right-Brain Distinction is as Fake as it Always Sounded
Results from a recent study from researchers at the University of Utah indicate that there is no evidence to support the theory that some people are "right-brained," while others are "left-brained," giving you one less easy way to dismiss someone's p
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.
- Leonardo da Vinci - see below
- Michelangelo Buonarotti - see below
- Albrecht Durer - see below
- Henry Fuseli - see below
- Pablo Picasso - see below
- M. C. Escher
- 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.
- Leonardo Da Vinci, Master Draftsman - Google Books
In his day, Leonardo was known as a mancino ("lefty" and "southpaw" are modern-day equivalents), with all the social, cultural, and psychological connotations-not all positive-that the word implied in the Renaissance and does even into our own time.1
- Leonardo da Vinci - Web Gallery of Art - searchable database of European fine arts (1000-1850)
Web Gallery of Art - Leonardo da Vinci - Studies of the Head. Note the consistent direction of hatching
- Leonardo da Vinci - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Identifies Leonardo as writing with his left hand.
- The Athenaeum - Displaying artworks for Leonardo da Vinci
The Athenaeum - Displaying artworks for Leonardo da Vinci
- Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomist, The Queen's Gallery, review - Telegraph
his complex yet lucid drawings, surrounded by precise left-handed notes written using his habitual right-to-left “mirror script”, are obviously close to perfection.
- The Independent - Da Vinci drawings at the Queens Gallery
back to Da Vinci the scientist with a show of his drawings at the Queen's Gallery.
A pencil drawing of Sedge by Leonardo da Vinci - note the left handed hatching of the background
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
- Michelangelo - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (6 March 1475 - 18 February 1564), commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer. Despite making few forays beyond the arts, his versatility i
- Answers.com - How do you know that Michelangelo was left-handed
Michelangelo question: How do you know that Michelangelo was left-handed? We don't. The lines in his drawings usually go right to left, the way right-handed people draw. There is only one historical reference,
- Michelangelo Buonarroti 1475 - 1564
Neil R. Bonner, ed., Michelangelo Buonarroti Website, 14 December 2001, Michelangelo.COM, Inc., http://michelangelo.com/buonarroti.html
- Drawings by MICHELANGELO - Web Gallery of Art - searchable database of European fine arts (1000-1850
Web Gallery of Art,- Michelangelo drawings
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
- Albrecht Drer - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
No mention of Durer being left-handed.
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."
- Master Drawings from the Yale University Art Gallery
This beautiful and important book highlights the collection of European drawings at the Yale University Art Gallery, one of America's premier university museums. From intimate studies to exquisite finished compositions, this selection of works docume
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.
- The Official M.C. Escher Website - Biography of M C Escher
M.C. Escher, during his lifetime, made 448 lithographs, woodcuts and wood engravings and over 2000 drawings and sketches. Like some of his famous predecessors, - Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Drer and Holbein-, M.C. Escher was left-handed.
M.C. Escher was a Dutch graphic artist, most recognized for spatial illusions, impossible buildings, repeating geometric patterns and his incredible techniques in woodcutting and lithography.
- M. C. Escher - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
M. C. Escher - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Note the drawing of the sphere which is held in his right hand.
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!
- R. Crumb: conversations - Google Books
BIOGRAPHY- POPULAR CULTURE comic art-->R. Crumb's illustrations have appeared on the covers of albums by Big Brother and the Holding Company, on bootlegged T-shirts, and in several underground newspapers.He is left-handed according to this book
Photos show Robert Crumb holding a pencil in his left hand
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:
- What you had a challenge with
- How you resolved it
© 2010 Katherine Tyrrell
Comments and Feedback - Comments are welcomed.
Rich on October 30, 2017:
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.
Anne Blankdon-Hemans on August 30, 2017:
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
Tyra Pflughoft on July 15, 2015:
i'm a left handed artist, but my dads a left handed bad artist he imitated that. lol
Lorelei Cohen from Canada on March 28, 2013:
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.
anonymous on February 07, 2013:
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 on November 16, 2012:
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 on September 06, 2012:
about 65% of my year at art school were left handed
ryokomayuka from USA on May 21, 2012:
I'm a lefty. I like to do art and write stuff. I love learning now stuff. Great len
paintingsgalore22 on August 05, 2011:
Very interesting lens... this made me think.
Katherine Tyrrell (author) from London on February 06, 2011:
@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
RinchenChodron on February 06, 2011:
I'm left handed and a dancer - do you consider that art? Great lens.
Mona from Iowa on January 30, 2011:
I'm a right handed artist but my mother who is a painter is left handed.
Virginia Allain from Central Florida on January 30, 2011:
Very interesting topic. I've lensrolled it to Left Handed Gifts for Left Handed People.