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  • Writer's pictureSunny Deshpande

How Art helps your brain problem-solve

Read about the importance of having an art form in your life

Viewers looking at art

An interesting study

So how do you get better at problem solving and reasoning through art? Here’s the thing, you’ve probably heard how activities like drawing, acting or playing music, all activate the left side of your brain. The sad part is most people struggle to activate that part of their brain sufficiently! This results in a huge disadvantage in the workplace, at school, or anywhere for that matter. An interesting fact according to a long study at Emory University School of Medicine, showed that our brains are, in fact, originally wired to process art. It is, however, the years of lost space where our world has forgotten the importance of art, which has shut down that part of our brain.

Our brain actually views art as a reward. To get technical, the study revealed (through imaging technology), that the ventral striatum, which is associated with the reward system, was activated strongly when people were viewing a painting rather than a similar photograph. It also stimulated another frontal part of our brain responsible for impulse control and calculating risks. Due to a society that has slowly turned art away from our lives and called it “unimportant”, we have gained a disadvantage at these skills our brain normally would give us.

This actually makes it an even more special skill to be able to implement art in your daily life! To reason and solve problems, it takes creative thinking. The brain can interpret technical information, but to make its own decisions and use that information to create something out it, creativity is required. Take a teacher for example. If you are teaching a class of kids, you need to know the information to begin with, but you also need to come up with an angle of how to teach it.

This goes back to communication, which is part of the whole process. To simplify things, you see something, you perceive it, and you communicate it. This is the basic cycle or process that art helps you tremendously with. Again, somewhere in the middle of this process, you must have high amounts of creativity, and this is the thing that a lot of folks lack.

Even more benefits of doing art

A study conducted by Adobe released that 75% of people believe that they are not living up to their full creative potential. You often come to think why that is, and I don’t believe it is because some folks are “born” with creativity. It is sheerly because of the decisions they make in their life that takes creativity away from them. Why will a child draw all over a wall and an adult will live by the rules? Children are in fact born with it, and as they mature, they lose all of it because of the rules society places on them.

While watching a podcast on the businessman Patrick Bet-David, he spoke about how some of the most successful people in the world are childlike. Part of that means they are born to love art and implement it in their lives. The rest of this book will help you regain that quality from when you were a kid.

The whole problem-solving process simply goes like: You find something that causes you or someone else trouble (a problem), then you find solutions to it, and you take action. That middle part, “find solutions to it”, is where the “creativity” process exists. Imagine taking that out! How difficult would it be to solve a problem?

One of the many people who inspire me is Naveen Jain, the business superstar and founder of Infospace and Viome. He is known for thinking big, as he’s currently working on mining the moon for minerals. Someone like Naveen who changes the world does so by solving huge, mega-problems. One must be very creative to solve mega problems like that. Also, take Elon Musk as an example. One day, he wakes up and says, “I’m going to Mars!” The gap between idea and execution requires tremendous amounts of deep thinking and finding solutions to execute a plan.

So you probably got the idea, you need to be creative. That is the key to problem solving. Allow me to talk more about how exactly you derive creativity from art. Whenever I get commissions or requests for custom work, clients hand me a photo of what I should paint. It is my job to take that photo and translate it into a beautiful work of art that doesn’t just replicate it but adds the “artistic element” to it. The reason I say that each work of art I produce is a journey is because, it demands many hours of constant problem solving and very deep thinking at times.

When you have to turn a photo into a painting, you must see every angle of that photo, in order to bring out the three-dimension, and emotion of that photo. The whole reason people even want art rather than photos is because people connect better with art than they do with a photo. Knowing that someone has made the effort to thoroughly study that photo and produce art with it, makes it just that much more special.

I was once painting a complex cityscape in oils and stumbled upon how I should paint a certain group of windows and have them capture the evening light of the city. Just for a couple of strokes, I had to take a long pause to think. In painting, a couple strokes can make all the difference. One stroke off, and a different emotion or light might be conveyed. Through the process of the whole painting, I come across problems just like this, and must likewise take a few moments of deep thinking.

All in all, art really is one gigantic mental exercise. After an hour of painting, it makes me more productive and effective in solving problems and reasoning than I would be before I took a seat to produce some art.

I also play the violin, another art form, so I can very well connect with musicians. At times when I am trying to figure out intonation or figuring out the quickest way to learn a section, it is a period of deep thinking I have to go through. I see the issue, I think of solutions, and execute action- (the same process I stated earlier). I am making the effort to reason and find ways to fix things. It is simply said, but hard to do.

Going back to painting, the whole picture itself is sometimes like an overwhelming puzzle. From start to finish, there are many problems along the way to lead up to solving one huge problem, creating a finished painting. By now, you most likely can tell that art is not just fun and games, but requires you to give your brain a workout. The results of “working out your brain” this way, last onto many other things you do throughout the day including your day at work and school.

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