The Science is In - Perspectives from The Artist's Road

The Science is In:

Why Art Really Matters

Perspectives from The Artist’s Road


Dance, 1909, Henri Matisse
Dance          1909          Henri Matisse

   We have been reading a fascinating book by Susan Magsamen and Ivy Ross titled Your Brain on Art. The authors tell the scientific stories generated by researchers who have for many decades been studying the positive effects of arts activities on the human brain and body—a field of investigation called neuroaesthetics.

   From the publisher:  “A life-altering journey through the science of neuroaesthetics, which offers proof of how our brains and bodies transform when we participate in the arts—and how this knowledge can improve our health, enable us to flourish, and build stronger communities”.

   It is so very interesting to us to finally find a compilation of serious scientific studies focused on the positive effects (including improved mental and physical health) that all kinds of arts activities create for both the practitioners and the audiences. There are chapters about how art can help soldiers reduce or eliminate PTSD, help those suffering from the debilitating mental effects of various traumas, and, help with physical pain-relief.

   Better heart function and expanded brain functions have also been discovered to be directly related to extended arts activities. Neuroscientists studying the hippocampus area of musicians' brains found that the musicians all had more gray matter in their hippocampi and areas involved in processing sound than non-musicians. At first, the neuroscientists thought that the musicians must have been born that way, and that is what had led to them becoming musicians. But after more research, they theorized that it is exactly the other way around. The brain grows new synapses in areas where they are needed. This is why, I theorize, a big-league batter can hit an almost invisible 90 mph fastball. He has a bigger baseball brain than the rest of us.

   The same theories can be extended to artists. Demand more from your eyes and your visual cortex will quickly expand. More importantly, studies found a concurrent expansion of synapses in the corpus callosum of the brain—the area responsible for communication between the two hemispheres of the brain. This is probably why artists are outstanding free-association thinkers.

   This book is packed with examples like these, documenting how engaging in the arts has improved people’s lives and health—especially children. Arts can help children develop better cognitive and social skills, focus and emotional regulation. The beneficial health effects of art are also experienced by those who simply look at art or watch a performance or read fiction. Perhaps the biggest news is that those who engage with the arts every few months have a whopping 31 percent lower risk of dying early than those who don’t! Art is good for our lives.

   I think that many, if not most artists, will be nodding their heads in agreement while reading these accounts, perhaps even muttering, “Well, yeah!” Most significantly, it appears that the real pay-off here is that those of us who have made the commitment to living artistic lives, benefit from not just creative fulfillment, but longer lives as well. Enjoy!

Copyright Hulsey Trusty Designs, L.L.C. (except where noted). All rights reserved.
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Filled with inspirational examples by the masters of nightime painting, this little book is sure to fire up your creative energies. Never tried painting at night? We show you how it's done with a step-by-step-oil demo and a tale of night painting in the wilds of Rocky Mountain National Park. The Primer on Night Painting - Nocturnes is a 7 x 7" PDF download with 40 pages of text and images. It includes a gallery of paintings by masters of the nocturne, information to inspire and encourage you in your plein air nocturne painting, an illustrated step-by-step demo and tips for working in pastel and oil. Also available in a softcover edition. Check out the tools and other products that we use in our own art and travels in The Artist's Road Store. We only offer things for sale that we enthusiastically believe in.







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Photograph of John Hulsey and Ann Trusty in Glacier National Park
We are artists, authors and teachers with over 40 years of experience in painting the world's beautiful places. We created The Artist's Road in order to share our knowledge and experiences with you, and create a community of like-minded individuals.  You can learn more about us and see our original paintings by clicking on the links below.
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