Why is my left eye better at drawing than my right?
February 17, 2012 8:03 AM   Subscribe

Why is my left eye better at drawing than my right?

When I'm drawing, if I close or cover my right eye and look at my drawing on the paper, suddenly I can perceive "the big picture" and it becomes easier to make the drawing correct as a whole, without getting hung up too much on the details. Same thing with drawing from life-- when my right eye is covered and I look at the subject I'm drawing, it becomes dramatically easier to draw the entirety of what I'm looking at.

But if I cover my left eye, or keep both eyes open, it becomes very difficult for me to visually perceive the whole. Instead of being a whole, the drawing or subject instead appears like a jigsaw puzzle or patchwork of lots of little details and pieces.

I've had my eyes tested/dilated/checked many times, and other than needing glasses to see at a distance, have no vision problems. Also, if it matters, I'm right-handed.

What's going on here? Why would covering one eye versus the other make such a huge subjective difference? Is there some kind of brain hemisphere stuff going on?
posted by overeducated_alligator to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
There's a definite brain hemisphere aspect: this may be relevant.

Additionally, everyone has a slightly more dominate eye, which doesn't line up w/ handedness in any real correlation. To test this, have someone hold a finger up in front of their face; hold your hands out in front of you with your fingers forming a triangle through which you focus on the friend's finger. Bring the triangle back naturally keeping the finger in focus. As you do so, or possibly even from the starting position, your friend should notice one eye being more centrally located through your triangle. This is your dominate eye.
posted by MangyCarface at 8:22 AM on February 17, 2012

posted by MangyCarface at 8:23 AM on February 17, 2012

A brain hemisphere aspect would not be relevant here -- each eye sends (more or less) half of its information to each hemisphere -- the left half of your visual field, not the information from your left eye, is processed by the right half of your brain (at least originally), so because we have enormous overlap in what our two eyes see, that ends up being roughly half of each eye's information.
posted by brainmouse at 8:25 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Although the Right Brain/Left Brain thing has drawn some controversy over the years, the Right Brain is typically associated with creativity - and if you didnt know, the side of your body is controlled by the opposite side of your brain, ie, the right hemisphere controls the left side of your body. So maybe in your case, there is some truth to that.
posted by elendil71 at 8:26 AM on February 17, 2012

Yeah, actually thinking on this, and re: what brainmouse says, IANAD but depending on the strength of this effect it may signal some sort of neurological issue worth checking out
posted by MangyCarface at 8:30 AM on February 17, 2012

Is there some kind of brain hemisphere stuff going on?

Yep. The reason you can draw better with your left eye than your right is probably because the right brain, which controls the left eye, is associated with more artistic and intuitive functions, while the left brain, which controls the right eye, does more logic and deduction.

There's actually a book on the subject, called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, which purports to teach people to capitalize on this very phenomenon. More recent research has suggested that the left/right brain dichotomy is a bit fuzzier than first thought (the book was first published in 1979, when this stuff was really new), the concept is still more-or-less sound.
posted by valkyryn at 8:32 AM on February 17, 2012

Yes, I have read and enjoyed that book, but have constantly heard that the left/right dichotomy is vastly overstated. That's why I'm curious about how much that phenomenon could possibly be coming into play. If what brainmouse says is true, there might be something else going on as well.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 8:36 AM on February 17, 2012

Again, just to be clear, if you put the paper on the left half of your visual field, that is, to the left when you're looking straight ahead, that would be processed by your right brain. But if you're looking straight ahead at something, with either eye, the left half of what you're looking at is going to the right brain, and the right half is going to the left brain. Here's a picture of what it looks like -- you can see that the information crosses over at the optic chiasm to split the image from each eye. (Notice that the image from the left half of each eye -- which is seeing the right half of the world because of the angle light has to come in through the pupil -- ends up in the left half of the brain).
posted by brainmouse at 8:40 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding brainmouse - this is NOT a hemisphere issue.

Each eye is made up of different cells. Some of those cells work better than the others. This is why some people can be born blind in one eye and not the other, or have different colored eyes, etc. Your eyes are not exactly the same, and it seems one is more sensitive to the other. Are you a woman? There are a number of color-sensing genes on the X-chromosome, and one X is inactivated by random in woman. If you were initially conceived heterozygous for these genes Aa, it could be that one eye has more cells where the chromosomes with the dominant allele was shut off (a cluster of cells that are mostly a and only a few A) and the other eye cells mostly shut off the chromosomes with the recessive allele (a cluster of cells mostly A and only a few a). The eye with mostly A will be able to see colors and make distinctions more clearly than the one with a.

This is mainly an educated guess based on what I know about X-inactivation and color sensitivity....my guess is that your left eye is the one with more recessive alleles, because you can't make those distinctions....

However both the big picture and the details are useful in art, so seems like you've got an interesting set up!
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 9:10 AM on February 17, 2012

It sounds like your left eye is your dominant eye.
posted by grog at 10:33 AM on February 17, 2012

Complete speculation, but could it be a combination of left eye dominance and getting rid of depth perception? Seems to me like the dominance would explain the 'preference' for the left eye, and taking away depth perception makes your perception closer to that of a drawn image.
posted by hot soup at 10:40 AM on February 17, 2012

(It should also be pointed out that facial nerves are unlike the rest of the body in that, for the most part, they don't decussate, which means cross over to the other side of the body. For most of the muscles and nerves in the body, it's true that the left side of the brain is controls and receives input from the right side of the body, but only 2 of the cranial nerves -- which are generally involved in face/head stuff, generally the stuff above the top of the spinal cord -- decussate. They do both have to do with the eyes though. One is the optic nerve, which is what I showed above, where half the information crosses over. The other is the Trochlear nerve, which is responsible for some of the muscles that control eye movement. The Oculomotor and Abducens nerves, which control other muscles involved in eye movement, do not decussate, so the same side of the brain is controlling that side of the body. It's slightly more complicated than that, but yeah -- for the most part, your face is controlled by and receives input from the same side of the brain, but the rest of your body is controlled by and receives input from the opposite side. This is not really important for an answer to your question, but might be interesting anyway. Science!)
posted by brainmouse at 12:05 PM on February 17, 2012

By the way -- I'm right-eye dominant, which I know from target shooting.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 12:36 PM on February 17, 2012

Is your vision corrected? Do you, perhaps, have a minor astigmatism in your right eye?
posted by bookdragoness at 1:43 PM on February 17, 2012

Sorry, just saw that you are somewhat nearsighted. It sounds like you don't correct while drawing.

Many people have astigmatism too minor to correct, so maybe it distorts just enough that without it your eyes don't have to focus on reconciling the skew per detail.
posted by bookdragoness at 1:47 PM on February 17, 2012

grog - I think it's the right eye that's the dominant eye (as OP says), because that's the one that's seeing more sharply. The left eye "blurs" allowing for a "bigger picture" view.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 5:28 PM on February 17, 2012

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