The Artist and Dyslexia

Why dyslexia in an artist can be a good thing

Neon artist at work table in industrial loft
Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

An interest or career in art is definitely a strong possibility for anyone who has dyslexia. The positives associated with dyslexia – and, yes, there are positives – mean you’ve an in-built aptitude for two-dimensional visual representation and three-dimensional constructs.

What Is Dyslexia and Might I Have It?

Dyslexia can affect people in several ways; have a look at this simple checklist of traits:

  • Reading: Skipping, scrambling, and reversing letters and numbers is common, as is the blurring of words on paper. Associated with this is a pronounced difficulty in reading (it tends to be a tiring process) and an apparent loss of concentration.
  • Handwriting: Because the feedback from what you see of letters and numbers as you write becoming scrambled, the handwriting of dyslexics is often untidy and variable. Curiously, dyslexics are often able to write upside down or backwards with ease.
  • Motor skills: Dyslexia is associated with problems of balance and coordination (such as being able to tie shoelaces or catch a ball), and confusion between left and right.

What Is Dyslexia Doing to My Thinking? 

Dyslexia is the result of cognitive problems in the processing of the phonological parts of language. It is essentially a left-brain problem where language is not processed in the correct sequence.

This means that anything to do with understanding and interpreting sequences of symbols is harder than normal.

Why Is Dyslexia a Problem? 

The biggest problem with dyslexia is the generation of low self-esteem. This is often as a result of poor interaction with the education system, which can label those with dyslexia as deficient or unenthusiastic for learning as a whole without taking into account the problems that dyslexia can create.

What Is Positive About Dyslexia? 

Compared to the average person, a dyslexic generally has very strong visual skills, a vivid imagination, strong practical/manipulative skills, innovation, and (so long as the education system doesn't inhibit it) an above average intelligence. Basically the right side of the brain is stronger than the left -- and that's what a good artist needs! (See Right Brain / Left Brain: What Is It All About?)

What Are the Visual Skills Associated with Dyslexia? 

As a dyslexic you are likely to have a greater appreciation for color, tone, and texture. Your grasp of two-dimensional and three-dimensional form is more acute. You can visualize your art before reaching for the paint brush, and your imagination will allow you to go beyond the norm and create new and innovative expression. In other words, you are creative!

Which Famous Artists Are Said to Have Had Dyslexia? 

The list of famous artists believed to have been dyslexic includes: Leonardo da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Chuck Close, August Rodin, Andy Warhol, and Robert Rauschenberg.

What Now? 

In the past people with dyslexia would find themselves propelled by the education system towards vocational training or manual labor.

It’s well past time for the individual's creative nature to be acknowledged, and for their creative expression to be encouraged. If you have, or know someone who has, dyslexia, then consider getting hold of a few basic art materials -- either paint, or clay, or pencil -- and getting stuck in. You may well be astonished by the results. (See: Painting for Beginners)

Find Out More About Dyslexia

If you think you may have dyslexia, start by reading up more about it and then find a qualified person to consult for a definite diagnosis.