Art & Design Magazine

Dyslexia And Artists

By Rodjonesartist

You would be amazed at the who’s who of dyslexics…Right off… let’s name this one… not that he needs anymore attention… Picasso. Yes he and some other pretty well-known artists were lucky enough to be blessed with dyslexia. Just to name a few more in the world of art Ansel Adams, Da Vinci, Rauschenberg, Rodin and Pollock.

Because I happen to like Pollock’s work and because I have always been fascinated by Lee Krasner’s art I started reading Lee Krasner a biography by Gail Levin. I was surprised to learn, although I should have guessed it, Lee was a member of the exclusive club of dyslexia. It seemed like she had to deal with art not only in a man’s world but at times her dyslexia may have created self-doubt in her own abilities.

Lee Krasner - A Biography by Gail Levin

Lee Krasner - A Biography by Gail Levin

Learning of Lee Krasner’s dyslexia prompted me to explore the topic further I had to look back on my own life with dyslexia. Unfortunately when I was growing up not much was known about people with dyslexia. Most often we were labeled as having a “learning problem/issue”. Makes me wonder how many blessed children ended up not pursuing their dreams because they were stigmatized  as being “slow”. I guess the good thing is a lot of these children compensated in other ways and learned to become resourceful and what they couldn’t go through they would go around.

Thinking that you think differently? Well if you have dyslexia you probably do. You wonder why when you are driving a car you navigate by landmarks, not by streets. When you’re asked to describe an object you look at that object from every possible direction, not just straight on utilizing a lifetime’s worth of experience and mental images. Makes me think that Cezanne must have been dyslexic. After all he would paint a bowl of fruit straight on, but rendering it from multiple angles and perspectives at the same time. Everyone thought he was begin so innovative, but if he had dyslexia that’s how he actually saw the world. Could this also apply to Cubism? It certainly was conceived in the world of perspectives…and in some cases movement ala Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Stair Case No 2.

Marcel Duchamp - Nude Descending a Staircase No 2

Marcel Duchamp - Nude Descending a Staircase No 2

For artists dyslexia can be a real blessing in disguise. You end up using parts of your brain that many others simply never used or stop using all together. A good example… most dyslexics think in pictures not in words. Children use a good part of their brain when they’re playing, that’s why they have such phenomal imaginations. Most people as they get older stop using a chunk of their brain, dyslexics virtually spend their whole lives in picture thoughts and comparisons.

A picture thinker, could think a single picture of a concept that might require hundreds or thousands of words to describe.”  So Ansel Adams was a dyslexic and no doubt countless other photographers. In the mind of a dyslexic a picture is worth a thousand words…and probably a dyslexic coined this phrase.

“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Pablo Picasso

How does dyslexia directly benefit us artists?

For me it took awhile to understand that I actually had dyslexia primarily because I just didn’t know what was going on. At first I thought everyone thought this way, and then as my life evolved I realized that my thinking wasn’t always in sync with those around me. I’ve always had a phenomenal memory but now I realize that memory is all about having photographs of your experiences in my mental filing cabinet. I spent a good part of my life as a commercial photographer. Dyslexics are amazing problem solvers and anyone who has ever executed a complicated shoot rather it be still or video knows that you are constantly solving the issues of compatibility between all of the elements so you end up with a cohesive interpretation. When I shifted to brush art I made a conscientious effort, albeit not an easy one, to create art that wasn’t representational, nor influenced by outside stimuli like natures patterns and shapes (I still have a long way to go here).

“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” Pablo Picasso

One thing for sure, once I started to better understand dyslexia it seemed like a ton of bricks was taken off my shoulders and I learned to adjust and trust my own perceptions. Taking the time to really understand dyslexia has been a life changing experience. I wish I would have dealt with this early on in my life. Once I clearly understood what dyslexia was all about my life has become way more pleasurable. It’s increased my tolerance and provided me with a better understanding of how our own thinking can be an amazing thing when the energy is directed.

You may want to pick up a couple of books on the topic. I found that these two books were very helpful.

The Dyslexic Advantage by Brock L. Eide, M.D., M.A. & Fernette F. Eide, M.D.

The Gift of Dyslexia by Ronald D. Davis with Eldon M. Braun

Books on Dyslexia

Books on Dyslexia

I’m sure there are many more. A quick look on Amazon or Google will be of great benefit. There are organizations out there to help parents better understand children that are born with dyslexia. I would encourage every parent to learn as much as they can and maybe even join an organization for parents with dyslexic children. This can change the outcome of your child’s life into something wonderful.

I would never not want to be dyslexic. There are a million rewards all attached to internal and external perception. I call it peripheral thinking.

“I can step into a painting and walk around and come home with a thousands images that are embedded in my brain for life. ” Rod Jones Artist

Celebrate your dyslexia…you are in some pretty amazing company.

Walt Disney, Agatha Christie, Richard Branson, Bruce Jenner, Winston Churchill, Thomas Jefferson, John Lennon, Jay Leno, Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg, Salma Hayek, Ludwig Van Beethoven.

I’m sure you can find a whole bunch more and you’ll find some heroes and heroines that you can relate to.


When Rod Jones Artist & Dyslexia Merge

When Rod Jones Artist & Dyslexia Merge

Just a peek…not quite done yet!


Far, Far From Being Completed - Rod Jones Artist in Studio

Far, Far From Being Completed - Rod Jones Artist in Studio


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