Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Left Hand Turn

Left Hand Turn

Planning for the Future

It occurred to me, some time ago, that if I ever lost my right arm, I'd be screwed.

You see, I use my right arm for all kinds of important things. Eating, high-fiving, arm-wrestling, thumb-wrestling, button operation, dishwashing, throwing, and much, much, more.

But the most important right-arm operation is probably drawing and painting, since that's how I earn a living. So, much like the professional athlete who pursues product endorsement just in case his knees explode, I began formulating a plan for when my right arm gets torn off in a cotton candy machine. After brainstorming and scrapping a lot of obvious, gimmicky solutions like bionic additions and helper monkeys, I finally realized the best contingency plan was hanging here the whole time — I could just use my left arm!

The only problem is that I have very little drawing skill in my left arm. While Right Arm was attending all kinds of drawing seminars and following a strict regimen of doodling, Left Arm just lounged around, lazily flexing open and closed on the desktop, only occasionally bothering to fetch the eraser for Right Arm. But those days are over. Starting now, I'll be occasionally drawing with my left arm, and recording the progress in this article.

The Control Image

The Control

I think the best way to focus on whether there's improvement or not is to pick a drawing I did with my right, and try to replicate it over and over with my left. So the above image will be my starting point.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Monday, April 23, 2007

And here we have the first installment. It's not very good. Or to put a more positive spin on it, this leaves me open for vast improvements in the next drawing.

Time Will Tell

So the experiment has begun. I hope this has encouraged some of you, dear friends, to examine your own lives, and plan for the future. It's never too late to practice living with a hook hand; or to introduce your co-workers to the possibility you could develop Tourette Syndrome. With a little foresight, you can ensure your future is a happy — if slightly less healthy — one.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Friday, May 4, 2007

Right off the bat, this one has some problems — mainly, that the date is wrong. But, other than that, I do think it has less problems than the original, April 23 version. The dinosaur / house / tree proportions are incorrect, but not so incorrect that their position in the foreground / background is wrong.

With this version, I attempted to work slower. With the April 23rd version, I tried to work as fast as I would with my right, which just didn't work. So this time, I went slow, and just tried to concentrate on making the pencil go where I need it to go. Even then, it's impossible to tell my left to do some things, like hold the pencil making the mid-tone lines (a 6h) flat, so I get a nice thick mark. Oh well. Better luck next time.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Okay, so this time the date is definitely right, but not right enough. I started this one on May 17th, then forgot about it because I got busy, and just finished it today, on June 1st. Which reflects how much longer it actually takes me to put together an image with my left hand. Again, I tried going really slow, and tried to concentrate on making the marks correctly. It still didn't work out. I'm beginning to have more sympathy for someone who is just starting out. If someone asks me for drawing advice, I always say "Practice!" — but goddammit sometimes practicing really isn't even all that fun if you can't make your hand do what you want it to do. Though it would probably be easier to appreciate what my left is able to do if I didn't already have my expectations set high by my right. So maybe I'll just start screwing up right-handed drawings more often.

Also, I'm beginning to get bored drawing this dinosaur guy and his magnificent house. Maybe the next drawing will need to have something a bit more interesting added.

Monday, June 19, 2008

Well, it's been over a year since I attempted to draw anything with my left hand. Outwardly, it may seem that the experiment failed because of my lack of diligence. I disagree, and hold that the experiment failed because of my negligent attitude. Also, in the months following the last update, I made a couple of significant lifestyle changes that made learning to draw with my left hand seem less necessary. Observe:

Lifestyle Change 1: I no longer stick my arm way out the window when I drive. This not only decreases the chances of another vehicle ripping it off, it also has made driving safer, since I no longer have to hold my body sideways so that my right arm specifically hands out the window. Also, I can now change gears.
Lifestyle Change 2: I've begun work on a bionic replacement arm. So far I only have the hand designed, but once I find a big enough bendy-straw to attach the salad tongs to, I'll have an entire arm designed.

So there you go. This experiment might have detoured from my original intentions, but as any scientist can tell you, not all experiments need to go as planned to be successful. What's important is that you gather concrete data, and have fun doing it. Though... having said that... I really didn't record any real data. And now I have about 15 crappily drawn pictures of a dinosaur man that no one will buy. Oh, and I lost my internship at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Comments on this Article

There are currently 51 comments.

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I spend most evenings sat on the sofa, practising for a life without legs.

And some times I'll walk/crawl/bop around like a monkey, just in case I spontaneously de-evolve.


And some times I'll walk/crawl/bop around like a monkey, just in case I spontaneously de-evolve.

Hahah - that is one of the best lines I've heard in a long time :D


Firstly, your left handed attempt is better than any right handed attempt I might make, so thanks for rubbing salt into that wound. Secondly I think you're wise to pass on the helper monkey. I have horrible visions of how it would all kick off between Helper and Mojo.


Your illustration has inspired me; I shall have ham for breakfast!


BigA - Well, I think they'd get along okay. They can throw feces at me together.

Testmonkey - Haha - the arm does have a rather hamhocky appearance at the bottom there ;)

The Colonel

A word of advice, if I may offer it: try activities that are stimulating to both hands.

Some suggestions include:
Pull ups,
Strangling folks,
Tai Chi.

Alternatively, you could engage in some activities reserved solely for the left hand:
Tasting Wine,
Karate Chopping the Homeless,
Devil Worship.

As a long time right-hander, I understand the hazards that relying on a single appendage can yield. I hope this little guide has been helpful in your quest for balance.


It has! I've been Karate Chopping the Homeless with my right hand for years now. No wonder it seems so awkward.


you will not believe this, but what you are trying here was EXACTLY my new years resolution for this year. unfortunately, my left hand is extremely lazy, so i have to slap it constantly with the right while drawing.


man...you people dont know thew pain of living in a RIGHT HANDED WORLD.

*bsr edit*
Oh bandy. Again we go through our dance.

Paul Annett

Inspirationak. I'm now tyoing comments solely wuth my left gand, even the ketters ib the right. We;ll see how I improbe ober the weeks.


Max - Haha - well, I have to admit, I figure a whole bunch of people probably thought of doing this before me. How's it working out for you?

Paul - Wait... you mispelled "improbe"....


They can throw feces at me together.
I'd guess that ther difference then is that afterwards the helper monkey might wipe you down.

Greg K Nicholson

I just tried using the mouse with my left hand and actually find it to be an improvement over my using it right-handed.

I usually keep my index finger on the left mouse button and my middle finger on the scroll wheel, you see. Alas, my middle finger is longer than my index finger and so I have to either grope awkwardly at the scroll wheel with my middle finger's knuckle or—more commonly—bend my middle finger clawishly, resulting in suboptimal hand positioning on the mouse (and probably an elevated risk of both arthritis and certain demise).

However! Using my index finger to scroll and my middle finger to operate the left mouse button (or “LMB”, as it's known in technical circles) allows both fingers, indeed my entire hand, to remain comfortably relaxed.

Unfortunately, I'm right-handed and not-at-all-ambidextrous, so pointing's a bit of an issue.

Hey, I might provide updates, too, if I ever manage to make my way back here.


this is all well and good but i've know cotton candy machines to be much less forgiving and often take BOTH arms AND a toe or two.


If I ever lose my painting arm (righty) in a freakish computer accident, like mistaking a blender for my computer mouse, I don’t really know what I would do (other than scream like a little girl). I suppose that having my left arm removed and surgically attached to the right side of my body wouldn’t be as useful as it sounds, so there goes that plan. I guess that the best solution would be to simply take preventive precautions; from this day forward I shall wear steel gauntlets on my arms…

Brian Warren

Brilliant! As someone who uses both his hands in making websites and the like, I wonder what I'll do if I lose my livelihood? Say if I lose both hands, or my brain. I have no backup brain to train in the arts, and thus, no contingency plan.


I should probably look for some sugardaddy to fund my ventures from here on out.


I think that instead of spending all of this time and "practicing", you should go for the faster, WHIZ! BANG! method.

Chop off your left arm, and steal someone else's right arm to replace your missing limb with.

It makes sense! You know you want to. Think of all the time you'll save!

Just make sure that you steal the arm off of someone that's got "mad skillz". I shudder to think what would happen otherwise.


Greg - Left-handed mousing isn't the real challenge. Try moving the mouse with your MOUTH.

Sutter - Well, I'm not talking about the industrial size ones. Sheesh.

Gerren - Yeah, you COULD wear the gauntlets. But you could also replace the metal blade in your blender with feathers.

Brian - Better design the Sugar Daddy application form before tragedy strikes as well...

MattLat - But this method renders all my pairs of mittens obsolete!


I also switch from my right hand to my left hand on certain occasions. I call it, "the stranger."


I can write in my same handwriting with my left hand. Only problem is it is backwards.


Is this a trick? I can't see the differnce in the drawings. Waldo is no where to be seen.


Chris - Ew... but... good idea.

Marc - I think I've seen that trick - where you write with both hands at the same time? I can't do that, I know that much!

Monkeyinabox - CRAP! I knew I forgot something...


Hey, I'm surprised no one asked you yet. Is that a new peoplemal? What do you call him?


While I appreciate reading about bears and the skinruggery associated therewith, I feel I must protest the unwarranted appendagism in this article. Unless you're a pirate or a pseudopod, you almost surely have two (or more!) legs to use as well, yet no mention is made of them.

People often forget that many common activities such as peeling an onion or polishing a kettle can be performed without the use of one's arms.

Suppose you were involved in a freak whaling (or in Mojo's case, giraffing) accident and had to be amputated above the waist; what good is the ambidexterity without accompanying torso muscles?

I implore you to consider the full array of appendages available to the modern man and how the use of three or more of them could benefit both art and industry.


David - Actually, he is new... I'd think he'd be called... Manosaurus Rex. Or something like that.

Christian - You have a point. Maybe I should be concentrating on getting a center arm?

Brian Warren

Our former president James Garfield was ambidextrous. You could ask him a question and he could write the answer simultaneously in latin with one hand and greek with the other.


Is that why he was elected? That's not a bad gauge...

Sean Madden


When I was learning to play basketball, I started doing most of my mundane tasks with my left hand, such as brushing my teeth. After nearly putting my eye out, I gradually gained confidence that my left-hand was easily as valuable as my right and it made driving to the left that much easier. Then I realized I'm slow and can't jump and gave up the dream.

How about instead of teaching your left hand to draw, you seek out corporate sponsorship for your right? "Kevin Cornell's right hand, presented by Aveda Hand Balm." If you work it right, you could even retire early or take out an insurance plan like blue-chip college athletes.

diane witman

I nearly wet myself reading all of the hilarious commentary on this.

I remember as a young girl going to craft shows with my mom where I would have to spend the full day sitting or wandering around looking at all of the different crafts people. One in particular comes to mind, a man with no arms or legs (I'm sure there's a term for this but can't think of it since I'm in a laughing mood now) and he would paint with his mouth. This posed more questions than how does he paint with his mouth, but maybe this is your next option?

What are you doing operating a cotton candy machine anyway?

I love Manosaurus Rex.


Sean - I'd love to have corporate sponsorship! I can even get an appropriately branded glove, to wear while I draw...

Diane - Every morning I make a sweet wig.

diane witman

Don't birds swoop down and try to eat your yummy wig?


You mention a hook. My dad only has one arm and when he was a teen he had a hook arm. He tried to impress the chicks with it when the gang were all snow-sledding one winter. He hit a bump, went flying and landed on the hook. He ended up with stitches in his butt. Remember, a hook is only good until someone lands on it. Then it's a great story to tell your kids.


Although I think you did a quite impressive job on your left handed drawing, I think you should of taken a much more slower aproach, like say for the next month only give Hi-Fives with your left hand, then next maybe move to thumb wrestling, and so forth. Before you know it, your left hand will be mocking your right hand, and perhaps beating it in a thumb war...

hey you never know!


Trivia: Leonardo Da Vinci has also been credited for being able to write with both hands at once.

Elliot Jay Stocks

An excellent experiment, Kevin, but an even more excellent - and very witty - article. It brought a smile to my face. :-)



Diane - Yes. That's why I switched to the Cotton Candy wig from the 24-Carat Gold wig.

Jennifer - Hahah - that's awesome! Thanks for sharing that :D

Shane - That's pretty good advice. You're quickly becoming my high-five counselor.

Gerren - Man... those ninja turtles can do it ALL!

Elliot Jay Stocks - Yes... I do see... and you have the distinguished nose of a Roman Senator, if I may compliment you.


that was my original goal in coming to your site in the first place...

Mariam Ayyash

I dont think losing an arm is enough to stop u from being a designer, but losing your sight! u gotta think up a contingency plan for that!

go ahead, immortalize me :D


Kevin, I cannot help thinking that your approach, using a control sketch, is misguided. Why are you teaching your Left Hand to draw like your Right Hand? Why not teach your Left Hand to follow its own artistic path, based upon what it is best at.

For example, your Right Hand may be good at creating amusing cartoons and witty, lateral takes on the foibles of everyday life... but your Left Hand may prefer abstract expressions of the darkness of men's souls. Indeed, this bleaker type of art will be more in demand after the amputation.


I think that Robert is on to something great here. Looking back upon the second image, I can see the darkness of the rundown house and the extra jagged teeth of the peoplemal.

However when such a counterproductive event such as losing an apendage confronts me, i will surely inject my stump with stem cells and observe the crazyness that grows.

In fact, its a wonder why we dont research the use of said cells for improvement of healthy individuals, example being Mr. Rugs desire for a center arm...


Robert, that's a very good point, but I liked Kevin's approach better. Creating a standard with the right hand for the left hand to follow is good because, quite often for me, the left hand rarely knows what the right hand is doing.


Mariam Ayyash - You're immortalized!

Robert - My Left Hand is already following it's own artistic path. It makes these odd collages from newspaper clippings and bat guano. I didn't realize it until I got an eviction notice from it's Soho flat.

Mork - So all I'd need is stem cells? So that's some kind of plant or something?

David - Maybe you should get them walkie-talkies?


i think i like your left-handed version better. the original was clean and quaint, but the left-handed copy is a bit offbeat and has character. :)

Randy Johnson

I think the tree looks pretty solid with your left arm


Sandy - I suppose it does have a unique feel... though I still hold that my Manosaurus is looking pretty awkward...

Randy - Your right - I think the jitteryness lends itself to good foliage...

Captain Purple

You know Kevin, if you didn't want to come over and help me cut that tree down all you had to do was say 'No thank you.'

Enough with the dramatics already, geez.


I thought an article was the easiest way to tell you how I felt.. :(


Hilarious. One thing I thought of the other day is that if they ever made a movie of my life "Danger Zone" by Kenny Loggins from Top Gun will not be the musical overlay.

Very Depressing.


Well, the rights to that song would cost you a fortune anyways.


"sometimes practicing really isn't even all that fun if you can't make your hand do what you want it to do."

that is so true. and something that i've been trying to put into words for years but just didn't know how.


dah, now u know how hard it is for u rightys to do things lefthanded, think about us poor leftys who have to live in a righthanded world and use all ur righthanded equipment.

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