Taking Inventory

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“We are the facilitators of our own creative evolution.” Bill Hicks (from Brainyquote)

Suppose you are stranded somewhere without any art supplies. What do you do? You could dissolve into a quivering lump of uselessness or you could look around and see what’s available. Sit down, think about it and have another cup of coffee. Suddenly the coffee stain on the napkin becomes a shape to be manipulated. Or you spot a lone ink pen on the table and decide to make a few marks. Better yet, you find your flashlight and start illuminating surrounding objects to see what shadows appear.

Artists frequently find ways to make amazing art from the most mundane of materials. Art News has an article on art made with the simple ballpoint pen. This simple instrument becomes an implement for creating amazing art. One artist has made the process of mark -making with a ballpoint pen into a performance as people gather to watch the process. Another artist will go through over 100 pens in one piece alone. The article has a lengthy and fascinating history of the invention and evolution of the ballpoint pen.

Hi Fructose has a wonderful article on the shadow art created by Kumi Yamishita. Simple sheets of paper become human faces on the wall. People appear through the shadows cast by a collection of wooden blocks. This is Colossal features art made from everyday objects by Javier Perez. Perez creates whimsical drawings out of ordinary objects such as old floppy disks. Yamishita and Perez are proof positive that traditional art supplies aren’t the only avenue to great art.

For the certified art supply junkie like me, acute withdrawal would likely ensue without a regular fix. Panic would set in. Disaster would strike. Or the alternative of a simple look around to see what’s on hand for something entirely out of character may be in order. Endless possibilities are everywhere when an inventory of routine surroundings searches for the unusual implement of art-making. Whole new worlds may open up.

Check out what this guy does with a toothbrush:

The Magic of Three

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“I’ll try anything once, twice if I like it, three times to make sure.” Mae West (from Brainyquote)

Is there power in numbers? Or more specifically, is there power in the number three? If so what does that have to do with art? It just might possibly be the number of success. “Myth,” “innuendo,” “hocus pocus,” some will say but they may be dismissing a powerful ingredient for success in art. New research is proving the number three to be a very effective marketing tool. The number three appears to hold fascination for people, consciously or unconsciously.

The New York Times recently featured an article that highlighted the research (here) of Kurt A. Carlson of Georgetown University and Suzanne B. Shu of the University of California, Los Angeles. The Times sums up this research as, “A new study finds that in ads, stump speeches and other messages understood to have manipulative intent, three claims will persuade, but four, (or more) will trigger skepticism, and reverse an initially positive impression.” The study appears to prove if you want to make a positive impact do things in threes. No hocus pocus here.

If three is a powerfully persuasive number in marketing, what can it do for art? Joshua Johnson of Design Shack, says, “as a designer any time you’re faced with figuring out how to logically group items in a visual arrangement, the number three is there to help you out.” The website features a number of examples of art, design and nature where the three comes into play. In art, three can be a powerful arrangement on the picture plane. A triangular formation or groups of three items will guide the eye and draw the viewer in. Create drama and interest by the use of threes.

Hocus pocus, myth, whatever, there seems to be truth in the benefits of the number three. Threes stick in the minds of the audience. It’s definitely worth a try, after all Mae West followed this principle and everyone knows what a towering intellect she was. But whatever you do, don’t go on to the fours. Fours are a whole different story altogether. Stay with the threes. The threes have it.

Here’s more Mae West:

Artfully Senseless

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Art is the Queen of all sciences communicating knowledge to all the generations of the world.”  Leonardo da Vinci              (from The Art of Artificial Evolution)

Does participation in the arts increase knowledge?  Since the publication of “The Mozart Effect” study, scientists have been asking this question.  Artists already know the answer is yes.  The more studies are undertaken, the more the facts will become clear. Learning is enhanced when visual art and music increase the amount of sensory input.  Conceptual learning increases with the use of creative problem solving.  Adding eyes, ears, and imagination will bring on more cognitive understanding.  It just makes sense to add the senses to education.

In her dissertation for the University of Kentucky, Jennifer Sue Shank looks at the effects visual art has on the ability to learn music.  Her paper entitled, “The effect of Visual Art on Music Listening,” examined the introduction of visual stimuli to enhanced identification of musical elements by elementary teachers.  The results showed a statistically significant increase of music learning among the group exposed to selected works of visual art while listening to music.  Shank’s paper is very interesting and well worth reading all the way through.

Karin Evans, writing for The University of California, Berkeley, covers much of the findings of research on the subject of arts and learning in her appropriately titled article, “Arts and Smarts.”  Evans covers both research findings and the skeptics’ arguments.   One of the issues Evans covers is the benefit of the arts in teaching students the ability to envision solutions.  Arts enable students to develop the use of creative problem solving.  Evans also covers research on how the arts enhance the ability of students to feel and express empathy with human emotion.

 The National Assembly of States Arts Agencies (nasaa-arts.org) discusses the finding of the relationship of increased SAT scores in students who actively participate in the arts.  The NASAA-ARTS details the benefits of art on general education in “Critical Evidence: How the Arts Benefit Education“.  More than SAT scores are improved through the arts but SAT scores are a telling measurement of the effect of art on learning.  Abundant evidence exists on arts and learning.

In spite of this growing body of evidence, schools are drastically cutting arts education.  Slowly and methodically, the arts are being removed from courses offered.  Science teachers are in demand.  Art teachers are not.  Yet from da Vinci to Einstein, the greatest thinkers throughout history have actively engaged in both the arts and the sciences.  Without arts to engage the senses, will education grow more senseless?  It appears so.