Weekend Inspiration–App, App and Away

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“Draw everywhere and all the time. An artist is a sketchbook with a person attached.” Irwin Greenberg (from The Painter’s Keys)

Suppose you are out and about without a sketchbook when suddenly the urge to draw strikes. It’s in your head but you need to record it. What can you do? This moment may never come again. If the image isn’t captured now, will it be lost down the memory hole? Quick! Pull out your smartphone and start drawing right where you are. Record that image. Get some marks down to take back to the studio. How? There’s an app for that. Sketchbook Mobile by Autodesk is a phone app to download for $1.99. Open the app and start drawing with color or black and white. This app is amazingly easy to use. If you are already using this addictive little toy, please share your experience! It would be great to hear how others are using this fun app. Who needs games when you could be drawing!

But look out! This toy is distracting.

Felt or Flat

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“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, but must be felt with the heart.” Helen Keller (from Skinnyartist)

If a painting, a piece of music, a poem, a story, a performance, a photograph is so beautiful it touches the heart, it is considered a great work of art. That description is the ultimate validation for the creator of the piece. How does an artist get to the place of creating works capable of touching the heart of the onlooker, reader, listener? As Helen Keller says, it must be felt with the heart. The act of making art must be approached from the goal of creating purely from the feelings of the heart.

Marla Hoover at The Arkansas Artist says, “I always try to paint what is in my heart at the time and I see so many ideas that I can’t seem to get them all out fast enough.” Ideas come from the inner artist, the one who resides in the heart. Ideas from the heart are felt rather than reasoned. Hoover goes on to describe the difficulty of painting what some one else has suggested. Some one else’s suggestion is coming from that person’s heart, not the artist’s heart. Drawing that distinction can be problematic.

Taking the time to listen and to feel the heart before creating art, can open the door to the flood of ideas. It doesn’t necessarily mean another person’s suggestion can’t be felt, it simply means it’s best for the artist to be sure his/her own heart is engaged in the process, as well. Art without the engagement of the heart is likely to lack the energy of feeling, leaving the artwork on the flat side. There’s not much that is beautiful in flat feeling-less art.

Monet’s gardens at Giverny were where his heart and his art were deeply felt.  For more on Monet’s gardens and his life at Giverny follow the link here.

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.

Weekend Inspiration–Block Medicine

Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up.” Chuck Close  (About.com/painting)

Artist’s block is a subject worth repeating because we all go through it.   Each time it rears its ugly head is a cue to seek some kind, any kind of solution that will break the back of the evil block.  There could be many reasons for a block, such as energy depletion, brain overload, ignoring the soul, not following the heart and on and on.  It’s probably not necessary or even worthwhile to search for the cause.  The medicine does not depend on the cause.  The medicine depends on the action.

Tara Leaver discusses artists block on her blog.  She gives three possible reasons for block but for each she prescribes the same cure, a week of studio immersion. Spend a week in the studio immersing in making art without stopping to think about it.  Don’t think. Just do.  Go for it and see what happens.

Over at Mental Hygiene, Tony Santos has a list of things to do to break through the block.  He suggests

  1. Information
  2. Going to the source
  3. Inspiration
  4. Playtime
  5. Execute.

Following the steps outlined by Santos, he believes will lead to breakthrough.  Check out his detailed description of each of these steps at the link.

If these suggestions don’t work for you, check out the You tube video at the top.  He has an innovative, yet simple remedy.   Start drawing something meaningless and abstract.  Start putting marks on paper letting them flow.  Pretend you are back in the classroom of the most boring teacher you ever had and remember the doodles you drew to get through the monotony.  Then say a silent “Thanks!” to Mrs. What’s-her-name for boring you to tears and forcing you to become a creative doodler.  She may have been the push you needed to become an artist.  Put yourself back in her class and start doodling again.  And if you didn’t have a Mrs. What’s-her-name, try the ideas from the other two artists.  One of these artist’s suggestions may be the right medicine to cure your block.

Gallery Medicine

Art galleries should be apothecaries of our deeper self.”  Alain de BottonScreen shot 2013-10-10 at 11.50.06 AM

A growing body of research is revealing what artists have long known.  There is healing in art.   As more research is conducted more will be known.  Medical and nursing schools are beginning to incorporate more arts in curriculum.  Even though artists know of the healing potential of art, do galleries and museums know?

Two studies, (Lazarus 2003, Riis 2000), have shown the potential for art to lead to a better understanding in medical students of the human condition by helping the students relate to various emotions depicted in art.  Students visit a museum and are encouraged to examine the emotion portrayed in the art and compare to situations encountered in medicine.  The results have revealed the students gain a greater expression of empathy.  In the second study, the authors conclude, “ …the humanities and the arts offer approaches and inspiration that are of the greatest value to the education of doctors of all levels, (Tidsskr 2000).

Yet museums have not seemed to embrace this.  In an article in The Guardian’s arts section, Alain de Botton suggests that museums and galleries arrange art according to emotion.  There would be sections for love, hope, mood and more.  He believes art has the ability to “rebalance our moods, lend us hope, usher in calm, stretch our sympathies, reignite our senses and awaken appreciation.”  As such, if galleries recognize these facts, they could promote art as healing

I have seen this aspect of art in my own work and wonder why the concept of art’s healing potential has not yet gained wider recognition.  It is a slow process and takes time.  Or that “science versus art” thing remains a major barrier.  Hopefully, the barrier will continue to come down and art will become a more widely utilized tool for the medical profession, in galleries and in hospitals.

Kathe Kollwitz was a master at depicting human emotion.  Visit the Kollwitz Museum website for more on her work.

References:

1.  Lazarus PA, Rosslyn FM.,(2003). The Arts in Medicine: setting up and evaluating a new special study module at Leicester Warwick Medical School, Medical Education, 2003 Jun;37(6):553-9

2. Riis P. (2000). [Humanities and art as a part of medical education]. Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen. 2000 Dec 10;120(30):3738-40 (article in Norwegian)

Sketching Knowledge

Look into Nature, then you will understand it better.”  Albert Einstein, (from A.S.L. & Associates)Screen shot 2013-10-01 at 10.26.32 AM

A growing body of research is suggesting students may learn science more effectively by using their imaginations through various forms of art expression.  Doodling, drawing, collage, and sketchbooking are all methods students can use as vehicles for creative learning.  Art may in fact be a more successful form of knowledge retention than traditional note taking.   Art forces the student to actually look at the subject and draw on imagination.

Live Science has an article on using artistic expression for science learning and quotes Australian researcher Russell Tytler of Deakin University in Waurn Pond, Australia as saying, “ We can have students exercising their creativity and imagination in order to learn the canonical knowledge of science.  There is no need for it to be ‘transmitted’ to students as dead knowledge.”  Students learn concepts by art projects.

Art would likely hold student attention longer, as well.  What’s more fun: taking notes from a boring lecture or creating art projects?  Doodling notes instead of writing them captures more focused attention.  The student must use eyes, ears and imagination to utilize art making for learning, a triple focus.  Seems like a no-brainer to me.

It will be interesting to see if more schools take up art as a form of learning.  However, schools are cutting art rather than increasing its use in curriculum.  How much evidence will it take to change that process?  Time will tell.

Say What?????

Any sort of pretension produces mediocrity in life and in art.”  Margot Fonteyn (from brainy quotesImage)

While walking around at a large art exhibit, (see “Voices”), my friend and I overheard various comments and opinions on the art.  One conversation left us so puzzled that it continues to produce a smile even now.  It was the perfect stereotype of a conversation many people, think goes on at an art exhibit.

Two people are standing in front of a large abstract painting.  Each is holding a glass of wine while discussing the painting.  As we leaned in to listen, one said to the other, “But is it ethically valid?”  My friend and I looked back at the painting while trying to contain our confusion.  “Huh?”

I’m thinking, “Hmmm. Ethical and valid.  What does that have to do with this painting?”  Maybe the title gave an indication but I couldn’t see the title.  I lost track of the beauty of the piece in trying to figure what that statement could possibly mean in relation to the painting.    I’m still shaking my head years later.  Maybe others can enlighten me.  I didn’t get it.

Evidently mom was right when she said, “Talking too much and eavesdropping can both have unintended consequences.”  I didn’t realize at the time, she was referring to art.

Does art speak for itself?