Friday, July 28, 2017

Thoughts from the Back Porch 2017

 I am an artist. I have amazing, creative visions of drawings and paintings, mixed media works, and projects. Then I try to put these ideas on paper and poof, my hands don't procure what my mind envisioned. Why? I saw it so clearly in my mind, the color, the perspective, the light. I often look at my work and utter with disgust, "This is crap!" Sometimes I am brought nearly to tears. I look with awe and a fair amount of envy at the art of others and wonder, "Why was I behind the rock when the art gene was distributed?"

My family members have it. My grandfather was an accomplished artist who made his living by his hand. My cousin, Jeanette is an an artist. Her brother Christopher is an architect. My brother Jimmy is an amazing musician, playing the viola, piano, and composing. My other siblings are craftsmen and poets and writers. Why was I gypped? Oh the cruelty to have such a yen and not be able to create! But if I have the vision, why doesn't it translate to paper? There must be a way!

One of my strengths is perseverance and a desire for lifelong learning. This summer I began exploring how I can untether my creative juices and really make art happen. I started reading, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and it is fascinating! Not just from an art perspective, but from the educational and speech-language pathology perspectives as well.

This summer, I am going to go on a journey to tap into the right side of my brain, which is very counter intuitive for a left-brained language oriented sort of gal. I am going to share some of the nuggets I learn on this artistic journey in my Thoughts from the Back Porch 2017 series.

In her book, Betty Edwards, purports that drawing is an essential skill, like reading, that has implications for the perception and understanding of both visual and verbal information. She continues that our education system, that is so heavily language based is missing the mark in terms of cultivating creativity, perception, imagination, and intuition. This is fascinating. In her introduction, Edwards includes this quote from Albert Einstein, "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." Nowhere is this more prevalent than in our schools! Furthermore, with the emphasis on facts, standards, and standardized testing as the measures of competence, we see less and less competence and more and more behavioral struggles and anxiety in our students, who are, in fact, unable to think their way out of a paper bag.

Edwards includes a 1969 excerpt from Rudolf Arnheim that is striking in its accuracy, "The arts are neglected because they are based on perception, and perception is disdained because it is not assumed to involve thought. In fact, educators and administrators cannot justify giving the arts an important position in the curriculum unless they understand that the arts are the most powerful means of strengthening the perceptual component without which productive thinking is impossible in every field of academic study. What is most needed is not more aesthetics or more esoteric manuals of art education but a convincing case made for visual thinking quite in general. Once we understand in theory, we might try to heal in practice the unwholesome split which cripples the training of reasoning power."

This just intrigued me, that perception fosters productive thinking; reasoning and problem solving. We know this as it relates to social pragmatics, but it truly extends to all aspects of the curriculum and life in general. We talk ad infinitum of metalinguistics and metacognition, but what of the magnitude of those. The simple fact that the brain is the only organ that ruminates on itself! I had never thought of it in those terms. The liver doesn't think on the liver, the stomach on the stomach, the skin on the skin!

Edwards's premise is to waylay the language dominant left brain and allow the perceptual right brain to run the show for a while. I think this practice may change the way I do language therapy in that the verbal overload in school is so very taxing on our language impaired students. It raises the question for me, "Is more language always the way to remediate language?" "Will drawing help remediate perspective and reasoning?" The basic components of drawing are listed as:

  1. The perception of edges (seeing where one thing ends and another starts)
  2. The perception of spaces (seeing what lies beside and beyond)
  3. The perception of relationships (seeing in perspective and in proportion)
  4. The perception of lights and shadows (seeing things in degrees of values)
  5. The perception of the gestalt (seeing the whole and its parts)
The correlation between these components and social pragmatics is staggering to me!

The crux of this journey will likely be a challenge for this language infused individual.  It occurred to me as I was reading, that my self-talk is a boon and an axe. I use it to do my job and express my feelings, to make my unending points and to write. I also use it to sabotage myself, to quit when I'm exercising ("I can't. This is too hard.), to beat myself up ("This is no good.), to remind myself of my failures ("Remember when you couldn't/wouldn't/didn't?"). I am excited to pull away from the language Annie and cultivate the perceptual Annie and to share that journey here.

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