A look at what – and who – is pushing the future in new directions

Drawing on Thoughts … Thoughts on Drawing

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They say, “A picture is worth a thousand words … “  Nowhere is that more true than in the case of the following chalk-talk with renown designer and illustrator Milton Glazer. Here, Glazer, Fulbright Scholar and founding partner of the celebrated Push Pin Studios, discusses the codependent relationship between drawing and thinking while sketching a portrait of William Shakespeare.

In his book, Drawing is Thinking,” Glaser suggests that all art is a form of meditation and that drawing is “a primary way of encountering reality.” He addresses societal reticence around the arts and the individual’s resistance to drawing (“Oh, I can’t draw … my drawings look like they were done by a 3rd grader … “) as missing the point, asserting that the value in drawing is not about “making things look accurate,” but rather drawing is a way of becoming more conscious of what one is looking at and expressively interpreting the world. “

Comments on Glaser’s theory hearken back to the cave drawings of primitive man,

“ … art started as a way of noticing things, focusing on them, fixing them in our minds, … that when our ancestors drew animals on the walls of caves, it was a kind of sympathetic magic … If they could draw them, they knew them, and they could control them. “

Fast forward to the digital age, where Michale Sankey discusses the effects of changing nature of “visual literacy” as it applies to education and curriculum design,

“In contemporary western culture, particularly the youth culture, visual mediums and genres are becoming increasingly popular at the expense of other mediums, in particular the written word (schirato & Yell 1996). Others suggest that the constant bombardment by visual images from so many quarters is already shaping [the youths] lives, influencing their attitudes and tuning their responses. As media simulations become more popular and persuasive they will increasingly encroach upon life experience to the extent that new senses of reality will be formed and media representations will in fact become our first order reality (Walker & Chaplin, 1997).”

New York Times Weekend columnist Brad Stone (1/10/2010, p. 5) observes that his three-year-old daughter’s world view and life will be shaped by myriad technological advances and gadgets, “ … digital books, Skype video chats, … toddler-friendly video games on the iPhone … she’ll see the world a lot differently from her parents.”

Stone goes on to discuss current research which suggests that “the ever-accelerating pace of technological change may be minting a series of mini-generation gaps, with each group of children uniquely influenced by the tech tools available in their formative stages of development.”

This phenomenon could only raise questions around Glaser‘s dynamics of drawing and foster an increased impact on what our own Cecily Sommers describes as our “associative fluency” – taking in information in multiple ways (seeing, hearing, moving) – a mechanism which serves as the foundation of creativity and innovation. The act of drawing or dancing or interacting with digital media (?) opens new pathways in the brain, shaking things up and creating opportunities for new connections to form. Until the age of eight or so, children are able to learn and absorb large quantities of information, forging extensive neural networks to handle the massive influx.

Conversely, over time, under-trafficked neural connections, thought processes and information that see little action, are unceremoniously closed down. Eventually the adult brain winds up using only the most well-trodden neural pathways as a short-cut default system (read: old people stuck in their ways). It continues to be our challenge then, to maintain ample neural capacity such that we are able to “encounter our reality” with resolution and vigor… lest we find ourselves in the cross-hairs of a virtual Wooly Mammoth with only a sharpened pencil to our name.

Article By: Katherine Emmons

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