Thursday, September 1, 2016

Create > Vase Faces

Create > Vase Faces
Goal: Recognize in you the cognitive shift from verbal to spatial consciousness

Access Prior Knowledge:
“If you gotta ask what jazz is, you ain’t never gonna know.”  -Fats Waller.

New Information:

Read > Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain
Drawing a perceived form is largely a right brain function.  This has now been empirically tested and documented.  As I have explained, to draw a perceived form we want to activate those areas of the brain that produce a slightly altered subjective state.  The characteristics of this subjective state are those that provide a sense of close ‘connection’ with objects, a sense of timelessness, difficulty in using words or understanding spoken words, a feeling of confidence and a lack of anxiety, a sense of close attention to shapes and spaces and forms that remain nameless.

It is important that you experience the shifts from the verbal, to the spatial state of consciousness.  By setting up the conditions for this mental shift and experiencing the slightly different feeling it produces, you will be able to recognize and foster this state in yourself – a state in which you will be able to draw.

Betty Edwards is an art professor that wrote Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. The book was a result of her PhD research investigated the psychology of perception and drawing based on the Nobel prize-winning work into the ‘split brain’ by Roger Sperry, begun in the late 1960s. In brief, Edwards teaches her students to draw by switching into ‘R mode’ (nonverbal) instead of ‘L mode’ (usually the more dominant, language-based hemisphere of the brain).
Edwards quotes Paredes and Hepburn (1976) to illustrate the two broad ways of perceiving the world. These researchers cite the example given by anthropologist, Thomas Gladwin, which contrasts the approach taken by European and native Trukese sailors to navigating between the small islands dotted in the huge Pacific Ocean.

Before setting sail, the European begins with a plan that can be written in terms of directions, degrees of longitude and latitude, estimated time of arrival at separate points on the journey. Once the plan is conceived and completed, the sailor has only to carry out each step consecutively, one after another, to be assured of arriving on time at the planned destination. The sailor uses all available tools, such as a compass, a sextant, a map etc, and if asked, can describe exactly how he got where he was going.

In contrast, the native Trukese sailor starts his voyage by imaging the position of his destination relative to the position of other islands. As he sails along, he constantly adjusts his direction according to his awareness of his position thus far. His decisions are improvised continually by checking relative positions of landmarks, sun, wind direction, etc. He navigates with reference to where he started, where he is going, and the space between his destination and the point where he is at the moment. If asked how he navigates so well without instruments or a written plan, he cannot possibly put it into words. This is not because the Trukese are unaccustomed to describing things in words, but rather because the process is too complex and fluid to put into words.

The European style worked just fine, as long as nothing unexpected happened (like a sudden storm or killer whales). However, for most people, and certainly most organisations now, life just doesn’t work that way. The ‘left-brained’ logical approach has its place. But people tend to forget to use their whole brains in navigating challenges.
It seemed to me that the right-brained approach of the Trukese sailors is a great metaphor for creative problem-solving. It also provides a very neat description of leadership, and a great way for me to explain my approach to teaching. Oh yes, and it also helps you draw.

Apply Knowledge and Skills:
Instructional Strategy
  • Nonlinguistic Representations
Learning Activity
Create > Vase Faces

Goal: Consciously feel the sensation of spatial awareness

Studio Activity:
  1. Divide your paper into six sections. Draw a frame around each section
  2. Draw a profile of a person’s head in three of the frames on the paper, facing toward the center.  (If you are left-handed, draw the profile on the right side, facing toward the center.)  
  3. Draw monster heads in the remaining three frames.
  4. Next, draw horizontal lines at the top and bottom of your profile, forming the top and bottom of the vase
  5. Now go back over your drawing of the first profile with your pencil.  As the pencil moves over the features, name them to yourself: Forehead, nose, upper lip, lower lip, chin, neck.  Repeat this step at least once.  This is a verbal process for the verbal state of consciousness.
  6. Next, starting at the top, draw the profile in reverse.  By doing this, you will complete the vase.  The second profile should be a reversal of the first in order for the vase to be symmetrical.  Be aware of faint signals from your brain that you are shifting modes of information processing (from the verbal to the spatial).  

Generalize, Publish and Reflect:
Publish > your drawing to our G+Community > Concepts & Creations category
Understand > The spatial state of consciousness is indeed pleasurable, and in that state you can draw well.  Shifting to the spatial state releases you for a time from the verbal state full of other people's chatter.  This yearning to quiet the verbal state and sink into the spatial state may partially explain centuries old practices such as meditation and self-induced altered states of consciousness achieved through fasting, drugs, chanting, and alcohol.  Drawing in the spatial state induces a changed state of consciousness that can last for hours, bringing significant satisfaction.  
Reflect > in the comment section respond to the following.
  • Reflect back on the Vase Face drawing experience.  How did you do it?  Did you feel something?  Did you make constant adjustments in the line you were drawing by checking where you were and where your were going, by scanning the spaces between and the qualities of the lines?