Art and science have many commonalities including the study of
anatomy, but the commonality I often fail to use is probably the most
basic and important of all - the scientific method. The scientific
method says that questions must be answered experimentally and the
results are repeatable.
Art students have often asked me to give them a suggestion to improve
a work in progress. Many times my ego and my pompous personality
have simply prompted me to blurt out an answer. I have given my
recommendation without even thinking that this was actually a
teachable moment. Had I been thinking scientifically, I might have
coached the student to design a small experiment.
My students learned dependency. I was the dependency facilitator.
Yes, the scientific method takes more time in the short run, students
that learn how to design experiments to solve their own problems have
learned not only the scientific method, they have learned one of the
essential components of artistic thinking and artistic behavior.
Ultimately, time is saved because students have learned to figure out
how to answer their own questions. They are empowered.
Teaching habits are powerful and subtle. Giving clever answers in the
studio class gives me such a feeling of power and it is such a hard
habit to break. As an artist, I am generally more expert than the
student - what an ego trip! During the Dark Ages science was a set
of teacher answers. Progress was made when the scientific method
began using questions and experiments to check on old answers and
discover new answers. In science, nothing is assumed to be true
because an expert says so. Too often my art class was taught using
Dark Ages dogmatism.
A Common Art Class Example
Art teachers may ask why should we teach students to reinvent the
wheel. Good question. Is the wheel more important than the ability
to invent the wheel? For educators interested in the formation of the
mind, learning how to think always trumps knowing an answer. The
color wheel may be important, but it took my caveman mind two decades
of teaching to get the insight that it is much more important for
students to invent the color wheel than for them to copy it. Now I
never show a color wheel before students have experimentally learned
to manipulate and observe color concepts. What other answers are we
giving when we could be questioning?