I would like to respond to Mr. Beeching's comments
>For a start, Piaget, like many psychologists,
>has used the arts as "therapy" and not as a
>mode of "production." It is paradoxical that
>people who have little or no experience in art
>production have so much to say on the subject.
Consider that Piaget did not view the arts solely as therapy. Indeed there
is adequate evidence to suggest that Piaget thought of the arts as a
language; a higher order symbol making language with its own individual
syntac and meaning. With all due respect, Piaget was not a psychologist,
but rather a biologist via his own education (specifically a marine
biologist; when he was just 12 years of age he published an article on
mollusks in a major scientific journal) and an epistomologist via personal
interest. His stages on child development were based upon his personal
observations of children within their natural environments for that time
period. His focus as I see it, is on how children come to know and
understand the world. In other words, how do people come to know what they
know. How is meaning created. This is epistomology. In a general sense,
he believed that people "construct" meaning through the processes of
accomodation and assimilation. These processes are also influenced by
perceptual and cognitive development.
I bring all of this up, because drawing can be viewed as a description of
and can provide us with answers as to what is going on inside the mind of a
Drawing requires a great deal of mental activity as well as physical skill.
However, I would argue that drawing is a mental activity, primarily. My
hands are controlled (I hope) by want my minds eye is envisioning.
Art, to me, is not production. Art is a concept that is ever changing.
>It is obvious to most teachers, that many
>students may not display a facility for
>either reading, writing, or art production;
>in many instances because these subjects
>have been presented so poorly to them.
I do not think it is obvious that drawing has been presented poorly to
children. It simply hasn't been presented at all. If that is what you
mean by being poorly presented, then I agree with you. I do have a
question, however. When you speak about drawing are you meaning this as a
synonym for art? If not, I know you understand that there is more to art
than just drawing. Some might even argue that drawing is not necessarily a
requisite foundation. Perhaps learning to "see" is the requisite
foundation and that there are many different kinds of materials and art
forms that can be used to help people "see." To insist that everyone build
a foundation about art in the same way, that is through realistic drawing
instruction, is to ignore what we now know and understand about individual
differences, learning styles, cognitive styles and personal preferences.
Perhaps the problem has been that our profession as too narrowly defined a
foundation sequence that is not idealy suited for the majority of the
population. I believe that Piaget would say that it doesn't matter the art
form or the material, as long as children are able to assimilate and
accomodate their understandings of the world through art and by doing so
are able to understand the very nature of art. To me as long as a child
gets what art is, then it doesn't bother me that he/she can't draw.
Cezanne drew terribly, but he was a master at color.
>All members of the New York School of "Abstract
>Expressionism" (a term coined not by the artists,
>but by the art critic, Ginsburg) arrived at their
>stations through traditional "realistic" drawing
>and painting channels.
Representational approaches were very popular when these "abstract
expressionists" were being schooled. There simply wasn't another way,
other than realistic drawing and painting channels--That is why abstract
expressionism was so different and so earth shaking. It required a whole
different way of looking at the world. It really hasn't been established
that one needs to understand realism before one understands abstraction.
It just happened that way historically. Must we reinvent the wheel with
each generation, so that they can understand abstraction? What happens,
when abstraction is totally replaced by Post-modernism?
>How can anyone abstract from a "void"? You have to
>have something to take away from!
Children are not voids. They have much to "draw" upon. Our job is to find
out what each individual is capable of doing and building on that. Perhaps
our definition of drawing is too limiting. Children can draw in the mind,
in the dirt, in the sky, in clay, with paper, etc. Isn't it more to the
point that we need to start were children are at, rather than imposing
where we think they should start?
Many girls love horses, and
>draw them well because they have groomed them,
>ridden them, and have drawn them over-and-over
I drew horses when I was in the 5th and 6th grades. At that age I had
never been on a horse. So experience is not the only explanation. I did
draw them over and over and they did become more realistic. However, I
wish someone would have helped to expand my ideas on what the possibilities
for art making were. I was being a normal girl and without any
instruction, I was left to my own devices. I would have really enjoyed
learning about other forms of expression other than drawing. I longed to
"see" from another perspective.
>One can only draw well from what he or she has
>experienced. Every mark an individual makes comes
>dirctly from an environmental experience.
I believe drawing ability or every mark an individual makes comes from both
a genetic or developmental process as well as experience. There is both a
genetic and environmental process to be considered.
>"Originality" is the direct result of "flexibility":
>the ability to adjust to new situations; "fluency":
>the ability to state succinctly what one intends;
>"sensitivity"; to become aware of one's surroundings;
>then, perhaps one may attain an "original" thought or
How can one be flexible if one's foundation to art is through realistic
drawing? I might argue that realistic drawing alone limits a person's
understanding of the possibilities. So when presenting realistic drawing,
we must somehow show the other perspective.
>Like the word "love" we use the word "art" too
>freely. "Imagination" does not grow out of an
>arm pit, but from a provocative experience!
I don't think we use the word "art" too freely at all. We, art educators,
have put art in a "box." For too many of us our language (ie. elements and
principles of design) has restricted our thinking. We can't look at a work
of art without going through Feldman's four steps or going through the
steps of Aesthetic Scanning. We see the world of art through academic and
analytical eyes. Perhaps we are suffering from too much "education."
We need to make a big paradigm shift, because the world is changing. Just
look at how the world is changing because of computers. Look at how the
art world is changing because of computers. The definition of art is
expanding exponentially as new technologies become part of the fabric of
society. There is no doubt that media literacy will be an important skill
to have in the 21st century. Perhaps this will replace drawing literacy.
I for one would welcome it.
Diane C. Gregory, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Art Education
Department of Art and Design
Southwest Texas State University
San Marcos, Texas 78666
dg09 (university e-mail in San Marcos)
dianegregory (home e-mail in Austin)