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The value in teaching perceptual (perspectival) drawing


Date: Wed Sep 11 2002 - 15:44:14 PDT

What follows is an exerpt from a paper I presented at the College Art
Association Annual Meeting in Philadelphia in Feburary of 2001 titled
"Preserving the Post Medieval Mindset."

Perceptual drawing is a fundamental component of the Western rational
tradition. It has contributed to the development and maintainance of the
"post medieval mindset." This is the mindset that has shaped Western culture
as we know it. E.H. Gombrich describes this mindset as one of constant
alertness, a sacred restlessness, and readiness "to learn, to make, to match,
remake, seize, and hold" that which is unique and important in human
experience. He goes on to say that the symptom of this mindset is the "sketch

Perceptual drawing is a complex and challenging multidiscipliinary
experience. A thorough introduction to this subject naturally touches upon
wide ranging lessons in aesthetics, philosophy, psychology, history,
theology, mathematics, mythology, not to mention mechanical and intuitive
problem solving. It also encourages artistic sensibility (taking care and
doing one's best) and provides the means to heighten and make more
significant personal and collective experience.

A class in perceptual drawing also engages the full spectrum of human
intelligence. Perceptual drawing requires students to apply six out of the
seven most commonly cited types of intelligence. Besides the requisite
Visual-Spatial Intelligence, the lecture and demonstrations involve
Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence. The physical nature of the process demands
Body-Kinesthetic Intelligence. The introduction of analytical gesture,
proportion calculation, geometric schema, and the principles of
Brunelleschian perspective require application of Logical-Mathematical
Intelligence. One-on-one instruction and project-oriented activities require
Interpersonal Intelligence. And finally, the concentration and sensory focus
required of perceptual drawing has been likened to a mediative act, "the kind
of seeing that penetrates surface appearance to discern the structure
underneath." This is referred to as Intrapersonal Intelligence.

Brian Curtis
Associate Professor
Painting and Drawing
University of Miami
Coral Gables, Florida