Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Drawing and Learning - Camila Vargas


For a long time I had been trying to learn how to draw. Drawing was not part of my school’s curriculum, so my only experiences had been by myself — and I had failed miserably at them. As years passed, I focused on graphic design. Yet, not being able to draw limited me. The need to illustrate motivated me to take this class. 

I came into Drawing 199 with a desire to construct: to learn how to translate what I had in my head into drawings. Instead, throughout the different assignments, I found myself deconstructing objects into shapes, lines, negative spaces, and values. I found myself trying to see Ciemas as triangles and rectangles, and translating the shadows cast on a white leg into different shades of gray. 

Life drawing” popped up in a recent conversation I had with an arts educator that works on creativity research. She was talking about how creativity starts with problem finding, an ability that is significantly underestimated in education. She mentioned that the value of the arts is in how they train you to be observant, which is an important skill for problem finding. Hearing her say that made me realize that my urge to learn how to translate my thoughts into illustrations had been overshadowing the previous and fundamental step of learning how to observe and deconstruct the world. 

I realized that what I have learned during these 14 weeks of life drawing is to observe carefully. Unexpectedly, these weeks took me back to the time when I used to do photography, challenging me to deconstruct buildings and people and objects into shapes and lines and colored surfaces. This class trained me in the process of “deconstruction for construction” that underlies drawing. 


I am fascinated and intrigued by the role that art can play in education: its role in aiding the teaching of other subjects and its role as a subject itself. Having the opportunity to experience a drawing class has given me some perspective on how the process itself can contribute to teaching practices. I believe the process of “deconstruction for construction” is at the core of drawing’s role in learning. Below, some of my thoughts.

Drawing trains you to be observant. Drawing makes you look carefully at the details. It makes you patient. It makes you realize that every time you return to something, it looks different and it is different. The deconstruction of what our eyes see is an interesting process that allows us be critical of what we perceive. Being a good observer is critical for problem finding and it is fundamental to being a good communicator.

Drawing teaches visual literacy through hands on experience creating visual material. The constant process of deconstruction and construction makes you wonder what the differences between seeing and perceiving are. It makes you question your interpretations of the visual world. Producing visual material is a great way to realize that nothing is culture-neutral and that every choice must be interpreted with caution. 

Drawing can help you understand. In fact, there’s research on how drawing graphics can aid learning in science by helping students organize their knowledge, integrate new and existing information, and ultimately generate new inferences. 

It has been a great experience to participate in a drawing class whose aim is fundamentally artistic. Not only did I get better at drawing, but I got to experience and examine its benefits of art instruction. I look forward to learning more about how illustrations, graphics and other kinds of drawings can serve as teaching tools. 

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