Practice Still Makes Perfect And The Arts Still Needs To Be Mandatory
With the onset of industrialisation, our educational system changed to suit the market. And The Arts has been gradually crossed out as an essential basic of our curriculum and increasingly set against The Sciences. But with us now long gone having entered the Information Age; where technology ridden societies cry out for analytical perspectives, interspersed with innovative thinking; isn’t it high time for us to reconnect the two?
For as the anthropologist and author Zora Neale Hurston once put it, “[Science] is a formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.” The purpose noted here, generally being either testing or attesting a supposition. And in my opinion, there is no way you can rightly do this without having an open minded approach and being an able cross-disciplinary thinker.
Developing A Sharp Eye, Creative Mind And Analytical Skills
At the academy we had this art teacher who taught us draughtsmanship. And like most teachers tied to the academy, he too was an active artist with private work. And he looked every bit the part. He was this larger than life Marlboro type man, with a tousled grey do and a grey goatee to match. And mind you, this was way back when the goatee was still the choice facial signature of many a social rebel and other misfits; long before it became a mass fashion statement.
He would lined us all up along the walls of the classroom, ‘circling’ some or the other object which did its quiet artistic duty as the subject of our next class. Sometimes there were no objects; and we would get a (de)constructive assignment. But, whatever he had planned for the day; he started out standing tall in the centre of our classroom circle; gauging each and every single one of us as he explained a drawing technique and what he expected from us.
And, afterwards at the end of every class, he would drill us again and again with the old familiar truth ‘practice makes perfect’. Urging us on to take some time everyday—even if it’s only five minutes—and, draw. Draw anything. From your breakfast coffee cup, to the bare winter trees or the intricate construction of a building site. Just draw.
Our sketch pad and led pencils were to become our dearest and closest friends. Mapping out our progress as we gradually sharpened our aesthetic eye, creative mind and drawing skills.
His Eyes Lit Up And I Knew I Had The Job
Years later I applied for a marketing internship at a utility organisation up north. The interviewing party of two sat me down at the head of the table, while the marketing manager sat across in his three piece suit. He turned to me; looking me over with this half mocking smile.
“You are a former art student, are you not?’
“Yes”, I replied.
“This is more of a marketing position. What makes you think you can do the job?”
“Because I’ve got the analytical and creative skills required.”
I then set out to explain to him that Art has its own share of theories and movements; and continued with the Bauhaus derived analysing and creative techniques I myself would use, were I to do a portrait of him. I jauntily pointed out that if the drawing were to bear any resemblance at all, I had to first (literally) step back and study the big picture in its purest and abstract form. Break it all down, set the corresponding boundaries, define the geometric structures and then gradually fill it in. As I described the characteristics of his features, translating them into analytics and form; I sensed his manner slowly shifting. And the minute I saw his eyes lit up, I knew I had the job.
Now there are many renowned professionals out there, who believe in cross-disciplinary thinking. For example Tim Brown, Elizabeth Coleman, Bran Ferren and Stefan Collini. Just to name a few. But here I’d like to draw your attention to a TED talk by Mae Jemison; an astronaut, a doctor, an art collector and a dancer. In her 20 minutes talk, titled ‘Teach Arts and Sciences together’, Jemison fervently calls on educators to interconnect the two disciplines; and discusses why this is crucial.
This talk dates from 2002. The world has changed a lot since then; and then again it hasn’t. What pains me most is that the message still hasn’t quite sunk in. For some odd reason, we continue to believe that The Sciences and The Arts are two separate and opposite entities. That by definition, an academic is not capable of creative thinking and an artist lacks analytical skills. Jemison states, that if we keep hanging on to this dichotomy; we are messing with our future and we are holding back progress.
Now, that is something to mull over; isn’t it? Let me give you another one and leave you with this really beautiful Mae Jemison quote:
“Science provides a [personal] understanding of a universal experience.
And Arts provide a universal understanding of a personal experience.”
(Source image used: Wikimedia Commons)
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