Observation as a key to learning

Learning to draw is Learning to see
Learning to draw is Drawing to learn

In both art and science, understanding and learning are both deepened based upon careful observation of the world around us. In both science and art there exists the potential to use of drawing for discovery and research as well as for representation.

Observational Drawing or drawing from direct experience helps children to scrutinize things more closely to think about what they are looking at and increases their powers of observation, analysis and description.
Observational drawing is a "dynamic embodied engagement" with the world, where we draw for perception not from perception, it's an aid to thinking and communication, It is a critical link between perception and cognition, which can describe and explain.

Drawing intensifies experience and enables children to recall, remember and reflect upon an experience or a moment by representing their of ideas in symbolic form. Drawing can reveal what is felt rather than what is seen, it can capture a moment and record change. It can promote questions and generate ideas, and solve problems.

How does it work ?
Observational drawing creates "focused attention" between the drawer and the subject, it can be an exploration of the sensory qualities and the spatial relationships, it can allow the child to investigate qualities of shape, pattern and texture, the play of light etc and build curiosity and analysis.
·      How do we encourage children to pay attention, to focus and concentrate? 
·      To look for similarities and differences? 
·      To understand structure, space and relationships and to grasp the essential nature of things?

But I can't draw !!!
People often tell me they can't do art because they can't draw. They often assume that you can draw or you can't.  Many children feel inferior about their own ability to draw.  Too often no teacher or adult has ever helped them learn to make a proper observation. 

Many artists have learned to draw by giving themselves time to work at their art and doing a lot of practice. It is also true that nearly anybody can learn to draw at any age, drawing ability comes from practice. 

Hints for better drawing skills
Lots of practice that does not have to be finished work, people practice piano a long time to learn some pieces.  We don't worry two much about mistakes while we are learning, but eventually it is good enough to play a recital. 

 Looking and Seeing
Observational Drawing is a discipline to develop key skills of looking and seeing. Drawing is described as a two-way conversation between eye and hand, whereby the eye learns from the hand, and develops a slower ‘hand-like’ way of looking, that enables drawing. The drawing method teaches students to move the eye in a slower more detailed way, scanning
an object, to allow a fine-grained presentation.
Looking :
Every day looking, a gaze path that is just enough to recognize the face, attention usually lands on the eyes.
Seeing or Looking for Drawing : 
Lots of fixations and gaze shifts to capture details and space.
The complex dance or conversation between the eye and the hand, the eye learns from the hand and develops a slower "hand-like" way of looking, which enables drawing. The scans the object and fixates in certain places. So the action of the hand elucidating vision and in turn influencing the behaviour of the eye, drawing itself is seen as a perceptual process.

 LP Artroom guidelines to develop

“Seeing” skills 
Example of an R2 project

1) Guided introductory investigation of the topic / pre assessment:
What do we already know ? Lets use our memory……
Outside in our garden there are many kinds of leaves, growing on various different plants, what do we know about that already ? Are all leaves the same?

Focus attention:
Have children to gather visual brainstorm images in the board.
So looking at your drawings, what differences can we define?
What are our " Noticings" : Shape, size, colour, edges, patterns, veins ( side chat on that )
Lets visit the garden with those noticing's in mind and see what else we can discover ?
Return to the artroom and sketch what we could remember. This is an important pre assessment and can demonstrate to children how much more information we can discover when we use our eyes.
2) Pre conversation:
What is the difference between looking and seeing, illicit suggestions, augment those as they emerge, keep it open ended. Any idea what a detective does? Illicit responses and make a link between a detective and what they told you about "seeing". Today we will start to learn to be nature detectives.

Using a leaf and learning to " look":
Start with our eyes, and add in large magnifying glass. Intentionally teach how to be successful with that to avoid inevitable magnifying glass play !!

What do you see? What do you notice ?

Look at the same leaf on your large visualizer if you can, ask open ended questions to talk about key features as you track those with your finger. Ask children to show you what their noticing's were.

Key words:
Gather theirs and augment the vocabulary with new words. Outline, edges, size, shape, patterns, textures, lines, dark, light, size and distances, inside shapes. (make sure they are clear about YOUR meaning of the word pattern as children often associate pattern with the R1 learning of Circle Square Circle Square Circle Square.)

Intentionalise the practice of how to SEE to DRAW, explain as in the diagram on page 1.

Lets use our Magic Finger to help us see, use Magic Finger to investigate: touch and trace the edge / outline first. Use questions like is it straight?  Does it curve ? Where could you begin ?

Air Practice:
Have them draw the object in the air in front of them very very slowly.

Lets try the outline while we look at the leaf and not the paper. Draw you’re your finger first on the page, makes sure its big enough. ( talk to them about noticing's as they go and then again in summary ). Explain how their eyes track, show them the saccades movement. ( How your Nature Detective eyes need to get as much information as possible).

Drawing strategies:
Guided Stages, Outline, inner line, veins, shapes:  talk through each stage.

Start at the top and keep working down the leaf, try not to let your attention go from top to bottom you might lose your spot. ( this is called a Fixation)
Demonstrate how to use the whole space, if needs be draw a dot at a starting and ending point, to help encourage use of whole paper.

Create the image using pencil, trace in thin drawing pen so that it can be seen more clearly and use watercolour paints, using all the same discussion points in reference to colour mixing.

The Zen of Seeing
An experiment in seeing with undivided attention

"Sit down somewhere on the grass anywhere you like, don’t talk just sit and relax.
Now let your eyes fall on whatever happens to be in front of you. It may be a plant or bush or a tree, or perhaps it is just some grass. Close your eyes for the next five minutes . . .
Now open your eyes and focus on whatever you observed before — that plant or leaf or dandelion. Look it in the eye, until you feel it looking back at you.

Feel that you are alone with it on Earth ! That it is the most important thing in the universe, that it contains all the riddles of life and death. It does! You are no longer looking, you are seeing.

Now take your pencil loosely in your hand and while you keep your eyes focused, allow your pencil to follow on the paper whatever the eye perceives"

This approach to art, named "seeing/drawing" by Franck, is a form of meditation, "a way of getting into intimate touch with the vision world around us, and through it . . . with ourselves." Unwavering attention is all-important. Through this approach we can pull down the walls that separate us from other people, animals, places, and things."

"Where there is revelation, explanation becomes superfluous. Curiosity is dissolved into wonder."

Frederick Franck

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