Friday, March 30, 2007

Teaching a old dog new tricks

I have a bad habit of buying "workbooks" - books where you are given certain assignments to complete while following the text - with good intentions, fully planning to complete them and thereby acquire a new skill or personal insight or whatever, but somehow I never actually do the work. The best example I can thing of is Sam Keen's Your Mythic Journey, which is a really terrific book about using autobiography and journaling to identify the myths that underpin your worldview, the "truths" about how the world works that you were raised with and that color the way you interact with the world. Great book. Wonderful exercises to help you figure out your authentic self and "re-write" the stories you tell yourself about your life (another way in which people get "stuck".) Did I ever *do* the work? No. I still have the book, and periodically I think it would be really valuable to follow thru with it, but I never have.

So right now I'm reading and *doing the work* of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Betty Edwards' classic manual on learning to see differently in order to improve one's drawing skills. I've previously said that I draw on a grade-school level (I may even have said kindergarten), and it turns out that a lot of people really do stop developing the skills needed to draw well when they're young - due to a combination of negative reinforcement from self and others (I mean, who would continue to pursue an activity when people make fun of your results?), and the hardening of certain representations (a house looks like this, a person looks like that) in one's drawing. Edwards teaches you to see differently - to stop trying to make, for instance, a nose that looks like a nose, and instead to draw the shadows and light, positive and negative space, that end up representing that nose, that chair, etc. The before and after illustrations of student work - the first exercises are done before reading any of her instruction, so the student has a baseline to look back on and see how far they've come - are really astonishing in some cases. So I'm hopeful, and I'm having fun, and I'm really feeling like I'm going to complete this one. Keep your fingers crossed for me - I'll see about posting some results when I'm able.

No comments: