I learned who you are by contrast, through doing an artist residency several years ago for non-art majors going into education and special ed. Teaching art to linear thinkers gave me new appreciation for artists.
The idea, at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, was to give future teachers an intensive hands-on art experience so they could better include art in their early-childhood classrooms.
The two professors who co-taught the course and I wrote an article that recently got published in Teaching Artist Journal. Quoting myself from the article:
"My arrival in the classroom is usually greeted by enthusiastic, curious students eager to paint. Instead, I encountered a sea of dubious faces. From what I could see, these future teachers were neat, punctual, polite, practical, and analytical. In short, they were just what you might want in a teacher. But unlike the free-thinking art majors I knew, these undergraduates seemed uncomfortable with art. Certainly I could not imagine them teaching it. The professors pulled me aside and [informed me that] in some of their minds, abstract paintings were what one does with no discipline, no skills, no training, and no plan. My work was cut out for me.... It had never before occurred to me that the joy of expression was a practice that needed justification."
The first day, my objective was to give the students an easy relationship with making marks on paper. I wanted no chance of failure - for them or their future pupils.
I felt guardianship for the precious right-brained children who would be entrusted to the care of these fiercely linear teachers. My top priority was to ensure that they "caught" the experience of visual communication (versus verbal).
To do this, I began with an exercise I learned from mural artist Bernie Wilke: feeling drawings.
"I called out words like fear and joy. Eyes closed, with pencil on paper, the students drew these feelings. We related the marks they made to the way we hold our bodies when we think of these terms. If human beings all tend to use certain kinds of marks to express certain feelings, then it is true that we can understand and interpret art with our feelings."
Students who have attended my workshops know feeling drawings well, because we begin each painting that way, drawing with eyes closed. The difference being, the drawings are not based on emotions I name but whatever feelings the attendee has at the time.
What better way to begin an abstract painting than to sync up your arm, hand, and mind with the present moment? A perfect foundation. You can still see traces of my feeling drawing in the painting at top, "Just Head to Kataka."
Similarly, I like to paint without looking (attention on my title, following the feeling) during the middle, structural layer of my painting. This provides welcome unpredictability and, more importantly, gives me a chance to connect with the painting's spirit undistracted.
For more no-fail techniques used successfully in the residency (and pictures), see my blog - or read the full journal article, Moving Fiercely Linear Preservice Teachers into the Joys of Integrating Art in the Classroom, which goes deeper and reveals happy outcomes.
Also, the university made a 4-minute video on the residency: