"The sketch hunter moves through life as he finds it, not passing negligently the things he loves, but stopping to know them, and to note them down in the shorthand of his sketchbook."
Robert Henri

Drawing is not an exercise.
Exercise is sitting on a stationary bicycle and going nowhere.
Drawing is being on a bicycle and taking a journey.
For me to succeed in drawing, I must go fast and arrive somewhere.
The quest is to keep the thing alive...
--Jim Dine, 2003

I conceived of the split between the play brain and the art brain before encountering psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist’s concept of the divided brain, but they are amazingly similar. His concept is that the brain is capable of two kinds of attention at the same time, with a gating system (in the corpus callosum) that inhibits the function of one over the other.

It is not the old left-brain/right-brain reason/imagination model, which is long discredited, but rather a dual perspective which mostly resides in the left or right hemispheres (but not fully) and operates concurrently. Reason and imagination exist in both and are vital to both, and in humans (unlike animals) that focus is mediated by the frontal lobes. We can stand back from the world and regard it.

This interaction of dual focus and mediation means that the narrowly focused brain is task-driven and fascinated by functional logic. It’s about trying to figure out how to use what it sees to achieve goals (McGilchrist calls this “the Machiavellian”). It simplifies, models, quantifies and is precise. This is what I called the play brain.

The wide focus (“the Erasmian”) sees things contextually. It’s the seat of empathy, creativity, metaphor, implicit meaning and the reading of emotions. Unlike the narrow focus (which simplifies the world) it sees the world in an embodied fashion. In a previous post I attributed the word numina to describe how the player sometimes vests more in what he sees than is actually there, and this is very similar to McGilchrist’s idea of embodiment. In contrast to the play brain, the Erasmian is what I labelled the art brain.

Games are unique among all forms of culture because they engage both the Machiavellian and the Erasmian, the play and the art brains, at the same time. When playing, the player needs a game to be fairer than real life, simpler than real life, more empowering and fascinating than real life. It needs to enclose him in a world that all makes sense. This is what the play brain needs to have fun and so stay engaged.

However the art brain wants to see beyond that. So the world of the game, its audio-visual richness and character are a key tool of evoking those feelings that Tolstoy spoke of. Discoveries within it, things seen or heard, noticed momentarily during the passage of play are where the art brain lives for, and so an artistic game is one that confers feelings that its creator has to the art brain while the play brain plays.

This works especially well if the interactions within that context make sense. The most profoundly effective examples of artistic games are the ones that manage to marry both play brain and art brain together. So for example, the co-operative rules of Ico and Yorda have an art brain component because they are in context. The setting of Portal 2 within a gigantic lab explains its abstract play brain tests in context. When the two work together then the effect is almost a state of belief in the reality of the game world, which is what I call thauma.-unknown(I thought was a interesting/helpful look at Iain's idea)

We must slow down...pay attention to draw...the human being can only live in Present...at a space in time..to keep moving at a rapid pace is not good for humanity

See like an Artist: Negative Space


When you’re sitting in traffic and see the car in front of you, shift your perception to see just the space around the car. See the sky around the tree branches. Really ‘see‘ the shape of the space between the table legs. Seeing and being aware of not only the obvious and ‘significant‘ will lead you to be better artists but more importantly, it will train your mind to be aware. A step towards enlightenment.

When I am painting, I am just as much focused on the negative space as I am the main subject matter. To paint the proper shape of a shadow, I simply have to paint the shape of the light around it, what is left is shadow and vice versa.  When art lacks this awareness of both what is and isn’t ‘substantial’ it quite literally, lacks substance.

Use this paradigm shift in other areas of your life. Don’t know what you want from your career? Focus for a bit on what you absolutely DON’T want, whatever is left is closer to what you want.  Don’t know what kind of perfect mate you want? I bet you already know by now what you DON’T want.  Next time you find yourself bitching and moaning to yourself “I don’t know wanna do”…”I don’t know what I want for dinner”, stop thinking like a child and become aware of what you DON’T want and go get the opposite.

see male form

There is a lot more to drawing,then picking up a pencil..and attempting to render a like-ness of some-thing one might wish to portray by means of a drawing-A Shift in one brain must take place.It is a very pronounce shift into a meditative type state

Peirce’s Triadic Model – Interpreting Signs

Having an interpretant as part of his semiotic model was Peirce’s new and distinctive addition to understanding and defining signs.

Peirce did not believe that signification was a straightforward binary relationship between a sign and an object, and he viewed this innovative  part of his triad as how we perceive or understand a sign and its relationship to the object it is referring to.

A critical point in Peirce’s theory is that the meaning of a sign is created by the interpretation it stimulates in those using it. He reiterates this in his comment that  “a sign … addresses somebody, that is, creates in the mind of that person an equivalent sign, or perhaps a more developed sign.


Semiotics (also called semiotic studies) is the study of meaning-making, the study of sign process (semiosis) and meaningful communication. It is not to be confused with the Saussurean tradition called semiology, which is a subset of semiotics.[1][2] Semiotics includes the study of signs and sign processes, indication, designation, likeness, analogy, allegory, metonymy, metaphor, symbolism, signification, and communication.

The semiotic tradition explores the study of signs and symbols as a significant part of communications. As different from linguistics, however, semiotics also studies non-linguistic sign systems.

Semiotics is frequently seen as having important anthropological dimensions; for example, the Italian semiotician and novelist Umberto Eco proposed that every cultural phenomenon may be studied as communication.[3] Some semioticians focus on the logical dimensions of the science, however. They examine areas belonging also to the life sciences—such as how organisms make predictions about, and adapt to, their semiotic niche in the world (see semiosis). In general, semiotic theories take signs or sign systems as their object of study: the communication of information in living organisms is covered in biosemiotics (including zoosemiotics).

Drawing as a high form of direct experince

The Live Creature

John Dewey offers a new theory of art and the aesthetic experience. Dewey proposes that there is a continuity between the refined experience of works of art and everyday activities and events, and in order to understand the aesthetic one must begin with the events and scenes of daily life. This idea stands in opposition to the aesthetic theories presented by Immanuel Kant and also the proponents of German Idealism, which have historically been shown to favor certain heavily-classicized forms of art, known commonly as 'High Art' or Fine Art. Dewey argues for the validity of 'popular art' stating:

So extensive and subtly pervasive are the ideas that set art on upon a remote pedestal, that many a person would be repelled rather than pleased if told that he enjoyed his casual recreations, at least in part, because of their esthetic quality. The arts which today have most vitality for the average person are the things he does not take to be arts; for instance, the movie, jazzed music, the comic strip…[6]

We must recover the continuity of aesthetic experience with the normal processes of living. It is the duty of the theorist to make this connection and its implications clear. If art were understood differently by the public, art would gain in public esteem and have wider appeal.

The task is to restore continuity between the refined and intensified forms of experience that are works of art and the everyday events, doings, and sufferings that are universally recognized to constitute experience.[7]

His criticism of existing theories is that they "spiritualize" art and sever its connection with everyday experience. Glorifying art and setting it on a pedestal separates it from community life. Such theories actually do harm by preventing people from realizing the artistic value of their daily activities and the popular arts (movies, jazz, newspaper accounts of sensational exploits) that they most enjoy, and drives away the aesthetic perceptions which are a necessary ingredient of happiness.

Art has aesthetic standing only as it becomes an experience for human beings. Art intensifies the sense of immediate living, and accentuates what is valuable in enjoyment. Art begins with happy absorption in activity. Anyone who does his work with care, such as artists, scientists, mechanics, craftsmen, etc., are artistically engaged. The aesthetic experience involves the passing from disturbance to harmony and is one of man's most intense and satisfying experiences.

Art cannot be relegated to museums. There are historic reasons for the compartmentalization of art into museums and galleries. Capitalism, nationalism and imperialism have all played a major role.

Having an Experience

John Dewey distinguishes between experience in general and "an" experience. Experience occurs continually, as we are always involved in the process of living, but it is often interrupted and inchoate, with conflict and resistance. Much of the time we are not concerned with the connection of events but instead there is a loose succession, and this is non-aesthetic. Experience, however, is not an experience.

An experience occurs when a work is finished in a satisfactory way, a problem solved, a game is played through, a conversation is rounded out, and fulfillment and consummation conclude the experience. In an experience, every successive part flows freely. An experience has a unity and episodes fuse into a unity, as in a work of art. The experience may have been something of great or just slight importance.

Such an experience has its own individualizing quality. An experience is individual and singular; each has its own beginning and end, its own plot, and its own singular quality that pervades the entire experience. The final import is intellectual, but the occurrence is emotional as well. Aesthetic experience cannot be sharply marked off from other experiences, but in an aesthetic experience, structure may be immediately felt and recognized, there is completeness and unity and necessarily emotion. Emotion is the moving and cementing force.

There is no one word to combine "artistic" and "aesthetic," unfortunately, but "artistic" refers to the production, the doing and making, and "aesthetic" to appreciating, perceiving, and enjoying. For a work to be art, it must also be aesthetic. The work of the artist is to build an experience that will be experienced aesthetically.

The Act of Expression

Artistic expression is not "spontaneous." The mere spewing forth of emotion is not artistic expression. Art requires long periods of activity and reflection, and comes only to those absorbed in observing experience. An artist's work requires reflection on past experience and a sifting of emotions and meanings from that prior experience. For an activity to be converted into an artistic expression, there must be excitement, turmoil and an urge from within to go outward. Art is expressive when there is complete absorption in the subject and a unison of present and past experience is achieved.

There are values and meanings best expressed by certain visible or audible material. Our appetites know themselves better when artistically transfigured. Artistic expression clarifies turbulent emotions. The process is essentially the same in scientists and philosophers as well as those conventionally defined as artists. Aesthetic quality will adhere to all modes of production in a well-ordered society.

The Expressive Object

The fifth chapter Dewey turns to the expressive object. He believes that the object should not be seen in isolation from the process that produced it, nor from the individuality of vision from which it came. Theories which simply focus on the expressive object dwell on how the object represents other objects and ignore the individual contribution of the artist. Conversely, theories that simply focus on the act of expressing tend to see expression merely in terms of personal discharge.

Works of art use materials that come from a public world, and they awaken new perceptions of the meanings of that world, connecting the universal and the individual organically. The work of art is representative, not in the sense of literal reproduction, which would exclude the personal, but in that it tells people about the nature of their experience.

Dewey observes that some who have denied art meaning have done so on the assumption that art does not have connection with outside content. He agrees that art has a unique quality, but argues that this is based on its concentrating meaning found in the world. For Dewey, the actual Tintern Abbey expresses itself in Wordsworth's poem about it and a city expresses itself in its celebrations. In this, he is quite different from those theorists who believe that art expresses the inner emotions of the artist. The difference between art and science is that art expresses meanings, whereas science states them. A statement gives us directions for obtaining an experience, but does not supply us with experience. That water is H
tells us how to obtain or test for water. If science expressed the inner nature of things it would be in competition with art, but it does not. Aesthetic art, by contrast to science, constitutes an experience.

Continuous line drawings work best with in-depth observation of your subject, without interference from your thinking mind. According to Smithsonian Studio Arts:

…continuous line drawing is actually a very powerful way to create a piece that is both hard edged and fluid, representational and abstract, rational and emotional all in one.

Mustard Seed School

Research bears out further benefits (see end of blog for references):

  • Observational drawing grounds young children, whose thoughts are often full of imagination and fantasy, in reality  (Fox, 2010)
  • Drawing takes observation beyond simple sensory perception and allows children to organize knowledge and understanding (Fox, 2010)
  • Learning to draw with accuracy helps children to filter speculations and false theories out from what was actually observed in the subject or process (Fox & Lee, 2013)
  • Children develop new theories as they draw and observe (Ainsworth, Prain, & Tytler, 2011)
  • Children retain more of what they learn in an observation when they draw vs. when they do not (Fox & Lee, 2013)
  • Teachers may assess what children have learned by what they are paying attention to in their drawings

Most of what we see are objects that occupy space, from the cup of coffee in your hand to the trees and buildings lining the street. We are surrounded by configurations of matter that pierce reality and comprise positive space. Not “positive” in the good sense of the word, but as yang is to yin: the opposite of the void that is negative space.
It is through this shadowy emptiness that we walk, talk, see, and live; negative space is the impossible cellophane layer that drapes the known world and is invisible to all but to the most perceptive minds.
It is possible to learn to see negative space though, in both the visual and imagined worlds. The first step is developing the ability to see, and the second is learning—as romantic poet John Keats put it—to be “capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.”
Chris Messina from "Seeking Genius in Negative Spaces"

"Are there not thousands in the world who love their fellows even to the death, who feel the giant agony of the world, and more, like slaves to poor humanity, labor for mortal good?"-John Keats