For anyone from K-12 students to educated professionals and active seniors – as well as Art Of Your Mind Online — art observation is an entertaining, eye-opening experience. Visit our Who page to find out more about the range of people that benefit from this presentation.

Your mind is your torturer, yet you worship it. It doesn’t have to be this way!

Why Look at Art?

Many people prefer to view art online rather than in person. But a small but growing faction of traditionalists argue that the digital experience fails to capture the artwork’s gravity, presence, scale, textures, nuances, essences and spirituality.

Then there’s the way that what is going on in your own life affects how you interpret and connect with art. A color or pattern, for instance, may trigger a memory from your own childhood or a personal loss. That’s why, Hodge says, it’s important to take a step back and try to observe the work objectively.

There are a wide variety of methods for looking at art that take into account learning styles and age appropriateness. These approaches organize questions and information logically, beginning with external/physical observations and progressing to interpretations and values judgments. These include:

The Art of Observation

The observational skills that enable clinical precision are essential to all kinds of scientific study, from biology and astronomy to neuroscience and medicine. In her book, The Art of Observation, Anne McCrary Sullivan29 argues that the arts-especially poetry-offer unique value in teaching this observational skill because of the strong link between literary craft and scientific observation.

The first activity takes students through a group analysis of a painting-without knowing the title, artist or general subject beforehand. As the professors Rizzo and Niepold guide the discussion, students try to describe the work using visual descriptors without offering interpretation or any subjective input.

Despite its logical, analytical nature, science leaves little room for introspection. So KCU anatomy fellows may be surprised to learn that a newer element of the program includes an exercise called The Art of Observation that encourages introspection and right-brain thinking. It is a series of carefully crafted exercises that take place in an art museum.

The Art of Creating

It doesn’t matter if you’ve never taken an art class or can barely draw a straight line. Picking up a pencil or paintbrush is art — it’s an act of self-expression. You’re creating something that represents you and your beliefs, and that’s beautiful in and of itself.

It’s not just a feeling of satisfaction either; creating visual art stimulates the brain and can help lower stress levels. The creative process releases the neurotransmitter dopamine, which reduces negative emotions and improves self-esteem. Creating art also helps people focus on positive life experiences and reframes their mental state of mind.

A study published in The Arts in Psychotherapy found that the act of drawing and painting boosted blood flow to the brain’s reward center, the medial prefrontal cortex. This is because the creation of a work of art brings together elements that already existed – like tone, words or paints on canvas – in a new combination.

The Art of Thinking

There is a natural belief, in spite of what many of us have thought about education, that there exists an Art of Thinking; that it is the more or less delicate matter on which impressions work most freely and cruelly. Even writers endowed with the real literary gift are nervous subjects on whom the operation of ideas is more or less painful. Their minds are, like those of all other men, open to blighting shadows.