January 2017





The modern Olympic Games in its early beginnings considered the highest state of man, or the ideal of man, to be well versed in body and mind (Stromberg, 2012). As a result of this, from 1912-1952 art was considered an Olympic practice. Medals were awarded to artists just as they are to athletes (Stromberg, 2012). But what would incite someone to place these two practices into the same type of competition? I would like to think that they share an element of purity. They are pure in the sense that he who is an athlete and he who is an artist has a highly intrinsic motivation for practicing their discipline, and that because of this element the product of their efforts embody expression. They also have a comparable way of working towards their goals, the artist works to achieve a harmonious manipulation of medium through research and experimentation, as does the athlete aim to achieve a harmonious manipulation of his body through training. Artist and athlete require discipline and knowledge of technique, but this can only take them so far; from there, the ability to respond and improvise to situations as they appear is essential and conducive to new knowledge. This ability for improvisation and controlled spontaneity comes as a result of preparation. As John Dewey tells us, spontaneity, if it is not to be empty, is not a random act but one that comes from long periods of activity (Dewey, 2005:75).

While I do not intend to argue the similarity between artists and athletes, I do intend to argue that ‘training,’ or in this case, research and experimentation, is a critical characteristic of the artistic practice, moreover that the art practice is one conducive to extensive research and consequently conducive to knowledge in a similar way to the sciences.

Experimentation is not only at the heart of scientific research but also in that of art. As opposed to scientific research, where the necessary methodologies can be found for solving specific questions, artists have to cross disciplines and develop methods for research and creation that best embody qualitative relationships between substance and form. The aim of the artist, as opposed to the scientist, is not always to establish an absolute truth, but rather to satiate mans thirst for meaning through constant questioning of knowledge.

This essay investigates the symbiotic relationship between art and research, specifically it suggests that art has the power to enrich our experiences and deepen our level of learning and understanding in disciplines other then the arts. It proposes a framework for an artistic practice that is research led as well as research conducing by identifying a relationship between research, experience, experiment and art. Within these relationships it questions the role of reflection and the autobiography, and journal keeping as a significant component of discovery.

To introduce my position I will first offer an introduction to John Dewey, an American psychologist, philosopher and a key figure in education and social reform (Leddy, 2016). This will take the form of a literary analysis of central concepts from his book Art as Experience that will serve to establish the centrality of art in education and simultaneously in personal development and knowledge production. I will focus on his views regarding experience, perception, expression, and the substance of art as the fundamental theoretical groundwork for the development of my thesis.

Because Dewey’s Art as Experience is published in 1934, this section will be complemented by validation of Dewey’s discourse within contemporary culture through case studies of Elliot W. Eisner’s The Arts and the Creation of Mind as well to Black Mountain College as a non-traditional higher educational institution based on Dewey’s ideals. In Eisner’s work he resumes to investigate the role of experience in art and art in learning, and proposes ways in which art can refine forms of thinking. On the other hand, Black Mountain College will be an example of the practical application of Dewey’s philosophy and the success of experiential learning through the arts.

After the analysis of the aforementioned theories in relation to the topic of art and learning (or research) the following section compiles a premise for research methods, among them field notes and diaries, as a form of developing a language of art. Finally, I propose and break down inherent characteristics of journal keeping. On the one hand there are types of notes, and on the other is an understanding of journals based on the capturing of thoughts and differentiating between thought and thinking, as well as the role of drawing as both a thinking mechanism and a tool for research and growth. I discuss the role of the journal as a tool in creating awareness and enhancing memory, in experimenting, in developing a visual language, and as a space for reflection

By understanding the unique approach to learning that was developed by Dewey, further pursued by Eisner, and implemented at Black Mountain college this paper seeks to formulate a critical analysis on the success of placing experience and experiment at the heart of the artistic practice. It appropriates their attitudes towards exploration and process as opposed to results and sheds light on the role that drawing can have in thinking.

Can our established models of learning be altered in response to cognitive functions of the arts and change not only our perception of knowledge, but the way we interact with it?

*** Please use the contact form if you’d like to read the complete essay, I will be happy to send you the extended PDF version.


July 2016



In a private sphere, journals (sketchbooks and diaries) have developed a language for understanding and developing ideas; in fine art and literature artists have further attempted to express the human condition and abstract ideas about emotion publicly. Today a combination of these languages is evermore dominant in the work of contemporary illustration. With an insight to not only the content of their work but also the thoughts about their content or the process behind the creation artists are able to enhance the overall experience of the 2 dimensional surface.

How do we illustrate thought? How can we develop illustrations that resemble essential characteristics of thinking? A combination of artistic and literary tendencies distinguish the work of contemporary illustrators who express thought as the protagonist of their narratives. From Jean Michel Basquiat to contemporary illustrators David Shrigley and Frank Hohne, the associative nature of thought processes is the impact factor that pulls you into, and through, the narrative of their work.

A case study of Jean-Michel Basquiat, based on existing literature, serves as a link to tendencies of Neo Expressionist art. Common traits of Neo- Expressionism concerning composition, emotional tone, pictorial representation, and use of color, are also common traits useful in illustrating thought. Furthermore, literary methods are also attributed to the creation of these common traits. This case study serves to contextualize these tendencies within the art movement and within literature to establish a foundation of qualities for comparison.


*** Please use the contact form if you’d like to read the complete essay, I will be happy to send you the extended PDF version.