Art, Drafting and Perception


I have been of on a journey of the imagination of late. It started with a paper I read about supporting learning of Bede children in Bangladesh (A.K.M. Maksud’s 2006 paper The Nomadic Bede Community And Their Mobile School Program) with boat schools. Now I am off on air travel with Merv Moriarty to contemplate art education in rural communities in Australia.

Merv Moriarty

Merv’s book The Eye’s Mind – the artist and the draftsman provides a fascinating insight into art and teaching. This is a link to an interview with Merv on ABC Radio Brisbane earlier this year. Merv believes passionately that, to make art that withstands the passing of time, technique, draftsmanship and an understanding of artistic structure are critical components of art. His book explores the link between these components.He offers an unequivocal ‘Yes’ to the question:

Can we connect with this other intelligence, not the one we use to tie our shoe laces or do sums, but the one that sees the connectedness between shapes and directions; the one that can see mathematical perfection between one shape and another and more than that, predict the turn in a line that will make the next mark resonate with those that went before?

Merv adds that:

We can employ the high speed mathematical calculations of the eye’s mind to arrive at a shape, a position of a shape or line, a direction or proportion or any other visual relationship we might require if we connect properly with the two spheres of our mind at the same time. We can let the deeper conscious mind calculate the perfect relationship between an existing line or shape and the one we are about to make. It is like being between thinking and feeling. It takes developed skill and is out of reach to the unpracticed hand and mind.

Merv discusses his interest in the deeper conscious mind in this interview. His book has a delightful passage in a section titled On Discovering Your Ability to Draw that will resonate with anyone working with learners:

The first marks that children make are marks only, or scribble. This is not early abstract picture making as the experience for the child may be the sheer joy of seeing the line form in the wake of the pencil, or the colour appear on the paper from a loaded brush. Slowly these marks become more meaningful and at a point in the child’s development through the medium of paper and pencil, he/she becomes conscious of a particular intention and will be annoyed when the mark just made fails an expectation. We humans are always changing, more obviously so when we are children and there comes the time when we want to draw the things we see and we want to draw them convincingly. Some of us develop this skill more easily and more naturally, yet the ability to draw convincingly is not just a talent given to some and not to others, it is a product of our intelligence and our physical dexterity and like other intellectual and physical skills it can be learned.

Merv has been flying around Australia for forty years sharing his vision with rural communities. These are some of the artists who participated in the 2010 program.

David Hockney

Thinking about Merv’s work and the distinction he draws between art and drafting took me back to a program screened recently about David Hockney‘s return to Yorkshire (David Hockney: A Bigger Picture). The program was filmed over three years and the write up of the DVD notes that “this documentary is an unprecedented record of a major artist at work. It captures David Hockney’s return from California to paint his native Yorkshire, outside, through the seasons and in all weathers. It tells the story of a homecoming and gives a revealing portrait of what inspires and motivates today’s greatest living British-born artist.” I thought the program was a master class in the discussion of perception during a remarkable phase of creativity in David Hockney’s work. His website reports that in 2008 “the subject matter of the East Yorkshire landscape in all its various seasons continues to stimulate Hockney. It is a landscape he has known since he was a boy when he used to work on a farm in the area during the school holidays.” That year he donated his 50 canvas painting, “Bigger Trees Near Warter” to Tate Britain.

I was fascinated by his use of photography and large format prints “as a means of production of the multi-canvas paintings to assist in the assembly of these massive works. His assistant photographs stages of the paintings on location and later makes prints in the studio of the individual panels in order to view them together at a smaller size to track the development of the painting. This method allows him to work on location yet in context of the work as a whole. (link)”


Reflecting on Merv’s thoughts and the inspiration of seeing David Hockney at work I realise that I need to explore perception issues more carefully. Whilst I am at it I ought to resolve distinctions between ‘gaze’ and ‘look’ too. I am wondering if art is to coaching and teaching that draftsmanship is to organising and instructing.

Photo Credits


Bratt Wood

Edging to Open Learning in Open Spaces

Last week I had the opportunity to visit Ballarat to discuss Edgeless Challenges and Opportunities. I have been thinking a great deal about learning spaces and the function (rather than the form) of the university of late. In part these thoughts have been stimulated by the University of Canberra’s development of teaching and learning commons.

This week I have been overwhelmed by the number of connections I am finding in relation to open learning and sharing. Some of these connections include:

many universities have an educational technology department that is focused on PD. Research institutes devoted to understanding the intersection of education, technology, systemic reform, and pedagogy are less rare. Several years ago, Phil Long (CEIT) and I discussed the need for a collaborative network of research labs/academies/institutes that were focused on researching learning technologies, not solely on driving institutional adoption. Perhaps it’s time to revisit that idea.

  • Discovering A.K.M. Maksud’s 2006 paper The Nomadic Bede Community And Their Mobile School Program after listening to an interview with Irene Khan. Boat schools bring a different perspective on edgeless learning opportunities and mobile learners. (Sharing this paper with a colleague brought me Simon Shum and Alexandra Okada’s paper Knowledge Cartography for Open Sensemaking Communities (2008) from the Journal of Interactive Media in Education and from another colleague Kenn Fisher’s discussion of Mode 3 Learning: The Campus as Thirdspace.)

  • Finding Cisco’s paper (June 2010) on Hyperconnectivity through a Diigo link. Hyperconnectivity is defined as:

active multitasking on one hand, and passive networking on the other. Passive networking consists largely of background streaming and downloading. Ambient video (nannycams, petcams, home security cams, and other persistent video streams) is an element of passive networking that opens up the possibility for the number of video minutes crossing the network to greatly exceed the number of video minutes actually watched by consumers.

  • In the past year, the Cisco paper notes that:

it has become clear that visual networking applications are often used concurrently with other applications and sometimes even other visual networking applications, as the visual network becomes a persistent backdrop that remains “on” while the user multitasks or is engaged elsewhere. This trend accompanies what is sometimes called the widgetization of Internet and TV, as network traffic expands beyond the borders of the browser window and the confines of the PC.

Traditional approaches to community regeneration which define communities in solely geographic terms have severe limitations. They often failed to deliver on key social capital improvements such as improving trust between residents or fostering a greater sense of belonging.

In this report we argue for a new approach to community regeneration, based on an understanding of the importance of social networks, such an approach has the potential to bring about significant improvements in efforts to combat isolation and to support the development of resilient and empowered communities.

  • Noting in Harold Jarche’s post Innovation through network learning that he now takes for granted his “network learning processes, using social bookmarking; blogging and tweeting, and these habits make collaboration much easier”. He observes that:

However, these habits and practices have taken several years to develop and may not come easily to many workers. One difficult aspect of adopting network learning in an organization is that it’s personal. If not, it doesn’t work. Everybody has to develop their own methods, though there are frameworks and ideas that can help.

All this before I started exploring the treasure trove that arrives in my in box each day from Stephen Downes! Early on in the week I noted Stephen’s comment on Education and the Social Web: “A theory of connections can’t be just about forming connections; it has to be about the organization, shape and design of networks of connection, patterns of connectivity. And to me, this means that we need to design learning systems to meet personal, not political, social or commercial, objectives.” Later in the week in a discussion of two MOOC posts, Stephen suggests that: “It’s about attitude and approach. If you’re looking for someone to tell you how it works, you will find a MOOC confusing and frustrating. But if you take responsibility for your own learning, you will find any connection in a MOOC either an opportunity to teach or an opportunity to learn. No instructions necessary.”

This week has underscored for me the rich possibilities that can occur in shared spaces. My thoughts keep returning to Dharavi and the opportunities for personal wayfinding in shared spaces that afford a collective, connected experience too. I am very hopeful that the University of Canberra’s Commons ideas can stimulate innovative use of place, space and time and lead to an exciting edgy practice.

Photo Credits

Kaptai Lake

Hole in Wall

Moodle on the Move


A day after posting this I received a link to a delightful flash mob video. I wondered if open learning spaces might stimulate this kind of event.

Other Links

2nd Annual Learning Commons Development and Design Forum, 30-31 March 2011, Brisbane.

  • Learning Commons strategy and organisational structures
  • Planning and design
  • Case studies and best practices
  • Digital information and technologies
  • Online resources