Thinking is making note of connections between things in the mind, the confluence of memories and observation. We draw links, draw up plans, draw conclusions. The prevalence of the drawing metaphor in speaking suggests a deep level understanding of the visual understructure to thinking. The look of the whole, with all the interrelated patterns that flow through it are structure. Drawing puts emphasis on the qualities and association that caught attention and not the label and category. It brings out the value of the subject for the individual and not generalities about it. The brilliant psychiatrist Alfred Adler thought having art around was important to every child’s education because it was teaching values.
Beyond developing a relationship with reality drawing is a way of mapping the relationships in ideas. Most visual thinking happens in our minds as we live and react to what’s going on around us. Built on the understanding of what to expect from spatial structure, may scientists use drawing to work out relationships and influences. Recently I was looking at Michael’s Faraday’s drawings of magnetic fields at a time when no one had any insight into them. He observed magnetic filings and did drawings that look very much like some of the energy fields in paintings by Alex Grey. Core structures turn up in many different realms. The effort to understand consciousness needs images to encompass to scope of such a big concept. Science long used the idea of elegance, the rightness of an idea felt in its beauty. Paying attention to beauty in a whole scene frees us from the tyranny in the separateness of things and trains insight into what matters. It unifies what language divides. Our innate sense of harmony tells us what fits and what doesn’t. Drawing both develops and utilizes visual sensitivity.
Even doodles show what kind of rhythms and relations are interesting. Most doodles have a fractal order that depends on the motion of the whole for its implications. Vary the size of the elements as you doodle and let the fractal beauty emerge. Denis Dutton in his book “The Art Instinct” suggests that humans have an innate feel for beauty. Nobel prize winning scientist David Bohm called it a sense of what fits. Since so much of our conceptual language depends on comparison to physical spatial relationships like ‘more’, ‘where’ and ‘which’, finding a particular way of drawing that maps personal thought and preference could extend conceptual ability. Because art has been marginalized, treated as something to be done and appreciated by a few, everyone has been denied the development of mental power that comes from conscious use of whole picture thinking.
For me drawings are a way to pose philosophical questions. There is not a verbalized idea but an effort to integrate different worldviews that requires an overarching integration of perspectives. Visual philosophy begins with reflecting on this enlarged big picture and paring it down so some new aspect of the structure shows. Commonality is there in the universal actions of living which we translate into concepts. Using art to become more sensitive to the messages in the look of things is available to everyone whether looking or doing. Just because your school art teacher didn’t like what you did doesn’t mean you can’t draw.