Creativity and Cognitive Development in Art and Design: Week Two

On Thursday February the 4th (2016) I attended my Constellation study group called ‘Creativity and Cognitive Development in Art & Design’ where we looked at Visual Thinking led by Sarah.

Notes from the reading of: Arnheim, R. 1969, Visual Thinking, University of California Press, Berkley. Ch.1 pp 1-3 (Early Stirrings)

  • “The Sensualist philosophers have reminded us forcefully that nothing is in the intellect which is not previously in the senses”.
  • “…our youngsters learn by seeing and handling handsome shapes, and invent their own shapes on paper or in clay by thinking through perceiving. But in the first grade of elementary school the senses begin to lose educational status”.
  • “More and more the arts are considered as a training in agreeable skills, as entertaining and mental release”.
  • “As the ruling disciplines stress more rigorously the study of words and numbers, their kinship with the arts increasingly obscured, and the arts reduced to a desirable supplement; fewer and fewer hours of the week can be spared from the study of the subjects that, in everybody’s opinion, truly matter”.
  • “By the time the competition for college placement becomes acute, it is a rare high school that insists on reserving for the arts the time needed to make their practice at all fruitful. Rarer still is the institution at which a concern with the arts is consciously justified by the realization that they contribute indispensably to the development of a reasoning and imaginative human being”.
  • “This educational blackout persists in college, where the art student is considered as pursuing separate and intellectually inferior skills, although any major in one of the more reputable academic areas is encouraged to find healthy recreation in the studio during some of his spare hours”.
  • “The arts for which the bachelor and the master are certified do not yet include the creative exercise of the eyes and hands as an acknowledged component of higher education”
  • “The arts are neglected because they are based on perception, and perception is disdained because it is not assumed to involve thought”.
  • “…understand that the arts are the most powerful means of strengthening the perceptual component without which productive thinking is impossible in any field of endeavour”.
  • “The neglect for the arts is only the most tangible symptom of the widespread unemployment of the sense in every field of academic study”.
  • “What is most needed is not more aesthetics or more esoteric manuals of art education but a convincing case made for visual thinking quite in general. Once we understand in theory, we might try to heal in practice the unwholesome split which cripples the training of reasoning power”.

Notes from seminar discussion:

  • You have to have both perceiving and thinking together for reasoning.
  • Perceiving and thinking work together.
  • Senses form intellect – quite primitive.
  • Today’s issues – Perceiving and thinking is still separated. STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects more important. The arts are side-lined out.
  • The arts add something beyond logical. Counter argument – STEAM (STEM+Art=STEAM):
  • Visual thinking has a relevance in all subjects which enhances the ability in doing those things.
  • Research why the arts is an important part of learning – doing, engaging.


My Research:

  • Dallas Arts Learning Initiative: “DALI was created on one unabashedly idealistic, yet meticulously researched, premise — that students flourish when creativity drives learning.”
  • “Art can be applied in any subject matter”
  • Involvement in the arts is associated with gains in math, reading, cognitive ability, critical thinking, and verbal skill. Arts learning can also improve motivation, concentration, confidence, and teamwork – The best versatile, applicable and desirable qualities.
  • A 2005 report by the Rand Corporation about the visual arts argues that the intrinsic pleasures and stimulation of the art experience do more than sweeten an individual’s life — according to the report, they “can connect people more deeply to the world and open them to new ways of seeing,” creating the foundation to forge social bonds and community cohesion.
  • Arts education has been slipping for more than three decades, the result of tight budgets, an ever-growing list of state mandates that have crammed the classroom curriculum, and a public sense that the arts are lovely but not essential.
  • “If they’re worried about their test scores and want a way to get them higher, they need to give kids more arts, not less,” says Tom Horne, Arizona’s state superintendent of public instruction. “There’s lots of evidence that kids immersed in the arts do better on their academic tests.”
  • “Art does not solve problems, but makes us aware of their existence,” sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz has said.

“A mind is a terrible thing to waste” – Forest Long, 1972.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imaginations embraces the entire world, stimulating progression giving birth to evolution” – Albert Einstein.


Using my research I created a colourful mind map so I could have all my information clear and organised.
As my first mind map was quite pack out with information I cut down the information emphasising key data to simplify and bring out the main messages from this research proving art education is critically important to everyone.


  • A basis of learning through what you’re physically and practically doing.
  • Encouragement to use cognition to develop themselves.
  • Primary schools students learn through playing with materials. But then we stop. We STEM creativity with a focus on marks. Less art after primary.
  • SATS tested at age 7 – kids terrified of grades.
We were shown this illustration and theory in the seminar. Source:
We were shown this illustration and theory in the seminar. Source:
  • Everyone has got their own cognition.
  • Schools and teachers are rated.
  • Arnheim was ahead of his time.

How does this seminar relate to my practice as an Illustrator?

This seminar is very resourceful as it has informed my practice by boosting my awareness of the importance of stimulating my senses throughout my learning as they are vital intellectual tools used within our primitive instinct of interacting and intervening with materials and experiencing sensations. These personal vital tools (eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hands) allowing experiential learning exist to our advantage of igniting and evolving reasoning power functioning purely to inform us all of the world and reality we live making it clear that perceiving and thinking work together to inform and generate thinking. Through this realisation I see more clearly how visual thinking is linked internally to cognitive development enabling me to improve as an illustrator and benefit my wellbeing.

I’m more aware of what’s wrongly happening in the education system today. Learning about the inferior position and view of art has made me unsatisfied and passionate about declaring art as being a critically important part of education which I have evidence through an impressive basis of facts highlighting how beneficial art education is, as being incredibly valuable and greatly relevant to all subject matter. What I want for the future is the education systems to change by understanding how art education is connected directly to the best and our primitive strongest and rewarding source of cognitive development and to de-side-line art by using the STEAM (Science, Technology, English, Art and Maths) important subject’s system proposal.

I also feel from this seminar more empowered and proud as an illustrator as I am reminded of the constant encouragement to trust and utilise unique and imaginative ideas freely without fear of judgment as we are taught in my university that there is no right or wrong answer there is only make. By accepting and encouraging imagination in the form of new and exciting things is a stance for trusting in yourself and being fearless of self-expression which is exactly what drives change, exciting innovation and evolution in this ever changing world. I once again see how powerful the role of art is in the world as a universal human language making people aware of the problems that exist and to see differently.

We artists are intelligent leaders and watchful creators of the world who are vitally needed for achieving the dreams of a peaceful and sustainable world to come true as we are the empowering driving force for global ethical action. I am a problem solver and it is with my fearless imagination and making that I can empower my own and others voices to stand together for the purpose of change in a united global dream to make the world a better place for all as a transformed matter of a new reality.



Author: ellosweetmellon

I am 21 years old and I live in Cardif. My dream is to be a great illustrator that can sell and exhibit my work with pride.

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