Taking a drawing class has been eye-opening for Megan Warnimont, a medical laboratory sciences major at Wright State University.
Warnimont, of Miller City, decided to take Beginning Drawing because she enjoyed drawing when she was younger and needed more hours to become a full-time student. She believes the drawing class will help her in her field of study by enabling her to pay more attention to small details on microscopic slides.
“And my understanding of negative versus positive space has helped me to figure out how different stains work on samples as well,” she said.
The Department of Art and Art History is appealing to non-art majors across campus to consider taking Beginning Drawing in order to sharpen their visual observation skills and change the way they think — abilities that can be used in everything from criminal justice to medicine to military affairs.
There are currently four sections of Beginning Drawing and Beginning Drawing II classes, with about 20 students in each section. But there is a capacity to add more classes.
Glen Cebulash, professor and chair of the Department of Art and Art History, said the course may appeal to students who took drawing or had an interest in it in high school and are looking for an elective course.
“A person who is not necessarily interested in art may in fact be very interested in the kinds of skills they can develop — the awareness, concentration on their visual field,” said Cebulash. “The foundations of drawing are going to be beneficial for them in ways that don’t necessarily have a lot to do with art.”
The idea is novel but not unique.
For example, New York City police officers have gone to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to take “The Art of Perception.” The course was designed to fine-tune their attention to visual details, some of which might prove critical in solving or preventing a crime.
Cebulash said drawing helps students see unconventional connections such as observing how a hand connects to the arm of a chair.
“And in walking into a crime scene or a place where there is evidence, you are making visual connections between things that don’t necessarily connect logically. You have to be able to see unconventional connections,” he said. “It’s hard for me to imagine that there is any discipline that wouldn’t benefit.”
Jeremy Long, associate professor of art, said the class should help students better understand the structural elements that make up their surroundings.
“It’s a way of thinking about things. It’s a way of seeing things,” he said. “That’s what’s exciting about it — it turns into something that’s unexpected.”
One of the class exercises is having students look at a famous painting and try to sketch it, using the pencil as an eye.
“By drawing it, the student discovers all of these things they did not previously see,” said Cebulash. “What they end up discovering in the paintings is invaluable. The pencil forces you to slow down. It forces you to observe things that your eye ordinarily would just glide over.”
Students are taught to apply critical thinking to the visual field.
“What we’re trying to do here is more akin to critical looking,” said Cebulash. “It really changes the way you see things.”
For example, students drawing objects are taught to observe the spaces between them, which change as the artist moves.
“This is the type of thing that most people don’t pay any attention to at all, but it is particular to visual arts education,” said Cebulash. “It requires you to not only look closely, but to see the spaces in between — the way a musician pays attention to the silence between the notes. The silence is as important as the sound.”
In his new book, “Stick Figures: Drawing as a Human Practice,” design historian D.B. Dowd says drawing should be seen as a tool for learning above all else, a way of observing the world. Dowd, a professor of art and American culture at the Washington University in St. Louis, told Quartz business news that drawing brings out our better qualities as people, forcing us to slow down, be patient and pay attention.
Cebulash said the courses teach the beginning of the drawing process so non-art majors — even if they might be a little out of their comfort zone — should not feel intimidated being in a class with art majors.
“Some of the best students I’m working with are engineering students or students who have never drawn before,” said Long. “They seem to focus wonderfully.”