Friday, June 1, 2007

More on Art Vs Language

I didn't intend to come back to this subject, at least not right away, but today Cohn has made a point that sparked my interest. Cohn mentions a study that has found that South African children often misinterpret "naturalistic" details in western drawings like perspective, and shading. However as they get older the children either learn or grow accustomed to these aspects and the amount of misinterpretation drops.

On this he concludes that “realistic” drawings (Or as he calls them iconic drawings.) are not the "natural" ways human were wired to draw. And implies that we shouldn’t draw this way.

This seems very shaky to me, children don't know how to read or write and must be taught it. Writing isn't even natural to humans, many tribes, across the world, some dating back tens of thousands of years, don't write, does this mean we should abandon writing? Even when children first lean to speak they don't know every word, and some larger ones can take them a long time to learn and remember, should we abandon these words? I say we shouldn’t and nor should we abandon "naturalistic" drawing techniques in comics, they have an important place in it's history and in it's future, but more on that next time.

Addition: Cohn has updated his entry to say that he is not speaking out against the use of perspective, that he's "just analyzing". The problem is that when you take all of his work into account his saying that: "our minds' graphic system is not predisposed to it." comes off not as an unbiased assessment, but one of condemnation.

Also, the use of one scientist’s observation of children in one culture to make a sweeping judgment about how all adult brains are wired is a braking of the scientific method. I do not claim to know what is inherent in human mind and I’m wary of those who do; and given the effects of culture on humans such claim seems even weaker. Obviously the problem of culture is why the study, and Cohn focus on children, but even by 5 their native culture could have already colored how these children expect art to be.

At the end is a quest for the "natural way" humans draw even worth it? All groups of people found in the world have a culture and this brings with it the need to pass down information, learning, which requires both instruction and exposure, can any drawings we find ever be considered natural?

1 comment:

Neil said...

Since you commented on mine...

Really, I'm flattered you've been giving so much thought to my writing. I'm all for more discussion rather than less, so please keep posting, whether you disagree or agree!

Oh, and since you asked... I found your blog via the backlinks on my posts.