A Little Perspective
Not only was the 15th-century artist an accomplished sculptor, engineer, and painter, he was an early adopter of a process that allows us (umm, artists, I guess) to render objects in two dimensions as we would actually see them in real life, or 3D, to bank upon a popular trend in movies these days.
That process is known as perspective (from the latin perspicere–to see through), and it allows illustrators, painters, and architects to visualize a real-world image on a flat piece of paper. The Italian painter Giotto (a bit before Leonardo’s time) and his contemporaries struggled with it, and the results were often quite funny. By the time DaVinci began sketching the Last Supper in 1495, the laws of perspective were well known and being applied in masterful ways. If you have a chance, Google “perspective last supper” and see for yourself. But I digress, and I fear my time spent taking notes (and dozing) in art history classes is showing.
As an illustrator, I often take myself to task to look at things differently. The first way to interpret something visually is not always the best way. For as many paths a poet can take to express himself or herself, an artist can shift focus, encircle, move towards or move away from a certain image, depending on what they wish to convey. In short, a change of perspective.
I’m often called upon to visit area classrooms and libraries, and blab about (sorry, discuss) some of the methodologies I employ as “art monger” to books and magazines for those under 4 feet. In the early days of my vocal dissertations, I would often struggle to find the perfect analogy for the manner in which I process thought, then eventually arrive at a solution. Until I saw the movie Dead Poet’s Society.
In a now somewhat famous scene, Professor Keating (Robin Williams) has his students stand atop their desks and challenges them to see their world in a different way. Armed with a massive dose of movie bravado, I descended upon my next classroom visit with everything I needed; and then some.
The first thing I do is check on the structural integrity (or lack thereof) of the desks. Not wishing to be sued by parents or school boards, I watch for anyone who may struggle with this operation, but have never come across a student who did not wish to attempt this feat of classroom daring-do! Once in the air (so to speak), I ask the kids to look around. “What do you see?” Never is there a shortage of exasperated replies, the most common being “I know it’s my classroom, but it looks SO different!” Another perspective changed.
And this is not the only tool in my arsenal of “viewpoint adjusting.” Sometimes I will ask one of the kids to stand on their head (not while perched on their desks–I have some common sense), or hold one hand over an eye, or view their classroom through a piece of tinted plastic. I’ve even gone to the lengths of blindfolding someone, or putting earplugs and headphones on a pupil at the same time, effectively shutting off all verbal communication and ambient sounds. The most fun exercise comes when I hand a small mirror to a child, then ask him or her to use it to walk backwards through the halls and into the room.
These maneuvers are almost always accompanied by plenty of laughter, whether because of the absurdity of standing on–and not sitting in–their learning furniture, or perhaps due to the fact that their eyes have been opened just a bit further.
So how do you change your students’ perspectives? Field trips? Occasional notes to them to say how well they’re doing? Short of hoisting them into the air (my job), think about ways you can improve and adjust their outlook. When you change the way a child sees one thing, you’ve changed the way they see everything.
Teach. Learn. Enjoy!