As humans we all possess what I call a Drawing Mind, a piece of ourselves that makes sense of the world through creating a drawn line. Think about it:  Drawing is really just thinking in a visual form. In fact, our brains are wired to do it; one third of the brain is devoted to the visual cortex, after all. Chances are drawing was your first way of expressing yourself, through “scribbles” and marks on a page. When you gave it up – and here again, chances are like most adults you did - you left behind a sizable portion of your brain capacity and the chance to connect to the world around you in different and useful ways.

We give up on drawing for any number of reasons -“I can’t draw”, “I barely have time to do what I have to do”, “Drawing is for kids or artists, not me” – but mostly because we forget how the experience refocuses and positively reshapes our world.  Like most of contemporary society, we don’t value visual thinking like we should because we don’t understand the value it brings to our communities overall.


The Drawing Lab can change that! 

It is about unleashing the power of  visual thinking and giving you insight and inspiration toward applying that capacity, for your own benefit, and for the benefit of the world around you.

Here’s something else to consider:  Visual thinking is really more important now than ever, especially as imagery and visual clues define and redefine our culture and decision making, and our interaction with, and dependence on, the written word becomes more and more fleeting.  Schools now teach and employ visual thinking – or so-called design thinking – in recognition of how much creativity and spatial constructs can improve problem solving skills. Global businesses, governments, and nongovernmental agencies have embraced the approach, as well, as they have come to grasp its power as a vital tool for reframing and resolving critical issues that will shape the world to come.

An aside: recently a well known MIT professor stopped me on the path of our children’s school and asked if he could come to my studio to learn to draw. This distinguished academic travels around the world lecturing on complicated mathematics.  But too often he was finding that he left his audience confused and his point, lost. Over time, he had an epiphany:  maybe if he could draw his ideas, people might better access and understand his theories.  What stopped him?  His fear of drawing.

Given the way the world works today and is likely to work tomorrow, it is time to literally rethink drawing. We need to develop a fluency with our Drawing Mind so we can tap into it for the many uses and applications it offers.  We each need a “flexible pencil” - a drawing ability that can be called upon to do anything we want it to do without fear or worry about the outcome.

As an artist, teacher and researcher I see this need everyday when I walk into a school and students ask: “What are we drawing today?” and “where will our pencils will lead us?”.  These are questions more and more adults are beginning to wonder about as well, whatever their walk of life or their professional path.

Classrooms across the country are filled with many kinds of minds. Active, creative, struggling, brilliant, wild, energizing minds. But as these minds sit at desks, and are asked to learn to think in new and varied ways, the majority of them are inert in too many essential areas, in some very elemental ways.

Our brains are sophisticated, complex, and marvelous machinery. They are overwhelmingly and inherently powerful by design. They are often mysterious in how they process.  And they are too often, untapped.

Let’s start recognizing them for all that we know they can do, and leave it to our imaginations and delight to discover how much more they will do – if we give them the chance to do it.

Join me in the Drawing Lab to re-connect with, and to tap into, your own Drawing Mind.  I will set the stage and will show you what you might not have known before:  you already have all the right tools.


Deborah Putnoi is a visual artist, educator and researcher. She is the  author of The Drawing Mind.

Deb has an M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, a 5th Year Graduate Degree from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and a B.A./B.F.A. from Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (joint degree program). She has shown her work in solo and group exhibitions nationally to critical acclaim and her worked is included in many significant collections. She has taught in many settings over the past twenty years including elementary and secondary schools, universities, and community organizations. Putnoi also worked for many years as a researcher with Howard Gardner at Project Zero working on research projects focusing on community art centers, museums and school learning.

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