By Pippa Sherriff
The Creative Researcher
Richard Attenborough Centre
Tuesday, 5th February 2008
I recently attended the above one-day session, along with Amy and Magnus, and felt it well deserved a blog review. Although the session came under the University of Leicester Staff Development Centre umbrella, the co-facilitator Geri Grogan is herself a practising artist and art teacher. The session was of particular relevance to my personal research area but I’d consider that it had much wider benefits to anyone working within a research community.
The brief for the workshop read that it would help participants to identify issues within their research where creative thinking would be useful and introduce them to the theories of creativity. Through the use of art, participants will develop their creativity and become more flexible and inventive in their thinking.
Although it’s actually stated quite clearly I for one was not expecting the session to be quite so practical, which as it happens was the real bonus of the day. I felt also that other attendees, maybe not so familiar with drawing, found the environment non-threatening and people’s perceived inhibitions about ‘I can’t draw…’ were treated with sensitivity and encouragement throughout the day. To begin with we were encouraged to draw pictures of when we feel the most creative in our life and then at work and share these with the rest of the group. From the opposing perspective we also drew a picture to symbolise when we feel at our least creative and a problem we are currently encountering that maybe needs a creative solution and we returned to these later in the afternoon.
The next part covered some theory on the difference between left and right side brain activities. As an advocate of Betty Edwards ‘Drawing on the right side of the brain’, I pre-empted where we were maybe going on this one. Still the exercises of a blind contour drawing and an upside-down drawing illustrated how such activities can increase awareness of our own mind and how it works. From here we can maybe ‘open doors’ into more creative solutions to problems in both our personal and working lives.
In the afternoon we undertook a group painting activity, based on Matisse's La Danse. We were each given a small square (12 in total) of a copy of a painting to work from. With a palette of primary colours, and using sponges rather than brushes, we had about 20 minutes to make a start on painting an enlargement of the section we’d been allocated. Then we moved round, keeping our own palette of colours, and spent 5 minutes or so working on other sections. For the final part we worked in pairs. In turn we gave verbal instructions to each other whilst the section of painting was obscured to the person painting. Once dry all 12 sections were placed together to display the overall picture (see below). This exercise emphasised the worth of looking outside what can sometimes be our insular perception of a situation and the value of embracing a creative team approach to the bigger picture.
The session ended by returning to our individual ‘big problems’ and we were encouraged to offer creative solutions to each other’s current dilemmas! Overall this was a very interesting and beneficial session and one that I’d strongly recommend.
The Attic (a name which commemorates our first physical location) is, first and foremost, a site for the research students of the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester: a virtual community which aims to include all students, be they campus-based and full-time, or distance-learning and overseas. But we welcome contributions from students of museum studies - and allied subject areas - from outside the School and from around the world. Here you will find a lot of serious stuff, like exhibition and research seminar reviews, conference alerts and calls for papers, but there's also some 'fluff'; the things that inspire, distract and keep us going. After all, while we may be dead serious academic types, we're human too.