The way our minds process the world around us is very elusive. Thoughts can, at times, be all consuming, but they can also be extremely fickle. Sometimes, we make connections that are obvious, and other times we jump to conclusions that are incorrect (however right they may feel in the moment). So, how do we make sense of these invisible thoughts and learn about our unique perception of the world through them?
Although quarantimes were extremely difficult for everyone, the lockdown did allow time for Andrea Kantrowitz’s thoughts to wander, eventually revealing themselves in the form of drawings.
Andrea has penned a book that delves deep into our psyche and its connection with creativity.
Andrea – an artist and educator – took her decades of experience as a teacher and penned a book that delves deep into our psyche and its connection with creativity. The official release date for Drawing Thought: How Drawing Helps Us Observe, Discover, and Invent is on October 11th, 2022. Luckily, though, for those of us in NYC who are a little impatient, she’s already showcasing drawings and snippets of text from her book in an exhibition in Chelsea. This exhibition, Unbound: Drawings from the book, Drawing Thought, is on display – at The Painting Center in Chelsea – until October 1, 2022.
Late in the afternoon on September 8th, I made my way to The Painting Center (on 27th Street) for the opening reception of Andrea’s exhibition. The way the artist presented her work caught my eye immediately. Many of the drawings were combined with text that was handwritten – by her – directly on the pieces themselves. The off-white tint of the sketchbook pages (which served as the backdrop for many of the drawings), provided a warm and intimate environment for the entire exhibit. Andrea was letting us into her mind, inviting us to explore the process of thought she experienced when drawing each of these pieces.
Unafraid to deviate away from the usual squares and rectangles expected at an art exhibition, some of the sketches were on pieces of paper that had been imperfectly torn into irregular shapes. The pen and pencil drawings dictated the shape of the paper it was presented on, rather than the other way round (which is the usual practice). Conventionally, a canvas size is selected then the drawings or paintings are created on the canvas in a way that suits the size. God forbid the key subject of an art piece takes up too much or too little space. But Andrea clearly showed us that such concerns were unnecessary here.
I felt as though I was intruding on something private.
As I began reading the lines of pencil scribbles that wove around the subjects as drawn, I felt as though I was intruding on something private. Especially with the artist present in the gallery, it was as though I was seeing and reading something I shouldn’t be—a diary of sorts. But then an overwhelming curiosity took over. I wanted to read where Andrea’s mind wandered to on each page, and what associations she made that were perhaps different than mine.
In a pre-released excerpt from her book, Andrea talks about how we are influenced by our unique experiences that “shape [our] sense of reality.” Drawing helps bring out our differing inner worlds to the outer world, and helps us “get to know our own particular perspectives better.” Reading the train of thought of an artist, feathered with questions, answers, doubt, and certainty, is truly fascinating.
There was one line of text that stood out to me in the most unexpected way. On a page with sketches of snails, a line of text swirled along the curvature of a snail’s shell: “Why are you wasting time drawing snails?”
Andrea’s wandering thoughts threw me back in time to a memory I’d long forgotten. In year 7 (the equivalent of 8th grade in the USA), my art class teacher gave us an assignment that was rather unusual. She told us to spend some time doodling in our sketchbooks.
At the time, this instruction was contradictory to everything we’d been taught. Up until year 7, my classmates and I had been brought up in structured environments where everything was graded. We were separated into classes based on grades, which would eventually lead to a divide in which colleges we would attend and then what jobs we would have. We couldn’t see an aim or goal for this doodle, and had no idea how it would be graded.
Initially, when I read Andrea’s excerpt on how “we’ve built thinking machines,” I thought that she was alluding to the way in which we have structured our education system and society. The image of a mechanical belt that has many forks that separate one child from another came to mind. Although the system has its merits, it is undeniably rather machine-like. It’s easy to forget that along with its ability to organize the society we live in, this system also becomes the way in which we cultivate our future generations and the process in which the minds of the future will think. With all this in mind, there is very little room for wandering. It’s no wonder that my peers and I mocked that homework assignment as a waste of time.
Upon my second reading of this section, I’ve come to the conclusion that the author’s intent here is to say that humans have literally built complex machines, such as the computer. However, having experienced the exhibition and having read other snippets from Andrea’s book, her focus on the fluidity of consciousness and her explanations as to why children are “often more imaginative than adults,” allow me to believe that my first understanding is still relevant. I have already pre-ordered a copy of the book and shall have to read the next page in order to fully understand the meaning behind her words.
Andrea’s sketches reminded me of the copious amounts of doodles that filled my rough books (the notebooks used for taking private notes in class). Sometimes when I look through rough books from my past, I see the doodles that were a reflection of my state of mind and where my thoughts were at that specific moment in time.
Andrea writes: “drawings make our thoughts visible from the inside out,” and her words ring very true to me.
Andrea writes: “drawings make our thoughts visible from the inside out,” and her words ring very true to me. Although it seems obvious in hindsight, it was not my intention to do this when I was doodling at the time, so I had never made this connection before.
Andrea’s exhibition does this a lot. It brings her audience’s attention to details in the way we think, and to the little things that often go unnoticed. The exhibition is as much about the creative process and what it can lead us to, as it is about the ideas, thoughts and experiences we lose out on by inhibiting ourselves from drawing out our thoughts.
As a long-time educator and artist, Andrea’s interest in the overlaps between art and psychology have culminated in her book Drawing Thought: How Drawing Helps Us Observe, Discover, and Invent. Whilst waiting for the October 11th release, I highly recommend dropping by The Painting Center if at all possible. Her exhibition is an exciting sneak peek of the drawings that accompany her book, and will allow you to see how drawing out her wandering thoughts onto tangible pages has created a beautifully inspiring exploration of the mind through art.
© Katusha Jin (9/20/22) – Special for FF2 Media ®
LEARN MORE/DO MORE
You can read some of the pre-released excerpts here!
Bonus: Read about Yayoi Kusama – another woman in the arts – here!
CREDITS & PERMISSIONS
Photo Credits: All photos by Katusha Jin & used here by FF2 with her permission. All Rights Reserved.