Sunday, April 11, 2010

I Can't Draw And Why I Care About It


Square, cube and tesseractImage via Wikipedia
All my life, I couldn't draw... Art class in school was tormentedly waiting for a 45 minute period to end.  While everyone else seemed to be creating relative masterpieces.  I was scratching away.   Another word for this problem is Constructional Apraxia, which is an inability to copy 2-dimensional drawings or 3-dimensional assemblies.

Late in life, somehow I knew that trying to learn to draw would be a good thing so I took advantage of a free drawing class at the Fleisher Memorial Art School.  They have truly excellent teachers there.  My teacher came from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, one of America's finest art schools.  He said he liked teaching here because  despite our lack of talent we were truly excited about learning to draw... as opposed to a video student who had to learn drawing as an elective.  He started us out with just drawing shapes:  circles, ovals, squares, rectangle and then showed us how to put them together to draw some still life.  So I started to learn something about proportion, negative space, and the 8 tones of value.  I actually began to draw something as simple as a cocktail glass.  Good thing.  Otherwise I would never have made it through the neuropsych exam up at Columbia.
During my test at Columbia, I had to copy a Rey-Osterrieth drawing, a complex drawing which looks something like the above figure.  Apparently, though drawing the Rey-Osterrieth drawing can point out other problems such as problems managing whole to part relationships as well and problems with gestalt.  I had a hard time drawing this figure.  I made a gridded pattern and really tried to capture all that I knew how to draw.  Still a bit problematic.

Apparently, Constructional apraxia can localize damage to several brain areas, including frontal or left or right parietal. Patients with frontal damage tend to perseverate on or repeat elements of the figure, or to transform elements into familiar elements, such as transforming the circle with 3 dots into a face. Patients with right hemisphere damage (especially parietal) on the whole do worse than patients with left hemisphere damage at integrating the basic elements of the diagram, although left hemisphere-damaged patients also made many errors.

Additionally, constructional apraxia is also tied to problems with understanding your body schema (ie where your body parts are in space).  Constructional appraxia is also related to problems with your arms and dressing properly or preparing meals.

For an interesting article about how a brain tumor opened up artistic talents... 

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