Tuesday, January 15, 2013

101 Things to Learn in Art School - A Book for Scientists

I was thrilled to receive this book under the Christmas tree, "101 Things to Learn in Art School" by Kit White.

Its an inexpensive, chunky little book that I had originally thumbed through in a museum gift shop. The advice in this book struck me as immediately relevant for scientists--the pages are filled with short thoughtful snippets, such as:

Art is a form of description 
How it describes is its form and what it describes is its content. When looking at your work, ask "What does this describe?" And then, "What form should that description take?" Be flexible in deciding the medium you choose; it must be appropriate for what you are saying. Choose the right form for the content. 

Here, if you replace the word "Art" with "Science Communication", you have a piece of advice that is critical for any researcher attempting to disseminate their work. The rest of the book is equally thought provoking. Even the Author's note on page 1:

"Art [science] is an idea that belongs to everyone...Lessons learned in puruit of art [science] are lessons that pertain to almost everything we experience. Art [science] is not separate from life; it is the very description of the lives we lead. And so, this book is really for everyone who cares about art [science] and the way it enriches our being."

Often I think that what distinguishes artists from scientists is that artists are fully aware of their own creative tendencies, and embrace the process of creativity as integral to their personal output. I'm sure many scientists attribute their success to hard work (rather than their own creative nature), because that claim seems more logical. Personally, I like to think of myself as a "creative director of science",  rather than just a researcher who puts their head down and toils away. Books like this help me to dissect the nuances of the scientific profession, evaluate my own approach, and look at problems in a completely new light.

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