Frequently, I develop creative exercises for myself to strengthen my teaching. By looking closely through direct observation and intentionally utilizing specific drawing techniques, I can develop a better understanding of those methods by inquiring into my own artistic practice. This first-person internalized experience moves me as close as possible to the subject (the method, technique or approach) that I seek to understand. My relationship to the media and technique is transformed into something intimate through a physical and mental embodied experience. For me, this constitutes my “teacher self” engaging in “methodological research” for the purpose of directly informing my pedagogy and instructional methods.
Inquiry into and through artistic practices has the potential to generate an “epistemological surplus” (a surplus of knowledge, meanings, understandings, interpretations; multiple ways or approaches for “coming to know” something). The epistemological surplus that accompanies artistic research has implications for nearly all academic disciplines in addition to practical applications. In this case, you might observe my seemingly simple drawing exercise as nothing more than a study in graphite. Yet, the knowledge I gained through this exercise is extremely complex as it pertains to observation, hand and eye coordination, mark making, perspective, how to position and move one’s body in relation to the objects under observation and the visual translation of those details to the page.
The vast amount of knowledge generated through this brief research-based exercise allows me to translate and articulate those findings in my instructional dialogues with art students. It allows me to position-take with my students as the learner. I attempt to see the challenges and struggles they are facing “as if” I were in their position. It brings me closer to my students in a way that provides an opportunity to experience a deeper pedagogical relationship that increases the effectiveness of my instructional approach.