SchoolArts Room

Envisioning with Studio Thinking

By Nancy Walkup, posted on Sep 5, 2014

I’ve been thinking about Georgia O’Keeffe and her vision, both artistic and physical, since she was one focus of our SchoolArts/CRIZMAC Desert Divas seminar that we held in Santa Fe in July and where we toured her home in Abiquiu, New Mexico. It was a sad irony that her vision declined from macular degeneration in the last years of her life.

Cassie Stephens and I at NAEACassie Stephens and I at NAEA.

“I like an empty wall because I can imagine what I like on it.” —Georgia O’Keeffe

When you tour O’Keeffe’s Abiquiu home, you get to see her studio with its huge picture windows (and the best view in town) and sense how she envisioned her artworks in this environment. Envisioning is the ability to imagine and to generate mental images. Envision is also one of the eight Studio Habits of Mind explored in Studio Thinking 2: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education (2013, Teacher’s College Press).

Connecting to Place

Studio Thinking 2 proposes that students can learn to better envison—think in images and generate images of possibilities in studio classes. We can encourage our students to work from imagination, to go beyond a first idea, to plan, develop, and work out ideas over time, to practice skills, and to work as many artists work.

Practical approaches Studio Thinking 2 suggests include asking students to generate an artwork solely from imagination, to imagine how a work would look if specific changes were made, and to use sketchbooks, thumbnails, and storyboards. These prompts all “push the student to generate and manipulate a mental image, to put off the final decision, and to imagine greater possibilities in the work.”

Envisioning can also be applied to teaching. How do you envision yourself as an art teacher? Are you willing to accept and embrace uncertainty and ambiguity with your students? Can you foster an artroom culture of respect and become comfortable with humor? Take a look at our Snapshots page this month for a look at some teachers who don’t take themselves too seriously. Maybe you’ll envision a new role for yourself!