Multiple intelligences

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Dear Artist,

In high school I did quite well on IQ tests but was a bit thick when it came to math, sports, maturity, and a pile of basic life skills. I also knew lower-scoring students who sported many of the natural abilities I lacked. As well, I hung out with some highly creative friends who were paragons of lousy decision-making. I began to realize there were other kinds of intelligence (or lack of it) that didn’t show up on the standard tests. Later on, Howard Gardner’s book, Frames of Mind — the Theory of Multiple Intelligences, threw some light on my observations.

Gardner identified different types of intelligence — linguistic, musical, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, and others. He includes art in the spatial realm.

It may take an artist to truly define artistic intelligence. Gardner wisely turned to Michelangelo, Leonardo, van Gogh, Picasso and others. The critic Clive Bell thought that creators like Picasso belonged to another order of beings that were a species different from the common. The assets most often mentioned by artists are feeling, contemplation, imagination, sentimentality, memory, action — as well as drawing, form, design and colour. “The shop talk of artists,” says Gardner, “dwells on the qualities of the perceptual world.”

The writer G. K. Chesterton stated, “There is a road from the eye to the heart that does not go through the intellect.” This gives a clue to creative intelligence. While artists may find it difficult to be analytical and concrete, their form of intelligence can fly intuitively and directly to the emotions of others. Often energetic and impulsive, it can act quickly.

Artistic intelligences often contain a trait called empathy. Sensitive to and often bedazzled by Nature, human nature and the greater world, creators can also be vulnerable to exploitation by those with more standard intelligences.

Here’s something to think about: Because artistic intelligences often hold dollops of imagination, the world of the artist can appear greater and more wonderful than the real world. To bear fruit, the creative imagination has to be harnessed by intelligent life-skills — like hard work, focus and practicalities. These skills may need to be learned.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “A really intelligent man feels what other men only know.” (Baron de Montesquieu)

Esoterica: It’s been my observation that the artistically intelligent may have to teach themselves to strategize. Strategy means planning — hours, days, years ahead. Lack of strategy is the Achilles heel of self-employment in sensitive pursuits. This time of year we are accepting confidential 2009 New Year’s Resolutions from our readers. We are also returning those Resolutions that have been entrusted to us for the past 365 days. If you sent one this time last year, it will be back in your inbox in the next few days. It’s my sincere wish that you have a Happy New Year.

 

The religion of one
by Kitty Wallis, Portland, OR, USA

 

The “road from the eye to the heart that doesn’t go thru the intellect”, describes a skill we artists have developed by years of honest response to the experience of living. To make strong work we must be honest. It was perhaps Shakespeare who described ” the self deception of the inexperienced soul.” We artists are the instruments of discovery, the scouts. We find ways to communicate our capture of these non-verbal moments. We don’t need to be buffered by the agreement of the powers that be. Our currency is self provided. We print our own money. When we are in the zone, we can proceed with our own ‘religion of one’ with confidence and authentic expression, because we have found the value of honesty. We can find our way past self deception into the arena of simple perception. We can understand our self deception. We can let it go; let the chips fall where they may.

There is 1 comment for The religion of one by Kitty Wallis

From: Richard Brown — Jan 02, 2009

Monica Leaning jogged my memory regarding my dislike for general Math. Monica suggested that artists did well in Geometry. She is so right Geometry was my strength. I eluded to the fact that Geometry was a visual discipline. Couldn’t agree more.

 

Problems with math
by Monica Leaning

 

I find it interesting that you say, “when it came to math, sports… I was a bit thick.” I”ve been an artist my whole life teaching and working multiple media. I have done an informal survey about artists and Math. I have found a strong link to say that artists, for the most part, do not understand algebra-type math, but do well with geometry. I myself am a math-o-phobe! I am still stuck on fractions and the family joke is that although I have a Master’s degree, math eludes me. Yet I have a son who has a Ph.D. in Math. It would be interesting to see how many of your readers feel the same about math. By the way, I once took a workshop with Howard. Gardner. Thanks for this info, it made me smile.



There are 9 comments for Problems with math by Monica Leaning

From: Carol Morrison — Jan 02, 2009

It was very interesting to read your comment. I also found geometry interesting, but other types of maths were very difficult! I had a fulfilling scientific research career as a histologist until my DFO laboratory was closed, and only when I retrained as an artist did I realise that what had attracted me to this branch of science was the visual aspect of producing and interpreting beautifully stained sections of cells and tissues!

From: Barbara — Jan 02, 2009

Count me in on this Geometry thing…I LOVED Geometry, but all other math disciplines baffled me, and continue to do so.

Now I have to solve the simple math question in order to prevent spammers! LOL

From: Nancy Wylie — Jan 02, 2009

I made straight A’s in geometry and loved it, but I absolutely hated algebra! My family stills makes fun of me when I am trying to balance my checkbook. I mix up adding and subtracting, transpose numbers or some simple thing almost every time. I would make a lousy banker or teller!

From: Reva — Jan 02, 2009

I have the masters in math. Hate arithmetic. Love geometry. Have finally given myself permission to follow my bliss: water media. I believe there is not only a spatial aspect to geometry that separates it from the algebra but also a sense of creativity. It is not a memory sport but one in which you are engaged and must see paths and relationships. I credit my mother & father’s love of art as foundational in helping me succeed in mathematics (not accounting) which then led to art.

From: Suzette Fram — Jan 02, 2009

I have always loved and been good at math. I worked as an accountant most of my life. People are different and like and excel at different things. I’m not sure it has anything to do being (or not being) an artist.

From: Hank Lobbenberg — Jan 02, 2009

Monica Leaning:

I smiled when I read your letter. In high school, algebra totally eluded me but I loved geometry. I couldn’t get past the halfway mark of grade 12 algebra despite three attempts. However, I did quite well in a first year college level physics course.

I believe it has a lot to do with spatial relationships which we as artists, we are always concerned.

From: Yulia Kazansky — Jan 04, 2009

I have MA in teaching physics and I also an artist — paint and do photography. I never had problems with any kind of math (including calculus I and II) and I think what helped me is that instead of thinking in terms of formulas or laws, it was easier to use visualization. Especially it worked good with solving physics problems. When I need to help kids with math problems I always try to employ as much visualization as I can (even for algebra).

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki — Jan 05, 2009

I think that it is the other way around. Understanding of the algebra is not needed in order to be a good artist — rather than not understanding algebra helping one to be a good artist. If this is true it makes sense that many artists report problems with math.

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki — Jan 05, 2009

P.S. I was always good in math — all types, and I am an electrical engineeras well as an artist. I love to do manual calculations — i.e. not use the calculator. I also use geometry a lot in planning of my paintings.

 

Exploited by other intelligences
by Kate Lehman Landishaw, USA

 

Untitled
charcoal by Kate Lehman Landishaw

Creators can also be vulnerable to exploitation by those with more standard intelligences. WOW, did you ever get that right! This being condemned to be unloved because you don’t fit in is pretty nasty business! And trying to find others of similar bent/sensibility is a daunting task in certain environments — especially when trying so hard for so long to please one’s exploiters. But one can also decide it’s a good thing to know what one’s challenges are, rather than muddle in mystery! And, anyway, “Thitherward” is such a good, fun word it makes a great mantra — Not to mention that one’s art is always the reality anyway, no matter how long it takes to comprehend that message.

 

Multi-intelligences
by Linda Thury, Nevada, MO, USA

 

I have been told all my life that one is either right brain or left brain oriented. Some 40 or more years ago I could have gone into art or science. But since I had been accepted into the Univ. of Minnesota’s Institute of Technology in engineering, my family strongly pushed for engineering. So, I got my engineering degree, did some post grad work and went on to work for nearly 20 years in printed circuits and materials. Throughout my engineering career, I tried different artistic directions (ceramics, quilting, clothing design, stained glass, watercolor). I had to take two art classes in college, ceramics. When I was laid off three times between 1989 and 1992, I decided to go back to college and get an art degree. I now focus on large format watercolor painting. Many are surprised that I tutor Algebra and Calculus at a local women’s college and do watercolor paintings and workshops. I learned about multiple intelligences while getting my MA in Education, but believe that people can have strong characteristics of more than one. We all have the potential to be multi-intelligent. Dream, imagine, and pursue.



There is 1 comment for Multi-intelligences by Linda Thury

From: Michael Jorden — Jan 02, 2009

I could never figure out whether I was right or left-brained, seeming to have characteristics of both. Some years ago, while pursuing a career change, I took some aptitude tests and discovered I was roughly equal. It is called ‘double-dominant’. Now, I freely work both sides during the painting process. My approach to composition is fairly intellectual at the outset, but the larger patterns, shapes and integration of forms come, I believe from the right hemisphere. Incidentally while I loathed higher math and quite like geometry, statistics fascinates me especially if it can be illustrated on graphs and charts.

 

Went back to art
by Ann Oles

 

Standard (Stanford Binnet) I.Q. tests did not measure creativity. As a former teacher one learns very quickly what strengths and weaknesses a student possesses. As you have stated, anything can be learned eventually with diligence, motivation and interest combined with the right mentors who have the ability to perceive strengths in students and encourage the development of these. Again, as you are aware, one of the first areas in the school system to be cut when budgets are tight is art. Pity, pity, pity.

However, our society would be so lost if we did not have artists of all kinds to give us an insight into highly developed imaginations who can touch our essence. What a gift! So, as a senior who has gone back to an interest which was present years ago and put on the back burner, I now have thrown myself into looking at beauty all around me with renewed vision and interest through painting.

 

Understanding intelligences
by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki, Port Moody, BC, Canada

 

“Yoho River Last Light”
acrylic painting, 24 x 30 inches
by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

I don’t know which flavor of intelligence I have, just the “normal” kind that most people refer to plus a sprinkling of talent and curiosity, but enough of it to allow me to blast through the school (math, physics, language, art… slight dislike for chemistry and athletics) and through a hi tech career with less than minimal academic effort — which saved me from my chronic immaturity, procrastination and preference to do fun things. When you spend all day sewing clothes for dolls, it helps a lot if you can get your homework done in the hallway few minutes before the class…

And secondly a mildly self-delusional ego (which you mentioned in one of your recent letters), which nurtures my expectations of worthiness, gets me to jump into projects for which I am clearly unqualified and usually manage to swim to the shore with a few new lessons learned. Those two things are the two biggest players and most consistently show up. There is probably some luck at play mostly on the basic levels of living in a safe place and with healthy genes.

The things that held me back were fears which I think are more often found in women than men, such as social anxieties, and physical and financial risk taking. I am sure that those fears saved my “baseline” on many occasions and helped me in having a stable life in bad times.

 

A gift of time
by Deb Marvin, Worcester, MA, USA

 

“Flash”
watercolour by Deb Marvin

I am a Mensan which means that according to at least two tests I am in the upper 2% of the population in IQ. Being someone with a high IQ is definitely not the key to great success. Like you I was not particularly gifted in basic life skills, maturity, and stuff like that. I managed to pull down excellent grades in math but only with a lot of hard work. I have also managed to forget all the algebra and such that I worked so hard to learn.

I was and am also very artistically inclined and believe I have considerable promise as an artist. I have yet to realize that promise and can certainly come up with a million excuses. My favorite — I have to work so I don’t have the time or energy for art. Well that excuse was blown out of the water in mid-November when I was one of around 1500 employees let go from the company I had worked at for the last 13 years. This isn’t the first time I have lost my job in a “reduction in force.” It is however the first time that I do not have an overwhelming amount of debt and I have 5 1/2 months of full salary. In other words — this may be my chance to finally, at 54, make it as an artist.

So your letter arrives at an opportune moment in my personal journey through life. I understand the need to strategize. I am excellent planner. I have 13 or more years experience as a project manager. However I seem to have considerable difficulty with hard work, focus, and practicality when it comes to my own pursuits. I can work hard at a job that has nothing to do with art. I have even excelled at things that I really didn’t like or enjoy doing. I can be incredibly focused and very practical in the work environment. I do not understand what happens when the only manager I report to is myself.

Even now I am sitting here on my PC looking at my freshly reorganized studio, two paintings sit unfinished. I have been working on them for two years!! Since relocating to Kentucky in May 2007, I have spent 4 hours at the easel. And I know that I am the only one who can change this. It is not all the interruptions I allow to pull me away — it is me. I am also coming to realize that the answer to my dilemma will not be found in a book. I have to get up off my tookus and move away from the front of a computer monitor and put myself in front of the easel. And your letter is dead right — I need to dust off my strategy, my implementation plan, and get down to business. I will have to learn by doing — no other way around it. Of course part of my strategy is to get involved with other creative folks and I kicked that process off a few months ago. Another part is to wean myself off of the computer. Fortunately I have managed not to get pulled into blogging — I would be be lost if that happened.

(RG note) Thanks, Deb. As a blogger, several years ago I was pleased to note that some of my readers were getting addicted to my blog. One day I realized it was me that was getting addicted. I had to take hold of myself and realize once more that my main passion and interest has always been painting. Writing about it, while a lot of fun, was secondary. These days I ration my time at the computer. It’s truly a privilege to be connected to so many fellow travelers, and I totally love it, but I’’ve gotta go now.



There are 7 comments for A gift of time by Deb Marvin

From: Anonymous — Jan 02, 2009

I agree that it can become necessary to ration time at the computer to reserve it for art making, and not art talking/reading or procrastinating. I have a new rule for myself on my days off from my other job so that I do not waste my energy idly sitting at the computer: The computer gets turned off between 8:30 am — 5:30 am daily! This works amazingly well, and it always astonishes me how easy it is to find passion in my art when the distraction of the computer is gone.

From: Suzette Fram — Jan 02, 2009

Deb, is it possible that you are afraid to get into that studio and start working? Afraid that you will not be able to make it, that you will not be good enough, afraid of losing the dream that one day you will be a real artist, so it’s easier to simply avoid trying. Food for thought.

From: Cindy Revell — Jan 02, 2009
From: Susan Kellogg — Jan 03, 2009

I think that the well known, little understood idea of “artist’s block” has to do with the left-brain’s wishing to stay in control. It is very afraid because it knows the right brain is capable of unconscionable things; such as living without time, thinking in colors and shapes, speaking truth to delusions, in general causing mischief to the left’s well ordered systems of keeping one afloat.

From: Leecia Price — Jan 04, 2009
From: wolfgang müller — Jan 04, 2009

try to contact some art-gallerys or artists in your neighborhood. face the hard truth, even if you do wonderfull paintings and can assert yourself, with your age you should have 20 or 30 years of carreere to be accepted as an artist. start to paint and love it for itself but dont dream to do it for a living

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki — Jan 05, 2009

My inner child, like yours, won’t let go of art as a play. It doesn’t allow my inner “professional” to get hold of it. Nothing can be done except perhaps to make the business part of art a play as well. I still didn’t figure out how to do that!

 

Learning alternate skills
by Joy Engelman, Australia

 

“In the desert, I remember…”
acrylic on canvas by Joy Engelman

How opportune for me that you have so succinctly put into words something that I am currently struggling with. Faced with the onerous task of revealing my innermost self and thoughts in preparation for a book about my artworks, yesterday I sat with the writer and told him how I feel. Afterwards, I thought “But what did any of what I had said have to do with my art?” My art is the externalization of my inner struggle with the ‘truth’ of existence, a truth I have pursued relentlessly since becoming ‘aware’ as a child. Empathy has been my life companion (and a curse I add) as people have been drawn to the artistic temperament and have bared their souls, lamented on their lives, exposing their innermost selves to the artist…. who contemplating this new variation of humanity, quietly assures them that ‘humanity’ is an expression of the divine, that they are divine and all is well whatever they feel, all is allowed.

Chaos has also been my companion as my life has followed along on its cyclic way through the universe, all is manic-depressive around me but my soul remains calm at the centre while I paint…. and dream…. and paint again! So the assets you list of feeling, contemplation, imagination, sentimentality, memory ring so true for me… but also the assets of curiosity, an open mind, a forgiving nature, intuition and foresight are also strengths. My life led me to work (as mothers often do) to raise a family alone and necessity drove me to building a career in (hehe) economics….. it was on offer so hey! Economics led me to strategy and planning, grants writing, budgeting, deadlines without which I wouldn’t be where I am today…… so I am grateful for this life…….  And yes, artists need to learn these skills…. preferably by choice.

 

Flaws cause problems
by Carole Munshi

 

Without those extra skills you speak of, you are just ‘arty’ or ‘practicing art.’ With them you are an ‘artist.’ I’m glad I read your letter this early morning. I will certainly read Howard Gardner’s book, Frames of Mind. I am one of those very fortunate to have a “perfectly balanced brain” and a very high IQ but have two flaws that create problems for me: Subservient personality and messy nature. My entire studio looks like Einstein’s desk! My subservient nature wastes my time. In 2009 I intend to correct to some degree these two flaws.

 

Learning through spatial means
by Ruth Phillips, Bedoin, France

 

Frames of Mind is one of my favourite books and I wish all schools bore his unique intelligences and consequent ways of learning in mind. I had very graphic proof of it in my life: I could never get maths. Which meant I always hated harmony because it was taught mathematically. Unfortunately a knowledge of harmony is kind of important for a cellist. It wasn’t until I was in university in the US and someone taught me harmony through what I now believe were spatial means. I made graphs and maps! SHAPES! Yes! I could understand shapes!

And suddenly not only did I get it but I was also in love with it!

 

Art wizard, math dunce
by John Ferrie, Vancouver, BC, Canada

 

“Fallen angel IV”
acrylic painting, 36 x 36 inches
by John Ferrie

When I was in grade school, Mathematics was sheer torture. Being dyslexic was a challenge, especially in Math. One day I was late by 15 minutes. The class may as well have been speaking Martian. By the time I got into grade 12 math, I knew I had to pass. I sat at the front of the class and paid attention. I stayed for extra help every day, as the class was the last of the day, I would often stay for over an hour.

I had a tutor I met with twice a week and I studied every night. The highest score I got on any test was 37%. I bombed the final exam so bad, I knew I was going to have to repeat the class the next semester. I got my final report card and received a 70% score, far exceeding a passing grade. I went to the teacher and told him there had been some mistake as I was the dumbest kid in his class. Without looking at me my teacher told me I tried harder than any student he had in his 26 years of teaching. He went on to say I probably learned more than any other student in his class. Finally, he said, ” …I don’t want you back in my class driving me crazy, so take your grade and go!” I’m not sure how this correlates to an IQ or how it relates to my basic life skills. I went to art school and excelled.

 

Seeing the world actually
by Tiit Raid, Fall Creek, Wisconsin, USA

 

“Fall Creek Pond: Combined Shoreline”
acrylic painting by Tiit Raid

Some skills may come to us more easily than others, but they all need to be learned and developed over time. As a friend of mine says, “Nothing comes for free.” As you mention, ‘hard work’ and ‘focus’ are also required. A good amount of self-awareness is necessary to develop focus and good work habits. This requires that we become aware of our outer actions, and our inner thoughts and feelings. Without an awareness for the inner aspects of our mind we will never be able to focus our attention fully and completely on our outer tasks. You also mention that artists are “often bedazzled by Nature, human nature and the greater world.” The likely reason for this is that the artist has learned to see the world more completely and fully than a non-visual person. You also mention “sensitivity and empathy.” These are only possible if there is a connection between the observer and the observed. One primary way of achieving this connection is through paying attention to the appearance of the visual world. Basically, the more you see, the more real and actual the world around you becomes. Or, to put it another way, Eugene Delacroix said, “Seeing artistically does not happen automatically. We must always cultivate our powers of observation.”

To see the world actually, or artistically, requires hard work and focus. The more time we spend paying attention to the appearance of the everyday world, the more connected we will become to it. Without a connection there will never be any sensitivity or empathy, nor will we become ‘bedazzled by Nature, human nature and the greater world.”

 

Celebrating different intelligences
by Gail Caduff-Nash, Mountain home, NC, USA

 

Close up photography
by Gail Caduff-Nash

These intelligences you talk about just seem to me to be something that is heightened in some of us, but still there in the rest of us. I’ve had to argue with my own practicality very often since I decided I was an artist. There’s nothing about being an artist that is terribly practical. I don’t have the means to afford artistry yet I have a studio full of art supplies that I absolutely had to have. I’ve practiced some discipline in working as an artist but it goes to the wayside as soon as I have other work to do or responsibilities to handle. I decided that being an artist was a life commitment, not one connected to the “real” world of commerce. My productivity as an artist waxes and wanes.

I can see all your points and understand where they come from. And I also imagine that in some fairly essential ways that being an artist is different for a man than a woman. Men are results driven generally while women are more about the process being the accomplishment. The emotions of men are corralled into arenas of art differently, more directly, than women’s are. But the heightened sense of everything perceptual, as well as the need to use our instincts out in the open, are common with both genders. And the drive to be communicators — to be witnesses to life FOR everyone — is non-gender.

I liken myself more to Leonardo da Vinci than to Michelangelo, because of daVinci’s way of being completely distracted from his art by things around him, and his fascination with Nature and science. His was always work in progress and he was always experimenting. He wanted to know how things worked.

Maybe your multiple intelligences really shows us how connected we are to Nature, the power of life with the most intelligences at work. Within Nature there is every kind of intelligence, all working together at once. There is no Chaos. There is always Reason. It is there for us to find it and use it and relish it, every exacting detail. Maybe our “multiple intelligences” are the ones that resonate with the world around us. I’m glad we have different kinds of intelligences or it would be pretty boring otherwise.

There is 1 comment for Celebrating different intelligences by Gail Caduff-Nash

From: sbwood — Jan 02, 2009

What a great close-up of a Great Spangled Fritillary.

 

Getting discipline
by Kim Carlton

 

“The Sounding Joy”
original painting
by Kim Carlton

When I graduated from college, trained for nothing but the wish to create Art, I joined the US Navy. My plan was to get trained to fly and become an airline pilot so that I could travel and have time to paint. My first observation in response to Multi-Minds is that, when I took the test to get in, I scored very high in verbal and spatial and very low in physics and math. I think we may, as artists, intuit math and physics but avoid them academically. To compose and mechanically perform a work of art requires all these categories of intelligence, but you have to be taught to score well on a test.

My second observation is in response to your statement, “To bear fruit, the creative imagination has to be harnessed by intelligent life skills…” I was hoping that the military would instill discipline in me. I was active duty from 1979 to 1986 and I left the same person in that regard. I am only just now learning that some people have to have discipline inflicted upon them, and that’s a good thing. I have a schedule now that I treat as one that a boss might have given me, even though it goes against my “artistic nature.” And you are right: that’s the only way I bear fruit.

 

 

World of Art Featured artist Elsie Griffiths, Comox, BC, Canada

Poppies

watercolor painting, 8.5 x 12.5 inches
Elsie Griffiths, Comox, BC, Canada

You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Diana Wakely who wrote, “Intelligence has to be more than a book — it has to come from the heart and brain — a lost intelligence these days is ‘common sense.’ ”

And also Paula Walden who wrote, “An excellent essay on the evolution of the artist’s mind is here..

And also SAVANNArt Studio who wrote, “This struck me like the hands of a clock on the midnight hour of New Years Eve! The thoughts I have had about myself finally put into words what I would never have been able to express verbally, but have internalized in my heart and eyes. Because of your letter I am guided in my resolution for the New Year to have a semblance of a plan and strategy, rather than flying by the seat of my pants. I often wonder how I have ever gotten as far as I have.”

And also Leona Amann of Jasper, Alberta, Canada who wrote, “I have been feeling a lot happier as of late possibly because I have been feeling a lot less intelligent.”

 

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Multiple intelligences

 

 

From: Ignacio — Dec 29, 2008

That’s interesting, I was the same way. I have a high IQ, and I’m good at physics and arts, but I just couldn’t hack it at math. I think in most cases because it bored me, and by the time I was so advanced in physics I couldn’t catch up with my math!

I may have to read that book.

From: Jim Trolinger — Dec 29, 2008

I just finished reading “Outliers” by Malcom Gladwell. His book would compliment the book you descirbed. Gladwell analyzes the ingreadients of success and concludes that the outliers (the stars) in all fields have a few things in common. High IQ is way down on the list and not very important after about 115. The most important ingredients are the opportunity and choice to put in 10,000 hours of dedicated practise and ten years of hard work. This involves also a bit of luck. He applies this theory to Mozart, Einstein, Bill Gates, the Beetles and many others. He also uses it to explain why Chinese are better at math than Americans are. He backs up his arguments nicely with statistics.

From: Carol Henderson — Dec 29, 2008

I don’t know why, but even though I am an artist, a former art teacher and creative person, my spatial abilities are always average or below average on IQ tests. I know most artists do well on those tests, but I have trouble there. I would say I have lower spatial intelligence, and would then not count as artistic according to Gardner, I assume. But I have no trouble with perspective or composition. Go figure

From: Carol Henderson — Dec 29, 2008

To Jim Trolinger,

It is The Beatles, not The Beetles. They were emphasizing the word Beat in their names. I felt I needed to correct you.

From: Russ Hogger — Dec 29, 2008

I’ve always had a tough time with math, thats probably why I have so much trouble getting by your mathguard.

From: Darla — Dec 30, 2008

I think that artistic ability of any kind depends on being able to do “lateral thinking” — looking at an idea from many sides, not just the most common perspective, one step and then the next. We also tend to put ideas together that are not usually associated. That may be why so many artists seem to have ADHD and may not be organized enough to keep their attention on one goal to the exclusion of others. The creative, somewhat chaotic way of thinking is what makes us artists, but it can also be what keeps us from being financially successful if we don’t keep it in hand.

From: Joy Gush — Dec 30, 2008

So many times I have revisited, in memory, my High School in the U.K. in the 1940s. I laugh when I recall the Principal telling my mother that I had such poor grades I should stay on at school another year (this would be at her expense!) because I would never be successful at any business. I had no artistic ability whatsoever, nor in sewing, so those courses were dropped immediately. I told my mother I failed because I was not allowed to have free will to paint what I wanted to paint, or sew a blouse that was not school uniform–with my war coupons used for the fabric! No way would I improve on staying in school. So I left at 16 and I became an independent woman all my life finding the work I enjoyed doing, making my own clothes for the job I held in the Seagram Building in New York City, with all my own paintings on the walls around me of England’s countryside, relaxing all our visitors for years. Now I am nearly 80 and 600 canvas paintings of mine are in the world somewhere blessing others. I am still not wealthy, but I am happy and content. Unfortunately the bad teachers are not alive to learn I did OK. Just keep doing what you love to do is what I tell myself. Google.com has my name, website, and book with 70 color paintings and my biography for the world to see the success I had in my life.

From: Rick Rotante — Dec 30, 2008

It’s a wonderful tribute to think artists are made of “other stuff” and not of common people. But the fact is we are the same as a mathematician, musician, architect, designer, chef or teacher.

Using Leonardo is the perfect example of this for he excelled in every field from art to the sciences. Artists only see what others don’t take the time to see. Similarly, I hate math and as a result can’t appreciate the “art” in it. Sports I’m still trying to figure out except I can appreciate the competitive nature that makes the blood run thru your veins. True, when there is a “natural” affinity for any discipline, one excels. I can do math, I understand why water boils, what hold the earth in orbit, but I would rather express my world thru pictures and in my own way. Artists can contradict science, re-interpret life and make a personal statement, while science only explains what is. We can show what isn’t or what can be. And that is where we so strongly differ. We have an innate connection to the soul, which subverts the intellect. In fact, we relish subverting the intellect. I don’t believe there are any tricks involved here. We just take this discipline and learn everything there is about it. The art is in the interpretation.

From: Stanley Horner — Jan 01, 2009
From: Cora — Jan 02, 2009

I follow your letters regularly but today’s letter and Deb Marvin’s response hit home. I have been to workshops bought the book and the tee shirts and even got some kudos along the way. I find as a tired achy critical care nurse, finding the effort to create is hard. I even started a blog to encourage myself. But that is a distraction in itself. My bones tell me I am not going to make it to retirement, and I find I need to have a constructive plan to get my mind heart and the need to create in sync with the rest of my duties in life. Most important I need to find time for me. I found a list of resolutions for the New Year but the one that spoke most is the resolution to take the road less traveled. Love your letters, aside from the usual junk they inspire me.

From: Helen Crews — Jan 02, 2009

Last year, (2008) I made a painting to illustrate my thoughts, I work in glazes, so words were under and over words. Create was the first word seen. Believe, Dream, Paint, Draw, Hard Work, Just Do It, Design, Be All You Can Be followed. The largest word, from top to bottom, was underneath, DAILY. A question was on the left, Where Does It All Come From?, and faintly, at the bottom right, was Thank You God. He has been putting Creativity in my head for a long time now, I am 74 and working like mad. Learning more each day, and each day is a joy to wake up in the mornings! I have so much in front of me I cannot wait to get up and start my day!

From: MJ Cunningham — Jan 02, 2009

I haven’t been subscribing very long but want you to know how I look forward to seeing your name pop up on my computer screen. I am a practicing artist with studio, etc. but also have a large family…5 kids, 10 grandchildren, 7 and under, etc. with whom I share my passion. There are those periods, like the holidays, when family kind of takes over for awhile and it is during those times that I grab onto your articles to pull me back to center.

From: Roger Cummiskey — Jan 02, 2009

I decided to kick off 2009 straight away and to forget about the International recession that seems to have most people tied up in knots.

Has the Messiah arrived? Surely he cannot do it alone so let the people get behind him and send the greedy to the sidelines. I am afraid that I must include the leading Bankers and a small fist full of Political leaders in this category. No names, but the silent majority know well who they are. Let us not be hoodwinked by the News manipulators. Any semi intelligent person can see through the charades.

From: Linda Jolly — Jan 02, 2009

Thank you so much for this letter. It is music to my soul. It so clearly expresses my nature. I often feel like I am a fish out of water when I am in the company of people who are not involved in the creative process. When I express my thoughts or opinions, they often look at me as if I have two heads or they want to say, “Where does she come from”? So it is always a great pleasure when I meet other artists and creative souls to whom I can connect. That is why your letters are so important. It gives thousands of us a vehicle for connecting.

From: Anonymous — Jan 02, 2009

This communication on Multiple Intelligence struck me like the hands of the clock striking the midnight hour on New Years Eve! My sentiments exactly, the thoughts I have had about myself finally put into words I would never have been able to express verbally, but have internalized in my heart and eyes. Because of this letter, on Multiple Intelligence, it will surely help to guide me on my resolution for the New Year to have a semblance of a plan for strategy, rather than flying by the seat of my pants. I often wonder how I have ever gotten as far as I have….

From: Peter Brown — Jan 02, 2009

The sad part is that schools have mandatory achievement tests which brand kids on a very narrow spectrum of intelligence. Our students are bubbling in dots on answer sheets, while true gifts are just being ignored. Many true genius kids end up at the fast food joint because schools only measure the analytical mind. Math and vocabulary do not provide us an ample picture of a human brain. This has only gotten worse over the 15 years that I have been teaching.

I have met kids with visual problems. They could not read nor write, yet they had incredible skills. Some could tear apart a broken weed-whacker, or chain saw, and put it back together in five minutes, and fix it! Other non-reading students had amazing empathy. These students would move their seat in my class, just to sit next to a kid that was into heavy trauma. I was not aware of this, until I was told.

This culture of ours, in the Western world/mindset, is throwing away a great deal of human intelligence and potential. We select out so many people. The empaths I have met are not likely to make it through Graduate School to get a degree. Society ends up with psychologists without the natural gift of empathy. This is not human progress. I must stand aside for a few minutes and weep for a culture that has but one way to measure intelligence.

From: Leona Amann — Jan 02, 2009

I have been feeling a lot happier as of late possibly because I have been feeling a lot less intelligent.

From: Heuges — Jan 02, 2009

I was Dean of Admissions of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

I know what you mean!

From: Roger Walsh — Jan 02, 2009

Love your letters, I find many times that the observations you make can be applied not only to artists but to everyone in their business and personal lives!

From: Wayne Wright — Jan 02, 2009

When others criticize or don’t want to take the time or intellect to ponder a work of art, I am not dismayed, I am just thankful for a free society that allows us both our opinion; it always bears in mind to me one of my favorite quotes fro John F. Kennedy:

“If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to allow his vision wherever it takes him.”

From: Cherie Hanson — Jan 02, 2009

I grew up in the U.S. school system which pretty much treated us like laboratory rats. We were measured, weighed, tested, assessed and compared from the time I was in kindergarten on. My report cards kept reflecting that I was, “unlike” other students. This presentation of anomaly was particularly problematic in the pool of acceptability. I was slow to learn to read. Having to stay in at recess and after school until I caught up with the other third graders was humiliating. With hind sight I see what a dedicated, kind and disciplined teacher I had the luck to experience.

By grade eight I was reading at first year university level. We were streamed in grade nine after an appropriately named “battery” of tests. Separated from all of the lower cohorts, I was grouped with only those whose goal was university. In fact, over 80% of those I attended middle school and high school with went on to get a graduate degree as did I.

In grade 12 I knew exactly what position I held in the 368 students who graduated that year. We had access to the information at any time. I fought tooth and nail for position 35 and had aspirations for position 30. My 25 percentile ability in math held me back. Basically, I was informed in curtained language that I was a math idiot. In grade 11 I and my other “geekdom” dwellers who had scored in the top 95% of all high school students in the United States for academic ability were gathered to sit in chairs in a row on the gym floor. Over 1,000 students were ushered in to look down on us. The honor was usually for the jocks. Once a month the entire school for forcefully herded down to cheer at them. Now it was our turn. There was NO enthusiasm on either side. We felt marked out like trapped animals and they felt hostile at worse and totally bored with our presence at best. What has the experience left me with? A competitive nature even with myself. Probably, this is one of the reasons even though I received three academic degrees by the time I was 22 years of age, that I love multi-media art. I work alone. I work without an audience. I work without words. My work is strange, unique and incomparable. What a blessing. I have come home to myself.

From: Jan Ross — Jan 02, 2009

Your description of yourself while in school read like my own, and helped to remind me that my brain just works differently than my math/science gifted family and friends. Thinking creatively and pursuing artistic endeavors is as much a part of me as my brown eyes and left-handedness. That these activities come so naturally to me, I’m fascinated by people who say, “I could never draw that or paint like you do.” Coming up with 45 uses for a single red brick is fun for me but a struggle for so many others. Yet, they are not considered ‘different’ or lacking in intelligence.

If our ‘traditional’ educational systems could help us artistic types to recognize our strengths from our earliest years, there surely would be fewer of us who grow up feeling like frogs in a crocodile pond.

From: Pepper Hume — Jan 02, 2009
From: Brad Greek — Jan 02, 2009

I’ve often wondered why I didn’t see things like most do. As an artist I believe we are always looking for the good in a subject, including other people. Along with the drive to succeed in our art career, we also put our trust in a lot of shaky oppertunities. Only seeing the positive, usually, while the other party is knowingly playing on the fact that we are like this. We are getting smarter with experience, only after feeling like an idiot first. On a positive note though, I believe all of us artists are doing our part in leaving the beauty of our art behind for generations to come to enjoy. Our contribution to mankind and the world.

From: Paula Timpson — Jan 02, 2009

a road…

there is a road from the eye to the heart that does not go through the intellect, yes:)-

a road

les traveled

by artists and

peace lovers

those on a mission

to help the world know

Love, truth

humbleness

and humility…

walk that road and find

grace , leading you

home

to a serenity within

beyond this world

only

pure

Spirit can give!

From: Pat from New Mexico — Jan 03, 2009
From: Kathleen Plantinga — Jan 05, 2009

I have never responded to your great letters before, but this one really rang a bell. My husband is an intellectual, and has never gotten over an experience he had in High School. He was at the home of a classmate, and the boy’s Mother told him he was very smart in school, but dumb in life. This was quite a life lesson for him! He brings it up often. There isn’t much he can do about it though. I must add that his other talents have made him very successful in his own way–even though he is “dumb in life.” He has become a very well known Philosopher!

From: Sue LeMontre — Jan 05, 2009

I think some people have several kinds of intelligence in various combinations, and in some cases can’t understand why other people don’t “get” them. Michael is highly emotional and creative, for instance, and has a touch of artistic ability, a lot of linguistic ability, and a lot of musical ability. He also was a letterman in sports. But he lacks empathy and understanding, and everything is filtered through what he wants and desires to the exclusion of what anyone else wants. It’s a strange combination — emotional immaturity (apparently permanent) combined with highly intelligent musings and conclusions. But he just doesn’t get why anyone doesn’t act the same way he does. It’s all a superficial understanding of other people’s emotional underpinnings.

From: Helen Crews, Yadkinville, NC — Jan 05, 2009

Last year, (2008) I made a painting to illustrate my thoughts, I work in glazes, so words were under and over words. Create was the first word seen. Believe, Dream, Paint, Draw, Hard Work, Just Do It, Design, Be All You Can Be followed. The largest word, from top to bottom, was underneath, DAILY. A question was on the left, Where Does It All Come From?, and faintly, at the bottom right, was Thank You God. He has been putting Creativity in my head for a long time now, I am 74 and working like mad. Learning more each day, and each day is a joy to wake up in the mornings! I have so much in front of me I cannot wait to get up and start my day!

 

 

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