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.
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.
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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.
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Exploited by other intelligences
by Kate Lehman Landishaw, USA
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.
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.
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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.
by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki, Port Moody, BC, Canada
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
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.
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Learning alternate skills
by Joy Engelman, Australia
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
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
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
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.
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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.
watercolor painting, 8.5 x 12.5 inches
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.”
Enjoy the past comments below for Multiple intelligences…