You are on page 1of 8


Tobts for Teaching Artistic Inquiry

000000 0 00 00 0 00 0 0 000

and metaphor in order to promote creative and imaginative ideas for artmaking. According to Levi-Strauss (1962), experience with metaphor enables students to generate ideas for creative expression, rich in meaning and at the center of discursive thought. The use of metaphor may also provide students with cognitive tools for increasing imagination, creativity, and intellectual inventiveness (Egan, 2005). Relative to the discussion of metaphor making, and within the synectic and surrealism dialogue, the author discusses strategies for extending imaginative and creative thinking by encouraging fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration (Torrance & Safter, 1999). When these four techniques for encouraging creativity are exercised, students are more likely to become creative problem solvers (Starko, 2004). In this article, I argue for the use of creative thinking skills-fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration-to help students arrive at ideas for artwork as an inceptive means to utilizing the cycle of visual inquiry (Siegesmund, 2000). The cycle of visual inquiry suggests that artists arrive at decisions for making artwork by perceiving, conceiving, expressing, and reflecting. This
theoretical model provides a specific framework to assist art teachers in constructing art lessons. A case study is presented in which a teacher uses the cycle of visual inquiry to challenge students in an elementary classroom. In particular, kindergarten and third grade students were paired for a lesson in synectics and surrealistic artmaking.

Helping children to develop skills in creativity and imagination so

that they might generate original artwork always interests art educators. Torrance and Safter (1999) suggested that strategies to support creative thinking skills may be developed through techniques of fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration. These strategies suggest a beginning point for Siegesmund's (2000) cycle of visual inquiry. According to Siegesmund, artists work through

nchildren engage in metaphor making inart, they use pictures to suggest a feeling, emotion, or concept that goes beyond the graphic or specific image depicted.

their ideas for their artwork by engaging in a cycle of visual inquiry. This cycle involves asequence
of stages: perception, conception, expression, and reflection. Important components of the visual cycle of inquiry as it relates to generating ideas are perception and conception. It is through



Figure 1. The Listening Room, Rene Magritte, 1958. 2007 C. Herscovici, Brussels/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Used with permission.

Siegesmund's first two stages of perception and conception that students may begin to engage in the creative thinking skills put forward by Torrance and Safter (1999). Ultimately, when students master the creative thinking skills they are likely to complete the next stages of the visual cycle of inquiry-expression and reflection-and thus, solve the artistic problem. Another powerful strategy for developing creative and imaginative ideas for artwork is the use of metaphor. As suggested by Egan (2005), the use of metaphor may be crucial in supporting creativity and mental capacity for children.

into an unfamiliar juxtaposition is called synectics. Using synectics is one approach for developing habits of creative expression in the art classroom. To put it another way, synectics can make the strange seem familiar or the familiar seem strange (Prince, 1968). When an artist combines something recognizable with a familiar condition in order to solve a problem, he or she may be taking the two familiar images and making them strange and surreal. Similarly, the use of synectics may provide grounding for developing the use and understanding of analogy and metaphor.

Elementary art teachers often introduce the concepts of surrealism by looking at the images of Dali, Magritte, or Chagall and discussing how dreams, fantasy, and the subconscious mind inspired these artists. Teachers may explain that the surrealists' artworks typically included two or more familiar things that were fit together oddly. For example, the surrealists juxtaposed seemingly familiar objects in order to make the familiar appear strange (Starko, 2004). This mechanism used by many surrealists resulted in dreamlike and fantasy images. The surrealist technique of putting two familiar items

Metaphor: ATool for Thinking and Learning

Children's earliest experiences with metaphor are often in the form of analogies and symbols (Starko, 2004). Direct analogiesfor children, including very young children, might involve describing ways in which a car is like a bike or how a rabbit is like a kangaroo. A symbol, on the other hand, is something that represents an idea, an object, a belief, etc. A symbol is not like something, as in an analogy, but rather comes to be emblematic of the other. Symbolism is a more advanced concept than an analogy and usually is grasped by young children at age 5 or 6 (Wilson & Wilson, 1982).



"if cats could fly"

"If mice were hair"

Figure 2. Illustrations from If... by Sarah Perry. Used with permission from Getty Publications, Los Angeles

In literature, metaphoris a figure of speech. A reader does not interpret metaphor literally. For example, when referring to someone as a snake in the grass, the reader understands that he/she is not really a snake. The metaphoric use of "snake in the grass" means one who is sneaky or untrustworthy. For visual artists, metaphor is grounded in symbolic image. When children engage in metaphor making in art, they use pictures to suggest a feeling, emotion, or concept that goes beyond the graphic or specific image depicted. Students incite a deeper, richer response and understanding than a literal representation might provide. As Torrance and Safter (1999) suggested, metaphor in the synectics approach is defined "as an expressed or implied comparison which simultaneously produces intellectual illumination and emotional excitement" (p. 23). Metaphor is one of the foundations of mental activity, creative thought, and imagination (Egan, 2005; Lakoff & Johnson, 1999). Thought, language, and writing are virtually impossible without metaphor (Lakoff & Johnson, 1999). Finding ways to encourage metaphor making in the art classroom is essential to the process of learning and meaning making for children.

the familiar strange by juxtaposing an apple in a room (see Figure 1). One cannot tell whether the room is a dollhouse-size room and the apple is of normal size, or if the apple is enormous and the room is of regular size. Magritte chose two familiar items-a room and an apple-and then made the familiar strange by either magnifying the apple or minimizing the room. To the viewer, it is the interplay of the separate and familiar objects that elicits "intellectual illumination and emotional excitement" (Torrance & Safter, 1999, p. 23).

Extending Synectics with Creative Thinking Skills

Torrance and Safter (1999) described four levels of creative thinking skills: fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration. These levels exist in an ascending hierarchy of skill and ability. In the case study to follow, I detail the ways in which students extended their creative thinking skills and imagination by using fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration. The creative thinking skills provided a specific and guiding process for the successful manipulation of synectics in an art classroom. Fluency When students are fluent in their thinking, they are able to generate many ideas. When individuals say someone is fluent in a language, they mean to say that the person knows many words, phrases, and concepts, and can converse easily with others. Fluency, as a creative thinking skill, suggests that students can brainstorm easily and can thus generate many ideas.

Synectics and Surrealism

The surrealists were concerned with metaphoric images, symbolism, and the juxtaposition of image. In The ListeningRoom (1958), for example, Magritte used synectics by placing two familiar ideas together to create something strange and metaphoric. Magritte made



"If caterpillars were toothpaste"

Flexibility The second level of creative thinking is flexibility. Flexibility in creative thought is the ability to move easily from one idea to another. Gymnasts are flexible. This means that they can easily bend and move from one position to another. This request suggests a more complex level of thought than in fluency and a creative shift. Originality The third level of creative thinking is originality.Art teachers can press students to generate many original ideas. Originality is often associated with fluency of thought or the ability to come up with many ideas. Those that brainstorm many original ideas are likely to come up with multiple solutions (Starko, 2004). Elaboration The fourth level of creativity is elaboration.By elaborating an idea or image, the artist extends his or her thoughts. Art teachers often say that they ask students to push the idea. This sort of exercise tends to promote divergent rather than convergent thought (Starko, 2004).

Synectics and Surrealism in Practice

The teacher researcher study to follow discusses an art lesson presented to a multiage class of 11 kindergarteners and It thirdgraders at a school in Northeast Georgia. The elementary school where this study took place included grades K-5 and had approximately 800 students.

To introduce surrealism to the students, the teacher read the book If... by Sarah Perry (1995). If... illustrated a different synectic idea on each page. The book delighted the students with colorful artwork. Favorite pages were: "If caterpillars were toothpaste ..."and "If cats could fly..." (see Figure 2). The book ends with the words, "If.. .this is the end then dream up some more..." This ending set up a plan for an art lesson where the students would create their own pages in order to extend the storybook. Picking up on the students' excitement, the teacher introduced the students to some of the surrealists' images. The teacher passed out postcards of Magritte's artwork. Several children were able to see similarities with Magritte's images and the pictures from If... . One child asked, "Where do these artists get their crazy ideas?" Picking up on this question, the teacher discussed the dream imagery of Magritte, Chagall, and Dali. Through the use of the storybook, the students were able to make the creative leap from synectics to surrealism through their understanding of metaphor. The images incited a deep, rich response and understanding rather than what literal representative artwork might have provided. Pairs of students worked together to create a new page for the storybook. Rather than asking the students to select a random object for their illustration, the teacher conceived a simple strategy that encouragedfluency in order to generate ideas for their artwork. Drawing on the strategies of Torrance and Safter (1999) she drew a



very large graph on the board and asked the students to come up with lots (fluency) of ideas. The students suggested 10 animals to put across the top of the graph and 10 inanimate objects for the side of the graph (see Figure 3). At this point the teacher asked the children to choose a row and a column to pair an animal with an inanimate object. This step in the lesson encouraged flexibility. Students were asked to move from thinking of many ideas to now thinking about moving from one idea to another. For example, they not only had to think about a butterfly and a radio, they had to think about a butterfly and a radio together in some inventive way. The teacher then asked the students to try out different ideas in their sketchbooks and illustrate what the synectic combination of these two familiar things might look like. This is where the children exercised the creative thinking skill of originality.Never had the students seen these new and innovative creatures. Lawrence, a third grader, and Timmy, a kindergartener, were a buddy pair and worked together for this art project. After much flexible energy in their creative thinking, the two settled on a bee and a TV. The teacher asked Lawrence and Timmy, "What would a bee look like? What would it feel like? What would it taste like? Have you ever felt a bee?" She prompted all the students to think about qualities of each synectic piece so that they might infuse them into their artwork. Lawrence and Timmy drew some stripes, some legs, a stinger, some eyes, and antenna. Lawrence created little hairy bee bodies and legs that had sections to them rather than straight un-jointed legs. Their original idea depicted a bee from the side. The bee's face was turned so that it looked at the viewer and was smiling. The TV replaced the middle section of the insect and was turned on while the bee flew through the air for all to see. Once all the synectic images were decided on by the students, the teacher moved to the next creative thinking skill-elaboration.Now the teacher asked the students to extend the story by coming up with words for their page in their book If... Timmy and Lawrence chose, "If... bees were TVs. " Some of the other captions were: "If ... dolphins played the guitar" and "If. .. people were buildings"

Elaboration allowed the students to embellish their ideas and extend their sequence of thought. Lawrence and Timmy both had experiences with TVs and both had experiences with bees, but not juxtaposed. They explored their feelings about bees and they investigated their knowledge about TVs. Lawrence told Timmy what it felt like to be stung by a bee. He also told Timmy that bees had yellow and black stripes. Lawrence once used a magnifying glass to see a bee and he described what he saw as "creepy hairy monster legs: Lawrence brought a new perspective to Timmy's language and thinking by including metaphorical language. Putting the TV and the bee together required fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration. Led by the teacher, the students were able to construct a bridge of understanding among synectics, metaphor, symbols, and artmaking. Lawrence and Timmy, grounded in their feelings and assumptions about TVs and bees, were finally ready to begin painting If.. bees were TVs. What they created, coming from the manifestation of the concepts in their heads, was an expressive form in a new synectic creation (Eisner, 2004). These creative thinking skills support Siegesmund's cycle of visual inquiry and further describe how artists arrive at their ideas.

The Cycle of Visual Inquiry

As students worked to solve their problem, they engaged in a sequence of thinking and learning, a cycle of visual inquiry (Siegesmund, 2000). The progression of the lesson moved from perception to conception, to expression, and then to reflection (see Figure 4). As students grappled with a problem to be solved, they were at first moved by their senses-what they may have heard, seen, touched, tasted, or smelled. Attending to one's senses invoked a feeling or emotion to acquire information (Dewey, 1934; Eisner, 2004; Heid, 2005). From this information, students asked questions and then investigated their inquiries. The students moved fully into the first stage of the cycle of visual inquiry-perception. Perception is the stage in the cycle of visual inquiry where the creative thinking skills fluency and flexibility are used. Lawrence and Timmy began to formulate ideas by coming up with lots of ideas and

Figure 3. The Synectic Chart.



\ Reflecdon !ef e_C`(Dn/

moving from one idea to another while they were naming animals and inanimate objects for the graph and then choosing a bee and a TV as subjects for the problem to be solved. Perception was the process that allowed the students to gather information from using their senses. Once the questions and investigation ensued, the students formulated a concept for their ideas. Conception was the process of moving from things that were felt to arriving at an abstract idea. In the case of bees and TVs, the concept was planned, shared, tried out, and drawn through conversation. While Timmy and Lawrence worked through the concept for their artwork, they used the creative thinking skills originality and elaboration. They drew original artwork and then elaborated the story by adding words to their ideas. The pair moved to the expression phase as they began to work out concrete examples in the form of representation (Eisner, 2004). Expression communicates thoughts or feelings so that other people may understand what the artist is articulating. They represented their concept through a selected or preferred medium of paper and paint, but they could just as well have expressed themselves through other non-linguistic means such as dance, music, poetry, and so forth (Siegesmund, 2000). The expression phase suggests a final form or composition that the ideas take, but this is far from absolute. Expression may begin well before the final phase starts.

Figure 4. Siegesmund's (2000) Visual Cycle of Inquiry, from Reasoned Perception: Education Art at the End ofArt, unpublished doctoral dissertation, Stanford University School of Education. Used with permission of the author, and shown here with Torrance and Safter's (1999) Creative Thinking Skills.

At this point, the students were beginning to work with metaphoric images. They used their pictures to put forward a feeling that went beyond the image that they were painting. With metaphorical images the students were inciting a deep, rich response without a literal interpretation, yet still maintained a deeper understanding. When they arrived at their ideas for their images, they were incited with emotion and excitement. Linked with language, Lawrence and Timmy's visual metaphor conveyed happiness with a vision of a smiling bee, kindness at the offer of letting everyone watch TV, and perhaps independence, as the bee soared over the landscape. With the [image of the bee's] ever-present stinger, the picture also conveyed a feeling of foreboding or danger as kind of a "just in case the bee needs defense" idea. The final phase was reflection. Reflection suggests careful thought. It is the process of taking into consideration previous actions, decisions, and ideas. When the picture was started, when it was halfway through, and as it moved to its final form, the students engaged in reflection about their work. Consequently, they were constantly doubling back to earlier stages earnestly trying to solve the artistic problem. Although the visual cycle of inquiry moves in a general clockwise direction, it is not necessary that the artist strictly adhere to this guideline or this sequence. At any point the students doubled back,

Synectic strategies, symbols, and metaphors provided powerful tools for generating concepts and ideas for creation of a surrealistic artwork.



began again, reflected, or started the expression phase once more. Reflection occurred during perception, conception, and expressionalmost anytime. In many learning situations, after students work through several rotations of the cycle of visual inquiry, the circle or sequence of stages may begin to look less round. The cycle may look quite messy or the circle may actually begin to spiral to an end as the problem gets closer to a solution. Lawrence and Timmy's final rendition was an image of a yellow and black bee turned sideways. On the body of the bee was an orange TV with a purple screen. The bee was flying through the air for all the people who were on the ground to enjoy watching TV. The landscape was scattered with people looking up at the bee TV. Lawrence and Timmy created a story, play, mental imagery, and language immersed in metaphor in order to solve the problem presented to them. Lawrence and Timmy became very clever at associating their images with meaning. Through the use of fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration they were able to abstract their ideas into symbolic representations and discover the cleverness of metaphor.

REFERENCES Dewey, J. (1934). Art as experience. New York: Pedigree Books. Egan, K. (2005). An imaginative approach to teaching.San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Eisner, E. W (2004). The arts and the creationof mind. New Haven: Yale

During the course of this case study, effective art teaching required tapping into different kinds of strategies for extending divergent thinking. By encouraging fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration in the elementary art classroom (Torrance & Safter, 1999), deeper, more meaningful expressions of intellectual inventiveness, imagination, and creativity were encouraged (Egan, 2005). When these four techniques were exercised while teaching synectics, students engaged in thinking skills that allowed them to become creative problem solvers (Starko, 2004). Synectic strategies, symbols, and metaphors provided powerful tools for generating concepts and ideas for creation of a surrealistic artwork. According to Starko (2004), the student who has the ability to engage in metaphor making operates at the highest levels of cognitive function. In a similar way, metaphorical thinking allowed Lawrence and Timmy to use parallels to solve problems and generate new ideas for their artwork. When students were given the tools to find alternative ways to arrive at their images and when students were given adequate time and resources, then those students were able to explore potential solutions to problems in art through the visual cycle of inquiry (Siegesmund, 2000). Experience with creative thinking skills helped students to gain fresh perspectives in their art, and also served to raise new questions to begin the visual cycle of inquiry again. Such a cycle of creativity and curiosity must certainly be a priority outcome for students in our schools. Our world is depending on such graduates. Our students are waiting for teachers who can help them arrive prepared, curious, and creative.
Karen Held is Professor of Art Education at the University of South Carolina,Columbia. E-mail: .. . . .. 0 * 0 0 0 0 *

University Press. Heid, K. A. (2005). Aesthetic development: A cognitive experience. Art Education,58(5), 43-49. Levi-Strauss, C. (1962). Totemism. London: Merlin. Lakoff. G., & Johnson, M. (1999). Philosophy in theflesh: The embodied mind and its challenge to western thought. New York: Basic Books. Perry, S. (1995). If.. Los Angeles, CA: Getty Publications. Prince, G. (1968). The operational mechanism of synectics. Journalof CreativeBehavior, 2, 1-13. Siegesmund, R. (2000). Reasoned perception:Art education at the end of art. Unpublished dissertation. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University. Starko, A. J.(2001/2004). Creativity in the classroom:Schools of curious delight. White Plains, NY: Longman Publishers USA. Torrance, EP., & Safter, H.T. (1999). Making the creative leap and beyond. Buffalo, NY: Creative Education Foundation Press. Wilson, M., & Wilson, B. (1982). Teachingchildren to draw. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

CALL FOR PAPERS Visual Culture &Gender
Visual Culture &Gender(VCG) isan annual online publication whose purpose isto encourage and promote an understanding of how visual culture constructs gender incontext with representations of race, age, sexuality, social units, and social class. The significance of visual culture for art education rests not so much inthe object or image, but inthe learning and teaching processes or practices used to expose culturally learned meanings and power relations that surround the creation, consumption, valuing, and dissemination of images. Similarly, the significance of gender for art education involves issues of equity and social justice inthe learning, teaching, and practice of art. Submission of Manuscripts: September 15 isthe deadline for submission of articles, images, and reviews of books, video/films, performance/actions, Web sites, visual culture, and exhibitions for an annual publication each autumn. VCG consider for publication will manuscripts that address gender issues inthe context of visual culture and arts education. Manuscripts should be between 3000-6000 words inlength with an abstract of 150 words. Images are encouraged and should be sent indigital format (jpg, gif, or png) with copyright permission provided. Visual research is encouraged but images must be accompanied by text. Original manuscripts should be prepared according to the APA (5th edition) style. Include inacover letter that the manuscript isoriginal, not previously published, and not under consideration elsewhere. Please place your name only inthe accompanying cover letter and not inthe manuscript to facilitate anonymous review. Send the manuscript as an email attachment with .doc extension and your name to editors Karen Keifer-Boyd at and Deborah Smith-Shank at





TITLE: Creativity and Imagination: Tools for Teaching Artistic Inquiry SOURCE: Art Educ 61 no4 Jl 2008 The magazine publisher is the copyright holder of this article and it is reproduced with permission. Further reproduction of this article in violation of the copyright is prohibited.