Artist’s Eyes

by Win Wenger, Ph.D.
Winsights No. 24 (September 1998)

This may integrate brain circuitry and develop visual detail skills comparable to the intelligence-building effects of Image Streaming. It was first encountered as an artist’s developmental technique, but for most educational purposes the level of artistic skills both before and after matter not. It has also been used as a creative problem-solving technique, both as an “incubation process” and as a way to develop and work with metaphor.

To make friends with a tree or bush…..Once you’ve selected the tree or bush you are going to make close friends with—

A. Make a quick 2-minute sketch of that tree or bush, overall.

B. Ask yourself the first of the following questions, then answer it by quickly sketching three different ways to represent what you see at that point–

  1. How do the trunk and main branches run?
  2. What is the bark like? (For example, cross-hatched; smudge within an outline with lines tracing through it; a tangle of striations, etc.etc.)
  3. How does the trunk come out of the ground?
  4. What do the leaves, the foliage, look like?
  5. What is the tree’s main strategy for getting light (–if that tee is closely surrounded by other comparable trees, that is, how does it get its share of the light and does it repeat that strategy at different points?)
  6. What is the space this tree occupies and/or in what way or manner does it occupy this space?

C. Then an overall picture of your tree.

Similarly, in drawing a person you could ask yourself–and tri-sketch answer–“How does the neck come out of the shoulders,” “or how does the nose relate to the eyes,” etc. etc. –up to maybe 10 questions to tri-sketch answer, on anything you attempt to draw sketch or paint. At least six such questions, three sketches answering each, seem to be needed to kick in the desired effects. Those desired effects probably will show some marked artistic improvement in the final picture as the effects of all those diverse sketches will inform your rendering. But you will be seeing far more about not only the object sketched but about everything, and with 80% of the brain involved with vision, this should be significant as regards “intelligence” by whatever definition. We’d love to see someone come up with a measurement study 2 months following a time when the experimental subjects so sketched 2-3 diverse such objects per week for 6-8 weeks.


The problems which solve by means of review of what we know about them, nearly all have already been solved. The ones which are left to us are the ones which don’t solve that way. There, what we “know” has become the problem by standing between us and the fresh perceptions needed wherein to find good answer. Moreover, by mulling over and over what we “know” about the problem, we’ve engendered neuronal habituation – i.e., put most of our intelligence to sleep in context of the problem. The successful CPS programs around the world are those which somehow move us beyond what we “know” and into fresh perceptions about the problem. So–

Generally, it seems to be a very good idea to move from mulling over what we know about the problem, to some sort of perception or perceiving in relation to the problem.

If the sketching of your tree or bush or whatever did not bring up ideas by “incubation” (unconscious ideas becoming conscious for you while your inner noise levels were down amidst some pleasant arts-related activity), start off doing your next sketch of some object by saying, “This problem is like this bush (or object), or this bush is like the problem, in that…..” If your tree were that problem, who or what would be the trunk? Who or what the roots? Who or what the folliage?” etc. etc.etc. Then put consideration of the problem aside and start those tri-answer sketches. See if somewhere along the way, ideas aren’t kicked loose for you. Keep a notepad or tape recorder handy close by for when the ideas do start coming up.

Another Way to Kick Loose Ideas via ‘Going Perceptual’ on the Problem:

Whatever that problem is, somehow make a quick overall sketch of it. Whether literal and specific, “abstract,” or in lieu of anything else somehow depicting your feelings about that problem. (Some literal, sketchable portrayal is preferred but not required. (2-5 minutes. Keep close by a notepad nto which you can jot ideas in words if and as these occur to you.)

Find 4-8 detail questions you can ask yourself about the problem, questions whose answer somehow, one way or another, can be sketched. In answer to each of those questions, find three different but quick ways to depict your answer to that question. Then, Sketch a fresh picture of the problem and of what has since occurred to you in relation to it. –Including anything which might be a possible idea toward its solution….

[If this activity were done in a group, present your sketch and all the things, whether ‘relevant’ or no, which came into your awareness during this process….

Conclusion: Image Streaming, Over-the-Wall, Quick Q/A and High Thinktank methods from Project Renaissance, and many of the “Visionizing” techniques set forth by Dr. Sid Parnes in his book of that title, among modern versions of Einsteinian Discovery Technique, probably are far more immediate and effective for discovering your best answer to most issues and problems, but the “Artist’s Eyes” approach can be a good back-up when needed, once learned, and its practice is probably another good builder of intelligence.