Exploration · On The Reading Shelf

Visual Intelligence

During art class in fifth grade, our teacher would repeatedly say “You have to learn how to look.”  without saying anything more.  What was I looking for?  How was I supposed to do this?    I never had the courage to ask; I thought everyone but me knew what they were doing.

Amy E. Herman’s book Visual Intelligence:  Sharpen Your Perception, Change Your Life instantly intrigued me.   Herman conducts classes in visual perception that have been used by the FBI, Scotland Yard, NYPD, Department of Homeland Security, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine,  and other organizations where visual sharpness is required to perform jobs well.  An art historian and attorney, Herman helps her clients see what others do not, and these skills can translate to saving a life or saving a company.

To begin, Herman has us look at various paintings then look away and write down everything we observed.  What details did we catch and what did we overlook?  She relates the story of how a crime was ultimately solved by someone who noticed on security camera footage that the perpetrator’s pants had been turned inside out – a small detail that escaped the notice of experts for months. Next, Herman has us look at the words we’ve used to describe what we see in a painting.  Are they subjective or objective?  What’s the difference and why does it matter?   What biases are we bringing to our observations?  How do we learn to look objectively so that we can communicate to others what we are seeing?

Some of her suggested exercises are reminiscent of the game played in the novel Kim, and they are still useful today. In an age of constant distractions, learning what can we do to focus our attention is more pertinent than ever.  Her suggestions and methods will help make me more aware of what I observe.

If you would like to test your own visual perception, visit Herman’s website and take a short quiz.  Don’t miss scrolling down the page and reading the article How Distractions are Making Us Dumber.  There’s also a TED talk on How Art Can Help You Visualize.



Hello and Welcome

Thanks for stopping by.

Over the next several months I have the enviable task of getting to play with some of my favorite things as I participate in the 2017 Build A Line Challenge.  The challenge is to design and create a unified line of jewelry on a theme of our choosing. This kind of focus is especially hard for someone whose mind works sideways, hardly ever in a straight line.  I like to think of it as zigzagging my way through life.

The one constant in my life since I was a child, though, is books, so I know that my journey will include lots of those.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about seeing, creating, and reading and how for me those things are all tied together.  I’ll share what I’m reading and why it intrigues me or doesn’t.  Here is where I’ll share what I’ve learned, what I don’t know, and what I want to know.

Our journey will start here – down the street at the Lake.   It’s my favorite place to cogitate.