I have a brother who is 1.5 years younger than I am. As children, we both loved to draw. At some point, maybe around 6th-grade, we started drawing human figures in art class—and I was convinced my drawings were terrible. To this day, the thought of drawing realistic human figures terrifies me.
Years later, I noticed an interesting pattern. As children, my brother and I had many overlapping interests; but somehow, as adults, we’d unconsciously divided up the world between us. If he was slightly better at something, it became his domain. If I was slightly better at something, it became mine. I can’t think of a single interest we have in common any more.
Looking back, it’s now clear to me that I became convinced I couldn’t draw realistic human figures because, at around the same time I was learning to do it, my brother was taking to it like a fish in water. He was a natural. And since my drawings weren’t as good right away, I gave up. Then, in the last two years, I’ve started to experiment with drawing again. Instead of using pencil on paper, which still terrifies me, I’ve been drawing programmatically on a computer. My initial drawings were crude, but they got a lot better once I started paying attention. Who knew you could draw better flowers simply by studying what flowers actually look like and then putting in a little trial-and-error? :)
As you point out, how we see things is critical. I wrote about a tool I created to help students develop spatial sense. We tend to think of spatial sense as something you either have or not, but all these kids needed was a little help in training their brains what to look for.
In 2014, I designed an interactive web app called Drawing Area that won the WGBH Innovation Math Challenge. The app is…medium.com
The amount of raw data our brains have to process is incredible. Since we can’t absorb much of it, our brain filters a lot of it out or translates it into a more digestible form. I did an exercise recently where we were asked to read a paragraph of text. Several black dots had been scattered randomly across the paragraph, obscuring a few letters. It was trivial for our brains to fill in the gaps and read the paragraph. But here’s the freaky thing—we actually thought we could physically see the obscured letters even though, obviously, we couldn’t!
I can’t find it right now, but there was an article on Medium recently that discussed how, using eye-tracking, researchers found people from different cultures processed web pages differently. When localizing a web page for a different country, you can’t just change the text, you also have to think about how you’re placing different elements so people’s eyes are directed to the most important information. It’s important for us to always remember that, even if we’re sitting in the same room together or reading the same piece of text, we’re not seeing the same things.
Okay, this is totally random, but since you brought up drawing, I’m going to share these articles I wrote about drawing, programming, and my niece:
My niece recently re-introduced me to curve stitching. We were discussing the randomly-generated animated cityscape I…medium.com