The Learning Renaissance

Illusterate – the Graphical Equivalent of Illiterate or Innumerate

In my first teaching post I had the privilege of working with David Close, a superb artist and educator who went on from Swavesey Village College to lecture in higher education in London.

He captivated the staff one INSET day with an illustrated talk and practical on the benefits of being able to express ideas graphically. He put forward the view that the ability to draw was often discounted, but as a way of expressing ideas and realities, it was as important as literacy and numeracy. He coined the term illusterate as meaning one who could not express themselves in illustrations.

He explained how significant this ability was in the world of employment as well as making the point there were those with significant talents in illustration whose expertise was neither recognised nor celebrated. The same point could be made for those with a practical facility to work in wood or metal to realise designs in 3D. Today this idea might not seem so innovative, but I am speaking of a time before the mass use of computers, of cad-cam or mobile phones. Today users have greater understanding of design and the concepts underpinning it, but perhaps less practical skill in realising original designs.

As one who draws with the same naïve style I had when I was about six years old, his talk was captivating.

He kept us enthralled by saying that in the large box in the corner he had a goose that he was expecting us to draw at the end of the talk. Eventually he distributing pencils and drawing paper and opened the box and carefully reached in to lift out the quiet goose who had been waiting patiently in the dark of the box.

What he revealed was a beautifully executed picture of a goose, which had every nuance of colour and structure, every sinew, feather and muscle included. The picture, but for the medium in which it was executed had all the joy of an old master about it. It was the very essence of a goose. David revealed that the painting had been executed, not by him, as we supposed, but by a 15-year-old student who was known by the majority of teachers as having ‘special educational needs’. He challenged us to re-consider this view in light of his gift for illustration.

I’ve never forgotten that afternoon, as it illustrated how we can so quickly adopt a deficit model of learning and use so few measures of talent in our assessment of learners.

I still draw with a naïve style, but I am at least keen to explore ways to improve, which is why this tip caught my attention: Video | How to Draw a Sphere


About educationalist04

Dazed and confused much of the time but convinced we can, as a species, do much better than this if we set our minds to being much more positive and productive towards our fellow humans.

6 comments on “Illusterate – the Graphical Equivalent of Illiterate or Innumerate

  1. Pingback: Illusterate or Being Graphically Competent… Thoughts of the New Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell | The Learning Renaissance

  2. Pingback: Literacies for the 21st Century | The Learning Renaissance

  3. Margareta
    November 4, 2015

    Many firms get too slowed down in design and what they assume seems to
    be finest and will convert.

  4. Thanks for the sensible critique. Me & my neighbor were just preparing to do a little research on this. We got a grab a book from our area library but I think I learned more from this post. I’m very glad to see such wonderful information being shared freely out there.

  5. Pingback: The Importance of Drawing | The Learning Renaissance

  6. Pingback: Dysgraphia: An Insight | The Learning Renaissance

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