Cognitive Comics

A Constructivist Approach to Sequential Art - Research Fellowship Grant from State University of New York at Buffalo. Fellowship recipient and author,


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Cognitive Comics - Production Report July 29, '09

Posted by cognitivecomics on July 29, 2009 at 9:04 PM Comments comments (0)

Whoaw! I'm under the gun now...

The fellowship research is to be handed in on August 19th, the book has so many more things that I need to do with it.... It's been a fantastic journey and I feel I've only scratched the surface! What I have to continuously avoid is repeating what other people have already done before me, there is no need to reinvent the wheel but as I embark on presenting sequential art as a worthy field of study for art educators, I have to assume they are familiar with basic theories and practices. I am excited to find out in my research that there are numerous schools and teachers across the US and UK that are taking the reigns and reporting thier own research on art education and cognitive development - BRAVO!

It becomes increasingly apparent that the real mission here is to produce an intelligent citizenry. I've always maintainted that it is not the job of art educators to teach students "what" to think by "how to" think - that is to cultivate their cognitive processes so that they are able to come to their own decisions and think rationally about the myriad choices the world offers us. In a world where quick and easy is promoted as the best method, I gather that art educators are using art to both show young people the wonders and complexities of the world WHILE teaching them how to cope with it intellectually and emotionally. How many people or orgainizations are equipping the children of today with these kind of skills?

I have the happy complaint that the research I'm doing is driving me mad with the desire to dig deeper into what sequential art is to our culture and how it can play a role in cognitive and affective development. I think I should do a follow up/ companion book on Affective Comics, focusing on the development of EQ, emotional intelligence. Alas, Time and Money are once again the enemy of art and progress....

Posted by cognitivecomics on July 6, 2009 at 10:38 PM Comments comments (0)

Found a GREAT article that reports on research of comics as a tool for instruction:

Graphic Novel Seminar - Medialle College, Arts in Education

Posted by cognitivecomics on July 2, 2009 at 10:01 AM Comments comments (0)

Through the Arts in Education Institute of Western New York, I was hired to prepare and present a workshop at Medaille College as part of a teacher development week with other workshops. Arts in Education hired me to co-develop a Graphic Novel curriculum that they will be teaching in Western New York school districts.

The day started with me conducting a 45 minute power point lecture on graphic novels, defining sequential art and focusing on the work of study chosen by the Institue, Shaun Tan's The Arrival. There appeared to be over a hundred teachers from area schools that signed on to this all day seminar. I taught 3 classes to groups of these teachers after the slide lecture, two classes on creating their own mini-graphic novel from a folded paper book and one class on comic book illlstration techniques.

The Arts in Educaiton Institute filmed the lecture and several segments of my classes. These will be posted on their site and given to me in DVD form. My power point presentation will be available for teachers at the AIE site as well. I will link to those movies when they are posted.

 - Donald

Production Phase has Begun

Posted by cognitivecomics on June 24, 2009 at 11:29 AM Comments comments (0)

Meeting weekly with my Mentor, I've gotten a clear picture of the the project map and have honed it down to focusing on the target demographic: teachers. The outcome of this research project will really be the beginning of a journey into this field of study.

Challenges to this project:

-I have numerous stories I'd like to produce for this book but time is limited.

-Researching Steven Lehar's writings, I've found great inspiration and knowledge but I'm still not sure how I will tie it into my research. It seems that his work provides a broader context to perception, art and cognition. I can work off this as a foundation for my approach to using sequential art as a teaching tool.

-I'm discovering my ambitions for this project far outweigh my time.


Posted by cognitivecomics on June 17, 2009 at 9:01 PM Comments comments (0)

Here is an excerpt from a recent email between me and Dr. Lehar. I'm reading his HIERARCHICAL PROGRESSION IN ART, I pose questions relevant to art and cognitive development.



Jackson: If we apply the processes  of creating visual art ( referring to

drawing/painting/sculpture ) to extract information about the world,

we can have a complete and symmetrical scientific understanding of the

world. This is because the processes of art making are processes of

perception that bring mathematical order to the object of art while

maintaining the plasticity of the subject.


Lehar: Yes, thats it. When a scientist views a log, say, and notes "Thats

like a cylinder", and goes on to calculate its volume by length x

area, or whatever, the calculations in his mind are like those in a

digital computer, all symbolic non-spatial calculations (pi times r

squared times length = volume, volume x density = weight...

[whatever]). But if you consider scientific thinking to be limited to

that abstract symbol-manipulation then you have missed a very

important scientific process, looking at the log and seeing a

similarity to a cylinder! That is exactly what people do instinctively

without even thinking about it, but computers are completely incapable

of doing that (although if you give them the radius and length, they

can easily do the symbol manipulation and compute the volume), and

that largely-ignored mostly-un-noticed operation of the scientific

mind (seeing the cylinder IN the log) is exactly what artists do all

the time. It is what the "how to draw" books and classes are all


My point is that that particular mental activity, which is generally

considered to be part of art, is also an essential component of

scientific thinking, and it is exactly that aspect which we have NOT

YET replicated in our artificial intelligences.

Plasticity is in the very nature of this mental process. Its like we

are looking at the log, and at the same time, in our mind's eye we are

moulding a piece of clay and rolling and pinching it in our mind until

it looks like the thing in front of us, at which point we look at the

clay and say "looks like a cylinder".


Jackson: it supports the idea that art education can create cognitive

development but that art is an essential ( missing?) link to

scientific inquiry and application... Am I making sense?



Lehar: Yes, my thesis is very much a return to the ANCIENT (Greek, Roman,

medieval) notion that art is a kind of science, a more precise viewing

of the world, and as such, it is NOT just an idle passtime for kids

which serves no useful purpose, but art is an essential prerequisite

to making logical sense of the world.

This point is made again in the Boundaries of Human Knowledge book,

where the "laws of perceptimetry" are exactly the process that is

required to "see" geometrical shapes in visual objects.

The only reason this has not been generally considered an essential

part of scientific thinking is because it happens so rapidly and

effortlessly that we don't even notice it as a mental process, and the

object of our experience (the log we see before us) we assume to be an

objective external object, a real log lying right there, rather than a

picture in our mind constructed on the basis of the sensory input, by

a non-verbal non-symbolic process which has yet to be formalized




Sean Flynn on Visual Culture

Posted by cognitivecomics on June 5, 2009 at 9:07 AM Comments comments (0)


I belong to a Visual Thinking Group on LinkedIn and came across this video. Although it's more of an artist's resume/bio it covers some interesting topics on comics that are relevant to my research, specifically the question of epistomology. I like that this artist sees the realm of art as a ground on which human experience is more a shared reality. Though there are some generalizations in his comments, there are some good points for discussion.

Corresponding with Neil Cohn- Dangers in Research

Posted by cognitivecomics on June 3, 2009 at 8:45 AM Comments comments (0)

After enjoying Neil's lecture ( see link in preceeding blog post ), my head was spinning with ideas. What I'm discovering is that my ideas are perhaps more hypothesis then fact though. There is a danger when listening to a lecture, that one is also listening to the voice in one's head and making connections with their own education and experience. This is normal but the danger lies in disconnecting with what we are listening to... presuming the lecturer is saying what they mean without implying something different, that is.

My expertise is more in creating sequential art and designing art education lesson plans. I am an ant in the presence of people like Scott McCloud and Neil Cohn regarding the academics and theory of sequential art. One hopes that their research and writings pioneer a path that people like myself don't have to plow. What if I want to diverge though? I can make connections to my own knowledge base, perhaps I can pave my own roads that are useful to my objectives.

Another short coming I have is that I don't have time or access ( YET ) to testing my ideas. The culmination of this research project will produce a book that then can be tested. My plan is to then create another edition of this book with corrections and go on from there.

Neil has been very kind to respond to my emails, it's vital to success to be able to take feedback and foresee where one needs to be accountable. This is a learning process in which I am becoming more familiar with research protocal. Another danger I am encountering is my reliance on my own creative concepts at the expense of research that would back up these pontifications. I must dig deeper to see what could support my ideas.

Much appreciation to Neil for his frank and clear advice. In some sense, anyone in this field of comics theory are all kin, the field stands to gain much by mutual support.

Visual Language- Neil Cohn Lecture movie/ .ppt

Posted by cognitivecomics on June 1, 2009 at 10:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Neil's work is something I've been looking at for some time, the link below is a good lecture he did at Toronto University on Visual Language- What comics tell us about the brain. This is a must for anyone interested in cognitive sciences as relates to education and sequential art. Have a look:

Email Update - May 29

Posted by cognitivecomics on May 30, 2009 at 7:27 AM Comments comments (0)

Dr. Parks,

  If you see any weaknesses, holes or deficiencies in my project, by all means call me out on it! I want this project to be very effective and not a lot of hot air. I was re-reading some of Navigating the Teaching of Art and reminded of keeping the art contemporary and connected to student's lives ( as opposed to Monet's water lillies )...I have to admit wanting to make some of my own commentaries on American culture / history but don't want to be too self indulgent. I'm thinking the super hero idiom is one bridge to popular culture that can help teach concepts through allegory and analogy but I'll try to go further into subjects such as societies relationship with information technology, etc.


   I like your analogy with "The Gods Must be Crazy", whatever artI present to readers, it will still be something new and readers willhave to draw on their own knowledge/experience base to start peeling back the layers of meaning. I think your point was to make sure that Idon't make the sequential art too subjective or surreal?


  Though Buddhism is something I've studied and tried to practice seriously, it's not directly connected to this project. I'm still very much in the stages of researching the the list you gave me, and finding what, if any connection, I can make to Steven's work. I realized quickly that I am not going to restate all that is known on cognitive development in art education but that I'll identify points laid out inyour book as my guidelines. The lesson planning per sequential artsegment is actually where the meat of the book will be. The strength ofthose will determine the overall success of the book once it's in the hands of art educators....Again, those will be based on what is taught in your book.


  Two artists I'm intrigued with for doing appropriations insequential art for this book are Mark Tansey and Cindy Sherman. They both have strong narrative elements that seem to lend themselves towhat I'm doing with the sequential art... Tansey's work is kind ofdense intellectually ( refs to Derrida, etc. ) but Sherman's work seemswide open to interpretation. I wonder if you know anything about thesetwo that could feed the fire.


  It's looking like Wednesday should be open to meet, I'll have more content to share  by then as well.

  Take care - Donald 

Making and evaluating art

Posted by cognitivecomics on May 28, 2009 at 10:08 AM Comments comments (0)

  Reading Dr. Lehar's treaties on Perceptimetrics, I may find that I am learning more about my own artistic mental processes as apposed to finding information that backs up my theory that sequential art facilitates cognitive development.

  It may happen to be that the processes of making one's own sequential art yeilds a higher rate of cognitive development than simply reading comics and having the mind make connections, fill in the blanks, problem solve, form assumptions, opinions, beliefs by evaluating the comics read.


  So far, knowledge of Perceptimetrics seems to me a useful tool for navigating creativity and one's subjective experience of reality, including dreams.  I'll have to talk more with Dr. Lehar to see if I am understanding it correctly and discover how to apply it to making and evaluating art.

May 25, 09