• THE BIOLOGICAL-ART DRAWING HEURISTIC: VISUALIZING COMPLEX BIOLOGICAL SYSTEMS IN BIOLOGY EDUCATION & RESEARCH

      Kumar, Sudhir; Escalante, Ananias; Kulathinal, Rob J.; Hedges, S. Blair; Williams, Kimberly D. (Temple University. Libraries, 2021)
      ABSTRACTBiology is considered the most visual of the sciences. Historically it has relied on the skill set of observation, experimentation, and (less acknowledged) drawing. Many scientists, who have contributed to the foundations of biology and medicine, were also artists (Smith 2009). The drawing methods employed by these pioneers of biology have been overlooked in history and rarely considered a methodology for research or educational practices related to complex biological topics like evolutionary processes. According to botanist and artist Agnes Arbor, “There is a close association between fingers and brain, that the handing over either the technical or the interpretive side of research to another worker cannot but mean a serious loss of integration” (Arbor 1954). The integrated drawing-experimental methods of the past combined the observational naturalist’s skill set with the experimental biologist skill set. As a result, the drawing methods themselves became a complex conceptualization of living systems and illuminated them. Today, biology disciplines are converging on a consensus that living systems are multi-dimensional, networked, dynamic, interdependent, and evolutionary complex webs. Understanding a complex moving web of life for students may require. It may benefit from a non-linear, creative approach for a continued perception of biological phenomena, as it did in the past. Benefits from this historical method may also emerge in the education of future life scientists and physicians. It has been verified that even simple drawing is an activity that increases observational skills, focus, and divergent thinking (Kozbelt 2010). Technology has sped up the discovery process and increased the data output. However, it has had a side-effect of marginalizing those deliberate, mindful, and methodical biology skills, such as observation and drawing from Nature. Alongside the growing technology is a resurgence and a strong need for complementary measured, meditative arts and drawing practice. With this realization, the paradigm of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) has become colloquially popular. However, despite the use of “art” in science education and even the presence of artists in laboratories, the historical drawing biology approach has not been revisited, developed further, explored, or practiced in any rigorous way. This is a significant oversight in biological science education, considering that scientists of the past made huge leaps in their iii discoveries using simple technologies and drawing. This genuine unification of biology and drawing is generally not a domain that professional or academic artists or educators can easily address. It requires a deep understanding and intimate relationship with Nature and biological systems. As an authentic merger, it is content-heavy and skill-dependent. Developing a drawing-based model for biology is essential and, perhaps, best undertaken by biology sectors. My interest in this dissertation has been the synthesis that occurs within the learner or researcher of this amalgamated domain. It has not been developed or taught as a model of scientific inquiry today and does not exist in the science or biology curriculum. Yet, it is the core of the visual arts and visual STEAM-based experiences, which assert that they employ the visual arts to enhance biology education. To reveal the potential of the drawing discovery process, I have examined the multidimensional history of drawing for biology and visualizing biological mechanisms. Also, I have developed artistic-narrative methods, retaining the essence of the past and applicable in modern biology courses of today. These efforts address the deficit of a foundational visual skill set, which is the focus of this work.