Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Art, Writing and... Science???

If you're artistically minded (like me), chances are at some point in your school career you slammed your math book shut and wailed "but MOM, I'm never going to USE this stuff!"

Ha ha.

Fast forwards a few years and it is downright surprising how big of a role math and science can play in 'artsy' things.

Take, for instance, drawing. In order to be an accurate artist, one often has to employ mathematical rules of proportion. Then, if one wants to be able to accurately draw the human figure, it is necessary to have at least a working knowledge of anatomy. It's no fluke that portrayal of the human body became much more realistic during the Renaissance. Artists like Michelangelo and Da Vinci realized the importance of anatomy. However, at that time very little was known about the human body because study of cadavers were forbidden by law. Both of these artists carried out secret dissections by night to learn more about the internal structure of the human body, and their art clearly reflects this knowledge. (Read "The Agony and the Ecstasy" for an excellent fictional portrayal of this time in art history).

Then there is writing. A good writer learns as much about all aspects of the world as they can. One of my favorite authors, Orson Scott Card, writes masterful fiction precisely because he is a voracious reader of all manner of subjects and his knowledge therefore spans many fields. Lately I've been applying my knowledge of science and medicine (rudimentary, I assure you!) to two writing projects -- one a fan fic, the other my latest novel. I'm very quickly reaching my limits and wishing there was a simple way to glean more facts! (It helps, however, that my mother is a nurse.) Believe it or not, although I detested the last Psychology course I took and dropped it halfway through, I'm actually looking forwards to taking it again and applying it to my character development.

One thing that surprises people is the fact that, though I dislike math, I'm actually fairly good at simple addition, subtraction and multiplication, and can calculate these things fairly quickly in my head. Why? Because I have to use them (as well as simple algebra) in clothing design. Calculating yardages, measurements, etc all requires math. In fact, Math is such a staple in clothing design that the math course I took at my last college isn't advanced enough for the requirements of my Apparel Design degree! I am going to have to take something like "Finite Mathematics" or "Applied Calculus I." Oy vey.

Anyhow, this is all meant as an encouragement to persevere. The world really is more integrated than you might think, and those math and science classes just might have more practical application than you'd currently predict.


Shaylynn said...

Thanks for sharing! I tend to hate math and (most) science, too... But you're right, you DO need it.

Isn't it funny, though, that you hate these subjects when studying in school, but once you have the need to apply them to art or whatnot, they get much more interesting? I honestly think that the only reason I enjoyed Geometry was because I was able to apply what I learned to my artwork (that, and I saw it used in M.C. Escher...)

Kristin Martin said...

"...because cadavers were forbidden by law. Both of these artists carried out secret cadavers by night to learn..."

This made me laugh just a little bit because I thought to myself "dead bodies were illegal? You mean people weren't allowed to die?" since cadaver is a noun. I am assuming you mean the study of cadavers was illegal.

Elizabeth Amy Hajek said...

Well yes and no. You're right that I was using it as a noun and I will insert a verb to clarify, but the term "cadaver" usually only refers to bodies that are being used for scientific research so it's more than just a "dead body."

Carmie said...

Oh my gosh. Join the club of science geeks!

If you think of psychology as an application for your writing you will love it. Seriously. It is so essential to understanding the human person. :P If you take a psych course and then go read a book by an author who can reallllly write good characters you can point out tons of new things you didnt notice before. Everything Ive learned in my psych class I can apply to writing characters. Its amazing how the mind works and how the human person develops! It seriously boggles my mind.