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Artists as Researchers

“Paintings are but research and experiment. I never do a painting as a work of art. All of them are researches.” (Pablo Picasso)

Can art making be a form of hands-on research? What can we learn from our experiments and explorations?

How can we discover new things about our themes and about ourselves through making art?

Working with Mentor Artist Brooke Toczylowski the Mural Team at Davidson has been researching – both the history of San Rafael and painting.  Toczylowski has studied Arts Based Research with Julia Marshall and Kimberley D’Adamo at San Francisco State University.

As they get ready to create the mural students are digging deep into both content and technique. Students use their art journals as a place to express, experiment, document, and learn.

To start their research the artists learned how to make a mind map in which they focused on what they already know about their chosen theme. For example, a student asks herself, “What do I already know about the Miwoks?” and “What do I want to know?”

Using resources from historical books, the internet, and oral histories from the Marin History Museum, students began their reading and researching. They created pages in their journals in which image and text intertwine and interact. Having such an open format allows them to make the content personal and relevant to their own lives.

In addition to historical research the artists are also experimenting with different paints and techniques. At the end of each session together students share what they’ve discovered support each other in their next steps.

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