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Can you draw?

  1. Jul 17, 2015 #1
    OK, ever since I was young I was well aware of my inability to draw. I had a friend who really could draw, and he did it so effortlessly. When I tried to draw, I had to erase erase and erase!

    I am asking this because I am a math major, and I would like to know if drawing is a talent that mathematicians are required to have.

    I am sure that drawing talents are somehow related to spatial IQ. Obviously, the ability to visualize 3D objects in your mind is important to math.

    Please vote.
    Mod note: Polls aren't allowed here, so poll was deleted.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 17, 2015
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 17, 2015 #2

    Not really. It is nice to have at times, but it's not essential at all.
  4. Jul 17, 2015 #3


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    Awww. :cry:
  5. Jul 17, 2015 #4
    I am good at math but absolutely suck at drawing.

    It always baffled me how some kid in grade school could pick up a pencil and draw a horse that looked like a horse. I pick up a pencil and it's looks like an amoeba with 4 legs and a tale. We drew and coloured every day so it wasn't lack of interest or practice.

    When I took geology we used to have to draw in our field notes. I would cringe! Looked like some pre schooler had scribbled in my notebook. I sure wish we had had cell phone cameras!
  6. Jul 17, 2015 #5


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    Drawing ability is very important, but for Mathematics, skill for drawing at the level of Da Vinci is not necessary. Level of skill needed is far less than that.
  7. Jul 17, 2015 #6


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    Do you know how long I've practiced at drawing amoebas??? I suck!

    Everyone I draw ends up looking like a horse or something.
  8. Jul 18, 2015 #7


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    That is what I mean. A person does not need to be greatly talented at drawing in order to handle Mathematics. Nearly anyone is good enough at drawing for Mathematics purposes.
  9. Jul 18, 2015 #8
    What about spatial IQ?

    I heard that spatial IQ is important to physicists.
  10. Jul 18, 2015 #9


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  11. Jul 18, 2015 #10

    Stephen Tashi

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    I think that the ability to draw can be developed by study and practice, but it is a considerable undertaking.

    It's true that there is an approach to drawing that involves mentally visualizing blocky 3-D shapes and their projections on the drawing paper. Many of the older how-to-draw books assume the reader already has that skill.

    But some of the most effective techniques involve mentally ignoring 3-D space. For example, there is the "Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain" approach that emphasizes "negative space" (in the sense that such terminology is used by artists). That approach urges the artist to forget the 3-D mental model of the subject. Drawing "negative space" applies to a situation where you are drawing something you actually see rather than drawing something you imagine.

    There is (what I would call) the "manual implementation of mechanical drawing" where you use a pencil held at arms length to take measurements of distances and angles on the scene and compare them to distances and angles on the paper. The extreme implementation of this technique is "sight size" drawing where distances on the drawing are made exactly the same as distances measured on the pencil and a plum bob is used to establish a common vertical reference between the artist's view of object being drawn and the image of the object on the paper.

    Of course there is the technique of using a grid on a photograph to transfer outlines to another grid that is on the drawing. Most drawing books you see with "photo realistic" drawings on the cover are teaching this technique. That technique might not satisfy your definition of drawing. However it is useful as an exercise to help you learn how the real outlines on a photo compare to your first mental impressions of what they should be.

    When actually drawing you can switch back and forth between several (perhaps contradictory) techniques.
  12. Jul 18, 2015 #11
    For a very long time, I wanted to be an illustrator before I got interested in engineering and then eventually studying math (finished a PhD) before my current job, which is software development.

    Depending on what kind of math you do, visualization can be very important, but I found a lot of mine was essentially 2-dimensional, even when I was thinking about n-dimensional things. However, it's not clear what the link is between drawing and math visualization and what skills would really transfer over. I never developed my drawing skills quite to a professional level, but I got far enough that I think I really understood the essence of what drawing is about, such that a pro mostly just does the same things I do when I draw, only better.

    This is a different kind of drawing than the sort needed by, say, a comic book artist, or in other words, the ability to draw from your imagination. If you just copy what you see, you only develop fairly superficial drawing skills. Even to draw more artistic life drawings, you have to think somewhat 3-dimensionally. Drawing is about as sophisticated a skill as being a concert pianist or getting a PhD in math. The whole book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is like dipping your toes into the ocean of drawing.

    It turns out that the sense of touch may be almost as important for drawing as vision is. Conceptually, I've always thought of learning to draw from the imagination as sort of gaining possession of a kind of imaginary clay that you can work with on paper. I think this sprang from my observation that sculpting was quite a bit easier than drawing was--that gives you a sense of how touch might come into play when creating 3-d images. It's not clear that this any of this is really that helpful for doing math, but you can always check out a copy of The Natural Way to Draw and working through the first chapter (or more, if you are so inclined) if you are curious to experience a taste of what I am talking about.

    It's possible that there could be a benefit to your geometric reasoning abilities, and all you have to do is remember the existence of projective geometry and even regular plane geometry to see some connection between the two subjects, but I am always a bit skeptical of whether skills really transfer from one domain to another. It's hard to say, but I think the skills are fairly independent of each other.

    I think I may have been too visual to fit in in today's mathematical culture, even after choosing a fairly visual subject (topology), so the imagination is probably not held in quite the esteem it deserves to be in math, despite the fact that many of the very best mathematicians have stressed its importance in their thought processes.
  13. Jul 20, 2015 #12
    I think there has been a modest improvement in my drawing ability as I've gone through my courses, as I've found that drawing graphs by hand is a way that I pick up on things very well. There's also been a bit of an improvement in my handwriting. I like to think that I draw very pretty integral signs.

    Like any other skill, drawing ability can easily be improved with practice and with training. With extended practice, this might come with it the ability to visualize things and analyze them in your head. But this is not necessary to do well in math. As for improving your spatial IQ, playing loads of video games apparently helps with that, though if what you are interested in is improving your ability with math then your time would be much better spent studying math.
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