The Healing power of Art

People are visual beings. According to branding expert Ernesto Olivares, we are 90% visual beings. While animals like dogs and cats use their sense of smell, and bats have a heightened sense of hearing, people are undeniably visually stimulated. Research from 3M Corporation tells us that humans process visuals 60,000 times faster than text. Visuals catch your eye, grab and sustain your attention more so than text ever can, at a speed and rate that text cannot match. HubSpot social media scientist Dan Zarrella found that tweets with visuals are more likely to be retweeted 94% more than tweets without visuals. This is a statistic I have known for a long time, and not because I work in the field of  advertising/marketing. Here below is a famous advertisement from the 1930s advertising agency, Young and Rubicam. It is a classic example of how a visual can affect the way we feel and think.

From Young and Rubicam Inc., July 1930, Public Domain

Also, when I think of the magazine National Geographic, I visualize the iconic photo of Afghan refugee, Sharbat Gula, captured by photographer Steve McCurry. It remains a powerful image etched in my and the collective world’s memories.

Afghan girl, Steve McCurry, National Geographic, 1985

Donghwy An and Nara Youn of South Korea’s Hongik University write that “appreciating art induces inspiration, which in turn facilitates performance on creative tasks.” Their research show that simply displaying art in the work environment could enhance and intensify employees’ creative capabilities.

This research is no doubt part of an increasing amount of scientific evidence that has proven that visual art enhances brain function. It has an impact on brain wave patterns and emotions, the nervous system, and can actually raise serotonin levels. Art can change a person’s outlook and the way they experience the world.

For me, looking at photos and artwork put my mind at ease. This could be the reason why I have loved going to art galleries around the world while on vacation. Whenever I go to London, I always visit the Tate Modern, and the British Museum. In 2018, I was fortunate enough to spend my birthday in New York City, where I visited the Guggenheim, The Met and the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). It was a dream come true, and a bucket item I could tick off my list! When I spend time with art, I feel uplifted, inspired and transported to another time and place, and my momentary worries dissipate. Even if for just 5 minutes. Looking at art is for me, a healing balm in a sea of daily monotony and anxiety.

Vincent Van Gogh, The Starry Night 1889 at MOMA
Claude Monet, Water Lilies 1914-26 – at MOMA
Pablo Picasso, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907 at MOMA

On social media, I read posts that include a story with an image, or just a hashtag with a video. I find that as a hobbyist photographer, I love Instagram for the window it opens for me, to view other photographers’ work and to admire the creativity in art; in fact, it downright inspires and motivates me. When I am having a bad day, I spend time scrolling Instagram and being motivated by countless photos of food, landscapes, fashion and art, lifts me right out of the doldrums. Many times, posts don’t need words. Visual art speaks to me like no other medium can. I don’t have to process text, dialogue, nor lyrics. I don’t have to concentrate on the meaning behind the words, or the scene. I just have to stare at it, for possibly just seconds, and I feel its emotions, and connect with its message. That is the healing power of art and the visual medium.


Ernesto Oliveras (January, 2013). We are 90% visual beings. Retrieved from

Rachel Gillett (September 18, 2014). Why We’re More Likely To Remember Content With Images And Video (Infographic). Retrieved from

Image of Afghan girl, Sharbat Gula. Steve McCurry, National Geographic, June 1985. Retrieved from:

Scott Martin (July 10, 2017). Attention Grabbers: 5 Essentials to Make your Marketing stand out. Retrieved from

Tom Jacobs (November 23, 2017). Exposure to art inspires creativity at the office. Retrieved from

Renée Phillips (May 13, 2019). Art Enhances Brain Function and Well-Being. Retrieved from

All other images of art from MOMA, taken by MKwok003.

You can learn how to draw like a rockstar in 5 days

fishArt has always been important to me. It’s important to you whether you know it or not. I’ve never met a child who does not like to pick up a box of crayons and create worlds of their own. Something happens around the age of 10 or so. Most of us stop. As an artist, I often hear about my “gift”, how I’m naturally talented. You know what? Bunk. Nobody is born with an ability to draw in their DNA. I’d even venture that talent doesn’t exist. How we are raised, a particular moment in our childhood, a great many things can lead to an interest in creating art. If the interest is strong enough, we persevere and spend a lifetime learning the craft. Why do we lose interest then? According to the Journal of early childhood news at around age 10 we want to draw realism. This makes sense, we are trying to represent the world around us. Here’s the problem. Teaching drawing skills is not a priority in many schools. We tell our children to express themselves, but don’t provide the tools to do that. If a child draws a car, it’s a bit squished, the wheels aren’t quite round – it doesn’t look right. There is a good chance that the teacher will still praise the creativity and hang the drawing on the wall for all to see. This would never happen to a math sheet where 2+2=5 or a writing assignment where evreything was spelt rong. The child knows the car doesn’t look right but has no idea how to fix the situation. Since there is so little incentive to draw, we pack it in.

Durer hands

Albrecht Dürer [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons

The secret though is if you know how to write your name, you have all the find motor-skills required to draw. The rest is all learning. According to Drawing Academy, there are 12 essential skills to learning to draw, none of them has anything to do with physical skills or ability. The engineer Hessam Moussavi wrote a [great article] on the benefits of drawing on linkedIn. Notably, improvements in communication, problem-solving, stress release and concentration. Skills that are useful in almost any profession. Jennifer Landin, PhD writes in Scientific America how teaching her university biology students to draw has given them a richer understanding of the subjects they are studying. It’s also a great way to get involved in a community of interest. Whether you are an absolute beginner or make Albrecht Dürer look like a hack, there is a community for you to join.

Social media provides some great benefits for learning to draw while engaging the artistic community. The Facebook Drawing Club provides plenty of information on learning to draw. You can look up #drawing or #learntodraw on Twitter. The Ottawa artists Facebook Group is a place where you can show your work, learn from others and find out about art related events in Ottawa. I would encourage you to learn from these groups and contribute back. If you are feeling ambitious, blog about your artistic journey on Medium or WordPress. Join Deviant art for sources of inspiration, you can also have your work critiqued here if you ask. I would encourage you to pick any of the tutorials available on social media. Do the exercises for 5 days and you will be able to draw like a rockstar. Will you be great? Probably not, but who says rockstars know how to draw?

I’m curious, what skills do you think learning to draw would bring to your profession?

You can draw like a rockstar in 5 days. Learn how!

Would you like to learn how to draw? Good news! You can! If you can write your name, you can draw. Here’s how you can learn to draw like a rockstar in 5 days.

Never mind the MOMA, the ROM, the Tate or the National Gallery, There’s a new curator in town and it’s you!

courtest of pixabay:

In 1987 I stood in front of a broken wheelbarrow. The axel smashed and the wheel lays a few feet away. I was not on grandpa’s farm, or in the family garden. I was at a prestigious art gallery. The wheelbarrow? Not junk, not a tool in need of repair; it was a symbol of human labour. An artist created the piece, a curator decided it was worthy of display and there I stood. The exact same thing could be found in sheds, barns and garages across the country. I didn’t get it. I thought it was crap. I felt scammed. I also had no significant art history education, no context and whether something was art or not pretty much boiled down to “Does it appeal to ME?”.

There is, in North America, a long history of mistrust of art. Particularly the art found in galleries. In 1975 Tom Wolfe wrote in ‘The Painted World‘ “The notion that the public accepts or rejects anything in modern art is merely romantic fiction. The game is completed and the trophies distributed long before the public knows what has happened.” Canadians will be familiar with Barnett Newman’s “Voice of Fire“. A huge painting of an orange stripe on a blue background. There was outrage when it was purchased in 1990 that, to a degree, continues to this day.

We seem to be distrustful of art that is defined by critics, curators and collectors.

This is changing.

The public now has more influence over what goes on in galleries than ever before. Since the mid-2000s, many of us have started using social media. There are websites dedicated to the sharing of art. Deviant Art, according to Wikipedia is the largest online artists community. The site allows artists and patrons to post work where it is critiqued, discussed and shared via social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter. There are many Facebook groups where people share art they like. On Pinterest, you can find carefully curated galleries on everything from Renaissance art, to abstract expressionism to macramé. Popular opinion on an exhibit is quickly spread through Twitter, Facebook and Google reviews.

According to the CBC,  Thousands are lining up online for a selfie with AGO’s blockbuster Infinity Mirrors. The show is so popular on social media that Leah Sandals, and editor at Canadian Art says she is experiencing ‘social media exhaustion’.

I’m not sure what to make of this. Art is for the people. Perhaps social media is democratizing the art world. In the Washington Post article ‘Everybody’s an Art Curator‘ Ellen Gamerman writes about galleries in America that are deciding what does and doesn’t get shown in art galleries based on Twitter votes. Museums are crowdsourcing the curation of exhibits. This could have huge benefits in engaging people in the arts.

I do have concerns though. Art is not always popular. In the mid-nineteenth century, impressionism was seen as garbage. Today, thanks to dedicated collectors, we can enjoy the work of Monet and Van Gogh. Is there a line between amateur and professional curators? For me, there is a difference between good art and important art. Good art is the stuff I like. Important art contributes to the historical creative dialogue, spanning centuries and cultures. I’m not sure that in today’s climate, the National Gallery would have been able to successfully purchase Voice of Fire. That would have been unfortunate, by any measure it was a valuable investment.

What do you think? Is it fantastic that we can now use social media to influence what’s in galleries, particularly public galleries, or are we losing out when the voices of professional curators and art historians are drowned out?

Twitter: There’s new people in charge at major #art #galleries and it’s us! Are you the new art snob?

Facebook: We now have unprecedented influence in art exhibits at major galleries. Are you ready to curate some of the biggest shows on earth?

COM0011 – Blog 5 – Tattoos as Personal Branding

If you look anywhere on social media, or better yet, have gone outdoors in the area you live within the last twenty years, you may have noticed the increasing popularity of tattoo culture.

It may seem like people are in a huge hurry to permanently alter their appearance in the name of art, but I’m starting to wonder if in this age of personal branding, it might be the ultimate display of branding strategy.

Once reserved for ex-cons who had some jailhouse tats while they were in the big house, now they are visible on the various body parts of so many people, regardless of socio-economic class or age. Traditionally, tattoos held deep cultural meaning and were often a rite of passage or a symbol of rank. These days, they can mean a lot of things, but are commonly accessible in most areas in tattoo shops that specialize in the design and safe application of body modifications.

Part of the allure, aside from the stunningly intricate artwork and color palette emblazoned on your body, is that fact that they were long-held as counter-culture and unseemly. Like most trends, the oppression of a group has created an interest in one of the attributes common to that group, and the expression of the art form has spilled into popular culture.

From afar, tattoos can easily tell you a few things about someone without ever having to communicate with them directly. These things could include their penchant for a certain style of music, cultural affiliations, affection for their loved ones, and so on. This is not unlike personal branding in that it establishes the image a person projects out to the world to differentiate themselves from their competitors and to form alliances based on common interests.

The biggest difference between body art and digital branding as I see it, is that your body art goes everywhere with you and speaks for itself, while your digital branding lives on the internet and requires a measure of engagement to be accessed and appreciated. Perhaps the two elements together can marry the perfect branding: one that’s live and in person, and one that represents all your online and professional activities. A strong personal esthetic has done wonders for well-known personal brands like Lauren Conrad or David Gandy, for example. Social media is filled with people who gained notoriety from their remarkable body art, inciting the idea that anyone can set themselves apart form the crowd with a beautiful tattoo.

COM0011 – Introduction to Social Media-Blog #2-Smile, I’m finally on Instagram.

A picture is worth a thousand words.


That is what I have always loved about photos.  They communicate in an instant.  So it is only natural that my latest social media profile would be an Instagram account. Laurie Lancaster Instagram

I’ve been an avid photographer for years. I like to capture natural landscapes and urban street art. Especially political or subversive art. Instagram appealed to my photographer side so I figured I would try to get into the action. I kept trying to download it to my laptop.  I didn’t even realize it was a phone app until I finally downloaded to my phone the other day.  I was embarrassed I didn’t know.  The learning curve of social media for me is still uphill.

I decided to document my latest trip. Feeling compelled to be current and communicate it live. I am not real good at that.  Being a writer, I usually like to experience something first and document it later.  The lack of a reliable internet connection in the woods made the experience much less fun.  Instead of relaxing and enjoying the view of the lake or soaking in the outdoor hot tub, I was in the hotel room on my cell phone, trying to get an internet connection to upload my experience and make it current.  Totally missing the point I felt.

I was looking for “pictures” instead of just taking all the beauty in visually.  Would this view look nice?  Does this really capture the essence of the place?  What do I want to show people?  What was I trying to communicate? Half the time I was scanning with the internet view in mind.  A strange way to take in the world visually.

The Instagram demo is young and mainly female.  Most of my followers/friends online fit that profile.  The app is idiot proof.  Just upload the picture from your phone, add a filter and post to Twitter or Facebook.  I loved how simple it is to share my view of  the world.  Instagramming the photo to the world is pretty quick. And they do look pretty.

Why post photos? Why did I feel compelled to have this photo sharing account? To show where I was. Share my experience of it. Show others the beauty of the place.  My good intention set with the first Instagram photo I posted.



Trail blazes programming ideas with 100 DAYS OF CHILD CARE PROGRAMMING !!

100 Days photo 2003 SLC


Retired on-floor ECE teacher turned college professor.



Canada, where she maintains her first love, the education of children by inspiring ECE students to teach young children.

After graduating (ahem 20 years ago) with her ECE diploma, she’s worked in the field ever since, and is a proud witness to the emerging public awareness of the importance of play in young children.



Tames the flurry of ECE programming ideas into an ebook, blog and social media presence with 100 DAYS OF CHILD CARE PROGRAMMING, a collection of short and snappy creative art and programming ideas for the everyday teacher.August 18 033

Connect with her on: Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, or by commenting on any of her Google+ posts.



Yup.  She created and ran The Social Learning Centre – an afterschool homework and creative experience program for school age children. It was the best kind of down time after school .