Volume 2022 Number 3
  • EISSN: 2223-506X


Visual literacy is both an awareness of visual input and output, encoding and decoding, processing via the eyes and output through visual creation. When informed by the neuroscience of sight and memory, artists and educators can objectively understand their own visual work as well as nurture the visual language of their students (Kasdorf, 2020).

This arts-based and practice-based research was part of the author’s thesis during her master’s program in Museum and Gallery Practice at UCL Qatar (Kasdorf, 2020). The analysis further informs the author’s dialogue in creative workshops and classes in Qatar, with children and adults. In the case of workshops with illustration students, participants engage with the aesthetics of archival regional picture books to develop a personal voice. Their outcomes resist mainstream styles and embrace childlike exploration, a perspective that has been exercised in noteworthy Arab publishing history (Khan et al., 2009).

An entry point into understanding visual neuroscience is pinpointing ephemeral moments; to acknowledge the “spark” of aesthetic preference. Masland (2017) describes that raw visual data is amalgamated for efficiency by the retina, thereby curated by the personal circuitry. Neurons are generally latent with consistent light and activated with changes in light and direction (Masland, 2017). More determinant of individuality is the heightened activity of neurons in the working memory in relation to a preferred visual; even when the visual is out of direct view, neuronic activity persists (Self & Roelfsema, 2017). By repeatedly recognizing these ephemeral moments, subconscious activity can be harnessed to build visual style and language.

A child’s visual communication is noteworthy and telling of themselves (Khamis, 1962). With knowledge of the neuroscience of sight, an educator’s visual observation and objective language can nurture a child’s uninhibited and automated drawing and creating, as opposed to simply providing external validation. In turn, the child learns to value their own work objectively, without resorting to binary terms such as “good” or “bad”.

Visual literacy that incorporates knowledge of the neuroscience of sight supports more possibilities in drawing and creating, and thereby a broader sense of “normal”. Additionally, if drawing can allow for more diverse exploration, the same is enabled for people; visually literate people contribute to a broader normative knowledge system in society.

Drawing mirrors the relationships of people; if there is less of a “right” way to draw, there is less of a “right” way for people to be, and less of a “right” way for children (and adults) to understand themselves.


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  1. Kasdorf, C. (2020). Villa 12: The Museum Built by Ephemeral Monsters (dissertation).
  2. Khamis, H. (1962). رسوم الأطفال [Children’s Drawings]. Dar Al Mare’f.
  3. Khan, H., Ellabbad, M., & Traboulsi, N. (2009, December 4). Revolution for kids. Bidoun. Retrieved February 24, 2022, from https://www.bidoun.org/articles/revolution-for-kids
  4. Masland, R. H. (2017). Diversity in sight. Nature, 542:(7642), 418–419. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature21498
  5. Self, M. W., & Roelfsema, P. R. (2017). Neuroscience: Out of sight but not out of mind. Current Biology, 27:(7). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2017.02.050.
  • Article Type: Research Article
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