Painting and creative writing essential for humans

Ausstellung_Das-Selbst-und-die-Anderen (image: FAU)
Painting and creative writing are of great significance in all stages of life. (Image: FAU)

For the first time, FAU researchers study the significance of drawing and creative writing from childhood to old age

Both activities constitute important fields of human creativity which may contribute to cultural enrichment and a fulfilling lifestyle at all stages of life. They are integral parts of human communication and personal expression. FAU researchers have now for the first time asked the question why human beings wield pens and paintbrushes.

In the project ‘Malen und Schreiben in der Biographie’ (Painting and writing throughout the stages of life), an interdisciplinary team of researchers led by Prof. Dr. Michael von Engelhardt from the Institute for Sociology and Prof. Dr. Susanne Liebmann-Wurmer from the Department for Art Education examines why painting, drawing and creative writing are of such great significance to humans from childhood to old age. They examine the conditions that must be given for children, adolescents, adults and elderly people to draw and write, in which situations they do so and the means they use. The project particularly focuses on the role painting, drawing and creative writing play in a person’s understanding of themselves and their environment.

The results show how important the promotion of these creative pursuits is for a balanced and productive life, especially in our modern achievement-oriented world. In childhood, painting and writing contribute to linguistic and perceptive development, boost imagination and autonomy and give access to the world of literature and culture. The same of course also applies to all subsequent stages of life. Many adolescents experience phases of extreme creativity with regard to painting, drawing and writing. These activities take on a fundamental significance in adolescents’ search for an independent identity. However, these creative activities often decrease. Nevertheless, writing and painting frequently continue to be important activities that counterbalance the demands of professional and family life and help to cope with crises and changes. On a person’s retirement, they gain a new significance as enriching activities that encourage participation in cultural life and that often serve as a way of reflecting upon one’s past.

In total 180 persons of all age groups participated in the study. The FAU researchers conducted biographical interviews so as to gain deeper insights into the significance painting and writing have in the participants’ lives. Participants were also invited to take part in a drawing or writing workshop to chart the practical aspects of painting and creative writing and their impact on the actual paintings and texts. The project forms part of the interdisciplinary research group ‘Die Bedeutung des Schreibens und kreativen Gestaltens für die Entwicklung des Menschen’ (The significance of writing and creative expression in human development) at FAU, which is funded by the Staedtler Foundation.

Further information:

Prof. Dr. Michael von Engelhardt
Phone: 09131/85-22378

Prof. Dr. Susanne Liebmann-Wurmer
Phone: 0911/5302-522