Colouring-in books for grown-ups have become extremely popular in bookshops and online stores. They are promoted as agents of ‘mindfulness’ and often contain outlines of flowers, geometric patterns, and intricate lettering which you are invited to colour-in with pencils, felt-tip pens or paint. Not often associated with the study of professions and professional practices, colouring-in might seem a strange topic for this blog. However, two things in particular bring colouring-in to the attention of ProPELmatters: topic and method.
First, the topics for colouring-in include people at work. This is interesting in terms of how professions are depicted through the most basic of visual elements (lines and spaces). It is particularly interesting in terms of the objects, technologies and settings that are included/excluded in these depictions. For example, if you do a google image search with ‘colouring-in doctor’ take a look at the range of equipment, clothing and people that are included in the different pictures. Looked at in this sociomaterial way then these colouring-in pictures are no longer simple representations of work but depictions of complex material arrangements. Have a look at what the work of a politician looks like as a line drawing.
Second, line drawings typical of this colouring-in aesthetic have been developed recently as a particular visual method for the analysis of professional practices. My thesis ‘Precarious Practices: Artists, Work and Knowing-in-Practice’ presents a very particular methodology of integrated imagework that foregrounds the process of line drawing (traced from digital photographs of ‘work’) as a means of analysing relations between practices, materialities and knowing. These ‘photo-traced’ line drawings, and their subsequent coloured versions, draw on practice-based theories (Gherardi, 2006; Knorr Cetina, 1997) and visual art theories (Eisner, 2002; Sullivan, 2008). The thesis makes a case for arts-based approaches, informed by this twinned theoretical perspective, as productive methods for the study of work and learning. The detail of the methodology can be followed up in the thesis or listened to here, but I thought it might be nice to offer something immediately from the blog.
Just in time for the summer vacation period ProPELmatters brings you colouring-in as an innovative way of engaging with challenging concepts such as materiality, practices and professional learning even while you sunbathe.
Download, print and take a copy to the beach.