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Gatlin Recognized With Elliot Eisner Doctoral Research Award

Published: July 15, 2013

Art Education’s Laurie Gatlin, a member of the university since 2010, was recognized this spring with one of four Elliot Eisner Doctoral Research Awards at the National Art Education Association conference held in Fort Worth, Texas.

The award was based on her doctoral dissertation for Indiana University titled “A Living Thing: Towards a Theory of Sketchbooks as Research” which examined how the sketchbook can be used as an artists’ tool in the cognitive process of making art. The Eisner award recognizes the value of doctoral research to the profession of art education as well as exemplary contributions made in the field.


Founded in 1947, the National Art Education Association is the leading professional membership organization exclusively for visual arts educators. Members include elementary, middle and high school visual arts educators, college and university professors, researchers and scholars, teaching artists, administrators and supervisors, and art museum educators, as well as more than 45,000 students who are members of the National Art Honor Society or are university students preparing to be art educators.

“I was surprised to receive this award,” said Gatlin, who joined CSULB with extensive experience as an art teacher at the middle- and high-school levels. “My research is very non-traditional. I study what I feel is central to being an artist—the creative process. I wanted to present my traditional research in a non-traditional way, through a series of five sketchbooks. I felt this was a groundbreaking change in how to present research. I was not sure how other researchers would react to such a non-traditional presentation but now I feel gratified about it. One of the advantages to presenting in this way is that it is easily accessible to a wide variety of people. This distinction represents a seal of approval on my non-traditional approach. The process of information gathering was traditional. It was the reporting of that information that was unusual and that makes this recognition very satisfying.”

Gatlin sees the use of sketchbooks as a way for art educators to re-connect with the creative process.

“There are a lot of K-12 teachers who see research as totally boring and disconnected from what they do in their worlds,” she explained. “When those teachers look at this visually engaging way of presenting information, it doesn’t look like the same stuffy old research. You can read the text with a second layer of understanding through the visual.”

Gatlin believes using sketchbooks can help educators stay connected with the artistic process.

“The feedback from my participants tells me that using sketchbooks made them want to make art again,” she said. “To always look at art from a dry and dispassionate point of view can become enervating if the art-making process does not reflect the liveliness that got the artist engaged with the subject in the first place. The subject of my research is the artistic process and I want to keep in touch with that.”

Gatlin reflected on the real-life benefits of sketchbooks to the modern art educator. “I taught a workshop for 20 practicing art teachers,” she recalled. “It was a way for these teachers, who ranged from one- or two-year newcomers to 30-year veterans, to refresh their classroom teaching abilities. The participants created their own sketchbooks because I wanted them to have a close experience with this method. My dissertation was titled ‘A Living Thing’ and that is how I see sketchbooks, as something that continues to grow with them, like living things. I wanted my students to have a transformative experience with their sketchbooks. I wanted them excited about going into the classroom to work with sketchbooks. I wanted them to see what sketchbooks could be and, in that, I feel I was successful.”

Laurie Gatlin Holding National Art Education Association Award
Laurie Gatlin at awards ceremony.

Gatlin received her bachelor of arts in education degree in 1993, her master’s in art education in 2001 from the Herron School of Art located on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and her doctorate in 2012 from Indiana University. Her painting and sculpture has been included in group shows at Woodburn and Westcott Gallery and other venues in Indianapolis.

Gatlin hopes her award will help her explore how the sketchbook offers a visual way to make sense of the world. “I have done much of my work in sketchbooks because it was my way to transform my thoughts of into images,” she said. “When I looked at all the data I collected in my research, I found that working in my sketchbook was a way to make sense visually of my data.”

Gatlin is glad she chose CSULB. “I’m especially glad to be here because I feel I was hired very much on trust,” she said. “I’m sure there were faculty members who wondered if what I was doing was real research. Indiana University always had been supportive. Would CSULB? But I wound up excited to be here as the coordinator of the single subject art teaching credential program. I’m especially glad to work with my colleague, Carlos Silveira. I feel I was really blessed to land in a situation like this. I grew up in California but spent 15 years in Indiana. I was anxious to return to my home in the Golden State and I am thrilled to be here.”

–Richard Manly