A visual thought experiment

Teachers must be self-aware. Artist and teacher of art, Holly BF Warren, explores how we perceive and change ourselves by thinking about our shadows.

If you prefer to listen to the article being narrated by Holly – click on the link below

 Shadow seeing

How often do we look at the shadow we cast as we move? Our gaze might be directed elsewhere. If we were to stop and look at it, would we fall into it? Would we see anything? How many shadows would we see?

We are so accustomed to knowing that it is behind us, which it is but maybe not just.

Could we be designing the shadows we carry around with us? Their shape, texture, shade, intensity, sound, and size.


Shadow: secret, uncertainty, darkness, sadness, following, deceit, unknown, cover, doors, time, destination, block, obscurity?

As we move about our lives we are never alone. We carry, hold, embrace, kindle, lead and pull our shadow with us.

If we consider the fact that shadows are formed with the partnership of light we come to the realization that we might stand in the middle. Or do we? Could it be that we stand where we believe our shadow to be? Wherever we are there might be a block, something standing in the way that leads the way or that we shape its way . . . the way we are.

Shaping our shadows

As a mind wanderer, imaginer, artist, thinker and tinker of ideas I am often distracted by my shadows. Here I like to think about shadows, plural. If life is movement and we are life we are in motion and as we manoeuvre ourselves in the tapestry of life we shape our shadows.

Who and what are our shadows? Some say they are the projection of who we think we are. An outline filled with assumptions and personal narratives we design and look at with awe or criticism. Think of the sound of your recorded voice, the first time must have been strange. “Is that my voice!” Think of the dark outline you cast or your reflection in the mirror. “Oh, is that me?”


Shadow: protection, privacy, introspection, possibility, mirroring, reflection, movement, enigma, windows, space, journey, discovery, relief?

What shadows might be

Shadows aren’t necessarily black. They aren’t necessarily behind us. They are the shape of what we know that make us who we think we are. A tap on our shoulder, a nudge, a whisper and as we turn so do our assumptions. They are not necessarily blocks but deferrals.

Designing my shadow

Every morning I design the shape of my shadow. I converse with it; I ask questions and stumble into patterns I know too well. I brush it off, but some crumbs get stuck in my pockets. Sometimes, I change shadow without knowing but mostly knowing and I try to talk to it. It is often busy and I have to hold the line. But there are times when my shadow jumps out and takes over. I take a deep breath and look at the spill. Oops, Oh, Ah, Nah!

What shape is our shadow? Do we cut it out, form it, mould it? Our twin?

Light and airy. Light and bright. Light as flight. Light as fight. Light as warmth and life. Light and dark strings and rays of knowledge and wisdom as love of life.

Changing our shadows . . .

How can we change our shadow and shadows if we want to? Possibly looking for partnership. Someone with different eyes? Someone shaped differently? Someone with a different mind?  Someone that holds a light as we think and move. Someone we meet and thread with to weave a story that might or might not end. Someone that becomes a circle, a group, a community.

“Each one of us is a unique thread woven into the beautiful fabric of our collective consciousness.” Jaeda DeWalt.

. . . with the help of others

Shadows are the places we can reach with the help of others. They don’t fall into our shadow unless we pull them in and succumb, they pull us out and show us where our source might be. Let there be light.

Our shadows are the rainbow we are where white is the messiest colour and black is simple and clear.


Holly BF Warren currently works as an atelierista and creator of the Think Tank across International schools in Milan that are part of the Inspired Education Group.





FEATURE IMAGE: by StockSnap from Pixabay

Support Images: by StockSnap from Pixabay


References and notes

Rhetorical shadows: The conceptual representation of incongruent shadows

Joost Schilperoord & Lisanne van Weelden