Saturday, February 4, 2012

Classes Part 4

Today I’m going to talk about the importance of breaking down difficult lessons into bite sized chunks, and using variety in planning your daily practice and study.

Breaking things down
If you were attending a traditional art school you would be taking a variety of different classes, each one focusing on an area of study. You might have classes on figure drawing, or still life painting, color theory, or perspective.

Why? What if instead you had only one class all day, every day, called “Art”, and the only goal was to just create paintings of a variety of topics? By necessity you’d eventually encounter all of the same topics that are often studied in classes: drawing, painting, color, anatomy, perspective, design, etc, but how over whelming would it be? So many possible areas of difficulty, all thrown at you at once. Yet, this is exactly what many people try to do when developing their artistic skill. No wonder so many new artists get intimidated! They dive in and try to figure it all out at once, or more commonly, they limit themselves and content themselves to a narrow range of skills with which they already have some ability.

Like art schools though, we can break down those difficult concepts into manageable bites. The time to learn anatomy isn’t in the middle of a complex painting with a thousand other difficult problems swirling around it. Instead, you want to study these concepts on their own, eliminating distractions so you can focus on them until they make sense and become second nature.

We have all of these topics of study, and we know we want to isolate them and tackle them on their own, however, there is a danger of TOO much focus on one thing. Let’s face it, the brain has a certain saturation point where too much is too much, and you won’t learn much more about a topic until the brain has time to digest, or at least rest. It won’t do much good to study a single area to the point of boredom and monotony. So we need to introduce some variety back into the mix, to keep learning at a good rate.

My suggestion is to adapt the same thing art schools do, and plan for variety in the form of assigned “classes”. Set a time period that is good for you, and when your time is up, swap to the next topic of study. This will allow you to study one area at a time with focus, yet still mix things up and get crucial variety to keep things from getting stale.

There are all sorts of other ways to mix things up. Move from drawing to painting. Move from precise and careful areas of study like anatomy and perspective, to looser and more conceptual ones like color theory, composition, and design. The important thing is keeping your study interesting.

So break down your study into bite sized areas, but remember to mix it up!

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