Tuesday, April 08, 2008

My Learning Process

These past two years I have been participating in more events with other painters and visual artists than ever. I regularly meet with other people to draw or paint. I have also observed people in a class context. At my age and later, many folks who've held a lifelong fascination with art decide to take the plunge. It is because of my interest in how different the process is for every person that I've decided to write about my own learning process.

My background in education keeps me eternally interested in how people learn. I keep several visual and written journals because I like to see if there is an evolution in my painting, because I want to keep track of ideas, and because I like to record what I think about other people's art. I see my own learning process as "strategic, " that is, as the search for approaches compatible with my values and ideas as a painter. Notice I didn't say that I see my art as strategic. It works for me to notice the approaches I use and why. Here's an example:

When I started to engage in figure drawing weekly about two years ago, I was very unsatisfied with my drawings. I had a clear idea of what they should look and I was not even getting close to what I wanted. I was so carried away with the excitement of having a live model that I would end up with distortions and missing body parts (the time limit is short). I could say that at this time, drawing the figure was exciting to the point of being overwhelming. After all, it had been exactly 25 years since I had drawn the figure with any kind of limit. Those who study standardized test performance will tell you that time limits will bring on anxiety and a decrease in the accuracy and quality of the response.

During those first weeks, my challenges were many. I had to draw a complete gesture in one or two minutes. I was expected to draw a credible figure with muscles in 5 to 20 minutes. The drawings had to resemble the model and convey the space and weight taken by the model's body and pose. During the next few days I will write about the strategies I used to assist my learning. Again, by strategies I mean the approach used to surmount a problem, more than a specific technique or material.

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