Monday, December 21, 2015

How Learning Helps Your Art

Croco-Ape= Applied Learning of Animal Anatomy
I’ve always had a hard time learning. When I was younger, my fourth grade teacher told my mom that I was the kind of child that “needed to hear things over and over to understand.”  I always found learning to generally be boring, at least when it came to reading a textbook. I got into art because I felt it was more “hands on” learning. It was something I could excel in by actually doing the activity. When I started doing art, there was minimal textbook-style learning. As I got into it more complex aspects of art, though, I realized that if I wanted to keep growing as an artist, I would have to accept that even art had aspects that I would have to learn the boring, old-fashioned way. Trying to learn things like anatomy, perspective, and other terminologies made me feel like I was back in math class: it was so immensely hard for me to memorize names and properties and make them second nature.

Now, I want to point out the one thing I’ve noticed about nearly EVERY top artist that I’ve met, or seen a video from. The one thing they have all had in common is their addiction to learning. Every one of them has had some fascination with the world, with history, with animals, or the solar system. They are addicted to learning, and not just because they’re all book nerds that don’t get bored as easily as I do – but because the knowledge they gain appears in their projects.
Cymothoa exigu

Here’s what I mean. My teacher one time was telling us about Cymothoa exigu. This isn’t just a boring word to copy down and define - this is a real parasitic louse that goes into a fish through its gills, severs the blood vessels to the tongue until the tongue falls off, and then attaches itself to the stub and becomes the replacement for the fishes tongue. Not only is that interesting, it’s a real, useable factoid that would be great inspiration to use in a comic, video game, or illustration.   

            So if you’re like me and you find it hard to stay interested when learning something, here are 3 things that made all the difference to me personally:

1)      Watch something more than once

When I watch a documentary on YouTube or Netflix that I feel is important, I immediately press the play button again once it’s over. I tend to only retain about 25% of whatever I watched on the first view, if that. If I watch a 2 hour documentary on color, and how it’s used in photography and painting, I’ll watch the entire thing over again – immediately or the day after. The second time seeing it is almost like the first time ever; I’ll catch different details that I didn’t hear the first time. And, if necessary, I’ll watch it a third time while drawing something unrelated. That way I can listen to it, but still get some separate work done. If you don’t know where to start, I suggest podcasts on history and science as great current sources.

2)      Take notes on everything

I take notes on any lectures in my art class and for important art videos. I take them down by hand while hearing them, and then I go home and type them again into my computer and save them in a file that I’m able to find again. I have a folder in my computer labeled “art notes,” and I create sub-folders with more specific topics. Writing by hand and then later transferring those notes manually into my computer makes sure I go over that information 2 times at the very least. Most people never do the second part and never look at the notes again. Actively look back on a random file you saved and skim the information. You will learn sooo much.

3)      Learn to see the “coolness” in the natural world

If you really look at a crocodile, it’s as amazing as most of the dinosaurs in Jurassic park. They have a bite force of 3,700 psi and have slit eyes. Chimps are 5 times stronger than a person. Some mountain ranges were formed from giant plates around the earth that smashed together. Fire tornadoes exist. The list goes on: there are really amazing things in the natural world and in history. Really reminding myself of this has made me love learning about new things. The more you learn, the easier it gets to learn. 

Killer Croc
Really though - you’ll start to find that the more you learn and the more you memorize, the more that you’ll start to like it. It’s like a flicker inside you, that you nurture until it’s a giant flame. Plus with all your new knowledge, you’ll have to coolest party conversations.

Places to start learning for the Multi-tasker: Podcasts, audio books on YouTube, documentaries on Netflix. Easy Things to Draw.

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