I’ve noticed when observing all kinds of students of different ages when they are about to pick up some new skill or try to do something they haven’t been trying before: too much preparation can result in never getting started with anything.
Children usually are very successful with absolutely new stuff: they don’t try to over-prepare and don’t try to collect all possible and imaginable tools and references in order to get started. That has been the case with anything in my very long teaching career: it was the same when I was teaching German language and literature, or Latvian, or design, or art.
We are flooded with huge amounts of information: every second, every minute when we have turned on TV or are sitting at computer, or are checking out our phone. This information can be related or totally unrelated, true or false, meaningless or crucial to whatever we are doing and we are supposed to absorb at least some of it. Should we? To some extent we obviously should be aware of what’s going on and do research when we are exploring something, learning something or trying to figure things out.
However, with so many sources and with such infinite amounts of advice, we most likely will feel rather lost.
This refers very directly to drawing, painting and any other creative activity. I know people who would not start drawing or painting because they assume they don’t know everything about it. They are trying to get ready for this activity, to learn “the basics”, to explore techniques and mediums in order to decide what exactly is that they’d like. Many of them never get to any drawing or painting. Why? There are millions of different techniques, approaches and ways to do that.
How it is then possible to find out whether painting is what one wants to do? Extremely simple: give it a try. Nobody knows everything about anything. We can follow hundreds of websites, we can watch thousands of “how to” videos and read endless articles or books about painting. There’s lots of advice out there, and some of that is even useful for us in particular, but most of it will not promote one’s start-up in art. Why not? We have to do before we can decide if we like that or not. Only those who get their hands on that something can hope to get something done.
Other good feature of students who don’t have too much knowledge is that they have no fear. They are not afraid to damage paper or canvas and they fearlessly apply courageous strokes of paint or put down lines on paper. That results in a good or satisfactory first painting. They do not think it is some kind of superb masterpiece but realistically evaluate it, try to understand what went wrong or didn’t come out as expected, and so they can keep improving themselves with the next painting. The knowledge comes through doing and that is the only way to gain experience. Experience is an excellent building block of mastery.
This is how hands-on activities are contributing to fast development of any skill: you see it happening and you try it immediately. Something went wrong: try it again. Watching other people doing and showing things can give us an idea about how we should proceed, but until we haven’t tried it out for real, we will never know how exactly it is done. We can learn all kinds of composition and color theories, but when the paint dries out fast and when the brush is moving, there’s no time to recall all lectures and articles. The way we can make our own color theory happen is to mix, to test, to check and to apply paint. This might take some time until the brain remembers what hands were doing and how this was matching our creative intentions, but eventually we will have it: our own elaborated theory on anything.
The first steps are the most difficult. Those who are afraid to get wet won’t ever learn swimming.
It will be interesting to compare some of these first works with art they’ll be doing in a year or two.