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How to Get Better Faster

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Transcript

In this module, I want to help you avoid that big trap that most people fall into, of staying stuck sometimes for years. Or if you're not stuck, but you get off track to quickly get yourself back on track and get yourself moving. So let me share a personal story with you to help get us going a number of years ago, quite suddenly and dramatically, I lost vision in one of my eyes, never to recover. As you can imagine, this threw me into a deep, dark hole. And I wondered if I would ever be able to draw again, the things that I'm going to teach you. The theories aren't merely the stuff of dry academic textbooks.

These are practical steps that helped me when I lost my vision. They helped me to think about drawing differently, and allowed me to get back on track and climb out of a very dark pit and regain all of my drawing facility. That became possible because I discovered and practiced these kinds Since one of which I'm going to show you today, this training had the effect of sharpening my inner eye or vision, if you will, as I learned, and leaned on the concepts and frameworks, and they began to guide me in my drawings, more than on what I could see with my eyes, I learned to see a new, and I didn't need to rely so much on seeing perfectly. The things that were around me. I made a subtle but profound shift towards the information I had internalized. So these concepts of frameworks are really important to me to share them with you because they're so powerful.

So let me cover a few of them. Now. Let me start with this question is what is in front of us and what we perceive it to be the same thing? Well, that's an interesting question. How are we going to answer it? Most likely, we're going to have to have the courage to ask more questions.

We're going to have to find out About how we receive sensory input, how we interpret that input and so on. This question is really a setup to my main topic. What I really hope to drive home with this module is how to study and more to the point how to get better, faster, or on a journey. And it reminds me of Sam in the Lord of the Rings in the two towers. He and Frodo are on their journey to Mordor. weary and suffering terribly.

Sam goes into this great oration about how, no matter how terrible things, look, they're going to get through this. And he talks about the great stories, the grand narratives that the people have old, grabbed on to, through hard times, though tempted to give up and turn back, they never did. Why? Because they had something to hold on to. That was the stories of old those grand narratives and the vision of a happy final destination that were big enough to carry them through. protal asks, and what are we holding on to?

And Sam gives this reply, that there is some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it's worth fighting for. I think this journey of art is good. And it's worth doing and it's worth fighting for. It's not easy, but let's take a look at it and start with the end in mind that the end is a place we want to get to a good place. And we'd like to get there faster or sooner than later. So let's take that journey and get ourselves closer to our destination.

We might have a goal or a destination in mind, but we need a plan that we can execute to take us there. Now imagine you're an explorer, and you're on the hunt for that hidden treasure. Well, how are you going to find that treasure? Well, that's what the maps for the treasure map, right? The treasure Max is going to get you there because X marks the spot. So you've got this treasure chest full gold coins, silver, jewels and all that good stuff, right?

The treasure chest and the map. It all goes together. And that's kind of like what a theory is like. You can also think of a theory as a ladder. a ladder is literally a tool we use to climb to somewhere, or climb up out of somewhere to get away from someplace, such as that dark hole I was in, as I mentioned in the intro of the video. So it's a very effective tool.

In our world, the portrait drawing world. A theory is a framework of understanding that we can use as leverage to help us to get where we want to go faster and more effectively. The rungs of the ladder are the bits of understanding that theory is built on. So our theory helps us to get deeper down into our subject to find out what it's made up. So the rungs being the bits of knowledge about our subject, drawing portraits, give us an understanding according to their position on the ladder, let's say if you're at the bottom at the very first rung, then you have a low resolution or understanding of your subject matter. And as you climb up each rung to the top, you get a better and better understanding of a higher resolution of your subject.

So maybe we can say at that point, we've mastered it when we get there. So the rungs are going to be things like art fundamentals, line, shape, form, value and so on. So each one has the effect of exponentially increasing your knowledge and increasing it in a big way. So the accumulation of these rungs of knowledge, all add up, and act kind of like a big funnel. And on the other side of that pops out a great head drawing, or a great portrait. So in combination, these things are really powerful.

And that's the kind of thing we want to leverage and have on our side. So really, the theories are a framework. It's a framework of your understanding, to help you get to your destination quicker. What we're talking about here is something called first principles. So what is first principles? It goes way back to the time of Socrates.

And it's a method for creative innovation. And it's a process that you can use or how to think about and solve difficult problems, to discover any of those theories or concepts that we that can really help us We need to bear it out those things. And so we need something like a first principles mindset to help us solve those problems like a boss when that be great. So basically, we're going to break things down into their most fundamental axioms or parts, and that'll make them easier to handle. The big goal is to find out how or why something works, the way it works and why it is the way it is. In philosophy, its truth claims about the essential nature of being while in science, it's finding out the truth about the natural world.

In our art world. It's the big question is why things look the way they do. So let's look at William Bolger. Oh, he's one of my favorite painters of the late 1800s. Analyze one of his paintings, and shake it down for the treasure it holds for us. He was a French academic painter who had a realistic style.

He painted common scenes with them. mythological twists. He had cherubs and angels, and even just everyday subject matter like this peasant girl. What I want to talk about is how to break down this painting in a way with first principles, so that we can start to leverage those principles to our advantage. So if I look at this painting, there's about seven things that are being done on a high level, to make it look this great. What it would really benefit us at this point would be to sum it up a little bit of courage and some patience, and ask the question, what makes this painting great?

And by asking that question, we set the wheels in motion for our brain to start to look for answers. Just like that treasure, and we can kind of then break it down into its most fundamental parts or attributes. is a theory. And we can take and use those things in our own artwork. I want to take a minute right here to draw a crucial distinction between copying and analyzing. So in this new mindset, we're not out to copy this master work, we're out to analyze the work, and then use those things we find in an intelligent way to make our own work better.

So if I stand in front of this painting, and I don't know which questions to ask, and I don't know how to get at the interworking, does that make it great? I'm going to be at a loss and reduced to copy. So there's nothing at all wrong with copying, and there's a place for it in the beginning of your learning. But in my opinion, it's not a grand enough narrative to carry down the road on your artistic journey. You need something more substantial to accomplish that. Nevertheless, Here's what a copy might look like.

It's good, it's accurate, but you can see it's somewhat low resolution and it doesn't quite reach to the level of the original, right? There's some rungs of the ladder missing, so to speak, like construction and edges level of detail. After all, it was a Photoshop filter. You can liken this to being able to copy all the letters in the Arabic alphabet beautifully and accurately. But I could never leverage those letters to express myself or say anything meaningful, because I don't know how to put the letters together to make any words. Why?

Because I don't know what they mean. Same thing with art. If I don't know why something's happening, and I can't make sense out of it, then all I'll ever be able to do is copy it. And that's the best I'll ever have. is a good copy. Our job as artists is to bring a personal touch or vision to a piece and somehow make it better.

So in your studies, and that's what this is now, you need to learn to analyze a piece and break it down into its fundamental parts. That'll help you climb the ladder of learning much more efficiently and therefore rapidly. So the first thing we can do is break it down in terms of value. There are several different ways we can break it down, and values one of them. Another way we could break it down is by the graphic design and composition of it, we can extract out the pure graphical breakup of the space, the light and dark puzzle pieces, and the percentage of darks to the percentage of lights and see what's effective and pleasing about it. Then we could springboard off that and use it as inspiration for something similar and a piece we might do or something totally different.

Once we can figure out for ourselves how he did it, then that knowledge really becomes ours. We own it. And that's the great thing. And that's the point of practicing a theory. Going further, we could analyze it in terms of color, we could determine the color scheme, color harmonies, warm and cool, saturated and unsaturated. So we could see how he did it, and maybe why he did it and why it was so effective.

We could also break it down in terms of how it was constructed, finding the planes and rhythms to discover how those things can be used to effectively communicate the illusion of structure on a two dimensional surface. So we've analyzed this piece across four different dimensions, and making we basically made the learning process much more manageable. And that's the goal here. Instead of juggling seven different things At once and making it really hard on ourselves. We're working smarter by doing one thing at a time. Eventually, we put all the little bits and pieces we've learned together to varying degrees of success over time.

In light of this, let's talk about studies versus finished art. You should be doing studies in a sketchbook. So I recommend you carry a sketchbook and keep one, drawing it all the time. Take it everywhere you go. Those studies in your sketchbook are your grappling with the theories and they give you good feedback as to what you understand and what you don't. So it's like a direct feedback loop that you can access right away and make corrections and you can get yourself on course I recommend you do this kind of an alysus in your sketchbook for one, if not several different master works.

As you uncover each little facet of what makes a painting work. Your art vocabulary gets better, your visual vocabulary gets better. And your skill set gets ever sharper. So with respect to the narrative, each facet, you do or discover should, you should use it in support of the story that you're trying to tell that your vision you're trying to bring to bear. In this case, in both rose painting, it's the peasant girl knitting. That's the grand narrative.

As humble as it is. It's the thing that's carrying the piece and making it great, but we still need the fundamentals like value, perspective, composition, and anatomy to conveyed visually with clarity and power. Those are the mechanics of it. So our new mindset for learning is not limited to copy But now it's greatly expanded by the first principles concept. Mind you, everything I told you about how to learn by using Bolger rose painting, as reference is absolutely applicable in exactly the same way, using photo references, study material, find photos that inspire you and move you and then figure out how they did it and why it works. Then use it to your advantage riffing off of it, so to speak, to create original art of your own.

So this is just one approach to learning. I'll be it's an excellent one. But there are more, and I'll share more later. But if you do this, just one thing consistently, I can guarantee you that you'll get a kickstart and you're learning and you're going to get better faster. And I know this personally because I use this very approach of attacking and solving drawing problems that lifted me out of a pretty dark hole in my own artistic journey and you Using these techniques, you're gonna find yourself closer to that treasure of accomplishment and mastery that you still want to get to. It is a journey but this method definitely makes it doable by giving us a way to manage its complexity.

In summing up what we covered so far, let's bring this thing home. The acronym ASAP can help us remember the first principles mindset. And the first letter stands for assess the issue. S stands for specify then study. You have to know what the problem is before you can figure it out. The third is apply what you've learned.

The first two points are more theoretical and abstract. Right so as you grapple in your understanding, the practical part is drawing and doing Your studies from observation, Master copies, etc. The theory Don't forget, in practice, go hand in hand. Don't neglect theory because it can help guide you when you get off track and you don't know what to do. That's how it helped me leave the first two are the rungs on the ladder, the bits and pieces of abstract theory if you will, that are going to help you and the second to the A and the P, you're applying what you learn. Those are your studies.

Okay, those are your observation drawing your drawing from the live model, your plain air painting out in the field. Your master copies that is how you apply and make it real make it yours. You own it, that theory that you work so hard studying. Now that A stands for applying what you've learned in the first two, there, you can use that knowledge to fortify your real art, your finished pieces, your painting your drawings and things you really want to commit to. The final letter represents practice and recycle. We have to do these things repetitively over and over and over again.

So it gets into our muscle memory, just like an athlete or a musician. It's how we get better and how we get better faster. And the final thing is repeat over and over. Okay, I hope this was encouraging to you because these practices and theories can break things down into manageable parts, and you can stay on track and make great progress. All right. Okay, we'll see you in the next module.

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