Reflecting on time set aside for learning, the one thing I can say is that there are no shortcuts. To make great art, one has to simply put in the time to learn. No one would ever sit down at a piano and expect to know how to play it, having never learned the scales. That’s the key to anything: “learn the scales” and practice. So where to begin if painting is what you desire to do? Videos, books and classes.
Youth, they say, is wasted on the young. Not always, of course, but the older I get, the more I understand the sentiment. In part, your youth is spent resenting the requirements of school. I, for one, was 27 before I truly enjoyed learning for the first time. I went back to college then, partly to explore the curiosity about learning that was suddenly bubbling up inside me. The feeling of anticipation, sitting on the edge of my seat as my professors would unveil the techniques of art or the stories of art history, is burned in my memory like an old master’s etching.
And so, I find myself at 43, still on the edge of my seat, still, and even more so, ready to learn.
There are times when I feel so completely disappointed that we get but one life to learn all of the many joys there are in this world. So one must make choices: Do I want to learn a little about a lot, or a lot, about a little?
To a certain extent, each of us makes our compromises in our learning to something in between those two extremes. If you’re really lucky, you’ll learn a lot about something, but keep with you an endless curiosity about everything.
This is where I find myself. At a place in my life that is fully dedicated to art. The unfolding and excavation of all things art. From history to technique — yes, please, sign me up!
With my great need to learn more, I started looking for a place to go, and I landed back in Florence. Florence, Italy, is the most beautiful blending of so many areas of interest. Somewhere around the mid part of the fifteenth century the Renaissance bloomed. “Renaissance” literally means rebirth, a rebirth of knowledge and learning. And Florence was the epicenter of this return to the exploration Ancient Greek and Roman ways — philosophy, art and curiosity.
In ancient Greece and Rome art, science, math, and philosophy were being mixed together, each one helping the other to flourish and grow. In ancient art we can see this in the use of perspective, scale, and humanism. Then during the middle ages- for a thousand years it was lost. During those dark days there was a mass regression. It wasn’t until the Renaissance that we began to return to what had already been discovered, and math, science & philosophy joined with art once again.
Now, my thirst for learning has pulled me to this place where some of the greatest artists once worked. Returning to structure and methods that have been proven over time. Step by step, those before us in the history of art have figured out how it can be done. Sometimes, as artists, our egos can stop us from pursuing the work of past masters, and in those moments we need to learn to step away from it. A time comes when we need to surrender ourselves to the teachers from our pasts, in order to find our own way, just a bit easier. It is the circle of learning: structure, exploration, reflection.
What holds us back from learning, from pursuing what we love? I am here to tell you that there are steps you can take along a well traveled path to begin your explorations. Will you take that path?
Will you expose yourself to something new?
Will you boldly go forth and make art?
I hope the answer is yes–if only to learn to see the world from a deeper more meaningful place. I hope you will come along with me to learn just a bit more about the ways in which artists see the world. How beautiful the world can be when it is seen with profound and sometimes excruciating detail.
As always the best conversations happen on Facebook and Instagram. Have you been following this latest trip and if so what have you learned? Or what trips have you taken that helped to you to learn and grow? Trips where you physically left home or simply took a journey of the mind … I’d love to hear your thoughts.