Saturday, December 05, 2009

Part the Four: Knowledge of all kinds is valuable. If you're new to this blog, welcome. Here's my disclaimer, repeated just for you: I was asked by WFS attendees to make my lecture available in print somewhere. I told them I'd put it here. This is sort of an abridged version, as you know I tend to take small side trips in all directions when I'm on a topic. But the gist of it is intact. It's a lot of material, so I decided to divide it into the segments, as in the program. and
Everything said from here on is based on observation and not research (unless otherwise stated.) I’m not advising. I'm no expert. You go on and do whatever the hell you want to do. You’re going to anyway. Or possibly you ‘re way ahead of me. Possibly you already know everything I have to say. In that case, bask in the affirm
ation and enjoy the pretty pictures. That’s what they’re here for. In December I’ll have been a professional artist for 20 years. I’m a self-taught artist. If someone asked me to sum up what the experience has taught me (and occasionally people do), I’d say something like the following:

I'm fully capable of skinning a catfish. (It required two sets of pliers, a knife, and a bit of tenacity.) I can also crochet a beautiful and delicate doily from fine cotton thread.

Now, it's not likely I'll ever use these skills, but I like having them, and they don't take up much room in my brain. In fact, they probably sit quite comfortably with all sorts of other stuff I'm not likely to use, like how to extract chromosomes from a few milliliters of blood and how to play Liszt's Rhapsody No. 2--though I don't play it as well as Bugs Bunny.

I'm a fierce autodidact. I tend to collect this sort of stuff. It's not a terrible hobby. I had to work harder at it when I was a kid. No internet. I had to actually go to the library. My dad always drove me on Saturdays. He didn't go inside. He'd sit outside and smoke cigarettes and wait for me.

But he took me because it mattered to me. That it mattered to me made it matter to him. He was a good dad.

Now I have the internet. I don't have the brain speed I had at 15, but self-teaching keeps it in fairly good shape. It hasn't made me better at finding my reading glasses. That's a different set of skills, one which I seem to lack, despite efforts made.


Knowledge. Stuff we learn. Stuff we might ignore because it falls under our 'need to know' radar. It's good stuff.

My formal education is scientific.
My real jobs were in laboratories, clean rooms, morgues.
Aside from a drawing class in college, I'm a self-taught artist.
I learn a lot from reading textbooks and manuals.
I learn a lot from reading fiction.
I learn a lot by watching.
I learn more by watching differently.
I learn a lot by quietly thinking about things I see.
I learn a lot by trial and error.
I learn a lot by completely fucking things up.

All the stuff we learn goes into our 'soup.' Some of it floats right on top, in plain view. Skills we use regularly. Some of it is without substance. It's flavor, an interpretation of lessons past learned, the essence of information--the stock.

What did I tell you? You can't go wrong with a soup metaphor. It's all in there.

I make custom- fitted mold boxes from which I make molds of originals. I make them from Lego blocks. There's no waste, nothing to throw out. I just take them apart when I'm done. When I know the size I need, I can outline it, and Orion can build the boxes for me.

(Now he has another weird application for his collection.)

I learned to make these mold boxes by watching a documentary on paleontology on the Discovery Channel.

I learned an awful lot about construction and cathedrals from Ken Follet's Pillars of the Earth.

Once, at a cocktail party, a man said this to me, "I never read fiction---you can't learn anything from it."
What a gul-a-bull! What a maroon! You couldn't have paid me enough to sleep with that idiot, I don't care how much his suit cost.

The list of what I've learned from fiction is at least as long as the list of what I've learned from every other source.

School is crap. The model of school is archaic and the curriculum is rudimentary. School mostly teaches kids to walk in line and to follow a schedule very much like that of modern prisons.
It's of paramount importance to teach kids how to research. How to find what they're looking for, and to teach them a love of reading of books of any form---print or electronic.

Orion, at seven, knows how to use Google. It's not much, but it's a start.

By definition, a good education is to know everything about your chosen subject, and a little bit about everything else.

I don't know everything about art, but I know everything there is to know (so far) about my own art, and the craft required to produce it. I'm still working on the little bits about everything else. As always and as everyone else, I will always hope my best work is ahead of me. I'll always look forward to new discoveries. I intend to continue to read and geek out to the science channel at every opportunity.

Learn. Read. Your time won't be wasted. I've been surprised so many times when some obscure bit has solved a contemporary problem. The stuff is in there. It's part of your Soup. Make it rich and it will sustain you.

As always, I welcome and enjoy your comments and discussion. Thank you.

---your artist

Our Winter sale is going on right now on Etsy and Ebay. We'll be adding new art all week.


Kelly said...

Jermaine heard/read somewhere...

Always be early and carry a book everywhere you go. You will never have a wasted moment.

In turn, he came to the conclusion that I am doing a lot of things right (like being on time and reading, I guess).

lisa said...

kelly: sage advice indeed.

not to mention you create a visual of a human being reading. Outside of the obvious library, how many readers do we see in a day?

happy reading!

Loraine said...

I very much perceived school as a prison, until I went to college.

I read a lot of fiction. I read a lot of non- fiction. Non- fiction teaches cold fact, fiction teaches myriad perceptions and the depth of the human experience.

Of course, "non- fiction" is just another human perspective, isn't it? It seems like every day I hear more shit people say that they think is true- from their perspective- but from mine it's a complete crock. And there's no way in hell I can convince them that they're full of it so I won't try (in most cases). There are a lot of non- fiction books about people who are all about calling these unauthorized biographies "fiction," and scientists are constantly arguing about their findings and calling each other's writings works of fiction.

Maybe we should give up, call it ALL fiction, and just appreciate the perspectives that show us a part of ourselves that we can learn from. Because no matter whose perspective we're reading, we're still reading and understanding from ours.

Melissa P said...

This post made me smile. A voice inside my head was shouting, "Hear! Hear!" I remember the days of limited information, of trips to the library. Now I can't imagine living without the Internet and it's ready abundance of knowledge.

Keep adding to the soup. And thanks for sharing the outcomes along the way!