Thursday, March 17, 2016

Week 4 with Anthony Jones

I'm improving, but my values still need a lot more work. I will keep on practicing. Here are a few pieces from this week.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

On Practicing and Frustration

I confess, the further I try go, the more I struggle. I tried every possible method of learning that I could think of and every time it seems that the reward for the time and effort invested into practice was disproportionately small. Sometimes even negligible.

So I started paying more attention to the general theory of learning and acquisition of knowledge, not just ways to improve my drawing and painting skills.

After observing Anthony Jones, how he learns and how he works, it became apparent to me that I'm doing something wrong. For several months now, Anthony kept insisting that my practice should always be mindful, above all else. Here's what he taught me:

1. set a goal and attempt to reach it (let's say, draw a proportionate human figure in 10 minutes)
2. when first attempts fail, figure out what went wrong
3. ask questions
4 form a possible solution
5 test it
6. go back to step 1

In other words, engage in deliberate mindful practice. Not just practice for the sake of practice, but practice by trying, failing and thinking.

For some strange reason, although his advice and approach makes perfect sense, I still have a hard time following it. Usually around step 2, right when I fail, my 4 decades-long habit of bringing everything I've got to a fight would kick in and instead of thinking for 5 minutes and trying something else, I'd just attack and attack, only to realize, completely overwhelmed and frustrated, that 2 hours have gone by and all have to show for it is nothing but a heap of failed attempts with no solution in sight.

I know you must be reading this and thinking I am an idiot. And you might be right. But I'm not alone and I'm writing this article for stubborn, hard-headed people like me. People like us don't fail for lack of trying, we fail because we fight, then we get exhausted , then we pass out. Then we do it all over again. And sometimes we crush our obstacles, but usually it's our bones that get broken first.

So here are a few things to possibly consider for us, the "shoot first, ask questions later" crowd :

"Remember that practicing is learning: learning to practice is only a specialized version of learning to learn, and learning starts with thought. Remember, activity is key. Now get off your butt and go practice. Or rather, get off your butt and go learn."

I linked the rest here:  Henry Myers and his excellent article "The Case for Active Practicing"

Currently, I practice, on average anywhere between 6 and 16 hours a day. And with all that, I'm still not getting the results one would expect from so many hours invested into a craft. I keep seeing accounts written by established artists who insist that a healthy and productive daily practice schedule should be somewhere between 2 and 6 hours. No more. I've yet to wrap my mind around that one, but here's a good article by Noa Kageyama, Ph.D. supporting this perspective with reasonable and sound arguments, I feel compelled to review and adjust my own views on the matter.:

How Many Hours a Day Should You Practice?

So here's what I'll do: I'm willing to try to go against my nature and do something different for the next 4 weeks.

I will not work hard and I will not try to overpower unmovable obstacles.

Instead, I will work in 10 minute increments only. For every 10 minutes of work, I will spend 10 minutes thinking and observing and another 5 minutes resting and relaxing. Then I will spend 30 minutes experimenting. And only then will I approach my task again for 10 minutes

That's it for this week, kids: even more unanswered questions and a tiny bit of progress. But maybe I'll get it this time? We'll know soon enough. Cliffhanger! :)

Here are a few sketches from my painting and design class with Anthony Jones

If I could leave you with a single thought, remember that practicing is learning: learning to practice is only a specialized version of learning to learn, and learning starts with thought. Remember, activity is key. Now get off your butt and go practice.
Or rather, get off your butt and go learn.
- See more at:

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Learn Squared: Week 2 Studying with Anthony Jones

Week 2 was both brutal and eye-opening.

Week 1 ended with my realizing that I'm nowhere near where I intended to be at this point in my training. Everything was hit and miss, heavier on the miss side. I decided to completely submit to the training procedure Anthony was advocating and follow it as precisely as I possibly could:

1. study, test, review, study, test, etc.
2. time everything in 5 to 10 minute intervals.

Here's are some of my most productive tests for the week:

And here's what I found out while reviewing my test results:

1. My related lines were too far apart, while my unrelated lines were too close together.
Solution: Fix this and the drawing flows almost on its own.

2. Ambiguous strokes and lines, laid down without a specific purpose, confuse the viewer and prevent a good story from being told. It's like telling a story about a princess and an apple while using random words related to heavy industrial equipment.

Solution: Keep lines and strokes clean, meaningful and precise. Random messy marks create dirt and accomplish nothing.

3. Thick broad lines describe the concept of the story,
Medium lines present the plot, characters and setting,
Thin lines make the story come alive, they make the story real, by giving it detail, pacing and rhythm.

Solution: use all 3 types of lines (strokes) in meaningful priority.

So that's been my week. Lots of ups and downs. But I learned a few very valuable lessons along the way. I hope your week is going swimmingly. Thanks for reading this.