Learning is a lifelong process of gathering information, applying it to oneself and moving forward in life. There are many ways to learn and not all of the paths involve academia. A formal, academic route will broaden our knowledge base from others’ perspectives to give us a good understanding of theory, techniques and how it all works when put together. The real knowledge comes from experience. The trial and error of experimentation and research. The painful experience of futility and failure when things go wrong. The joys of discovery and success when things work well. And in between these two parameters is the long, laborious plodding on of not knowing the how’s and why’s of where the what if’s are leading us to.
What would my life as an artist have been like if I had gone to Art College and gained a degree in the subject of Art? Would I be a better artist today if I had had this level of academic training? Training involves being led to think / behave in a taught way, often with an applied bias. Had I gone down that route I may have reached a quicker way of achieving a good grounding in the subject. I may also have tethered myself to becoming a cloned version of one or more tutors. In some ways the nature v nurture debate applies to the development of artists. Is an artist born with a ‘gift’ (the nature) or is it taught (the nurture)? I may have been born with a gift to be creative but that gift could be a bit more polished from some nurturing.
There is an element of snobbery within the art world and at times a glass ceiling that is difficult for the ‘uneducated’ artist to proceed beyond. We live in a world where status matters. We need to be able to prove ourselves quickly, justify our claim of being an artist. The most acceptable form of doing so in our current social structure is by way of educational achievements. But surely art cannot be bound by such structures.
Art has its own structures. To some, art would seem chaotic but to the artist there is organisation within that chaos. Ask Kandinsky or Picasso, if they were atill alive today. Look deeper into Munch or Van Gogh whose inner turmoils were gathered up into an orderly fashion on the canvas. Even the five-year old makes sense of his/her confusing world by ordering their marks in a certain way on their, often crumpled, bit of paper. The artist continues to learn throughout the chaotic mark-making. It’s a long process, a lifetime of trial and error.
The common ground between the ‘academic’ and the ‘outsider’ artist is discipline. The taught artist learns to follow a disciplined route to development. The artist outside the mainstream has to become very self-disciplined if he/she is to advance their art. Whichever route the artist has taken, it remains a lonely life-journey. Perhaps less so for the artist who has managed to build a network of arty contacts from their time spent in academic training. However, most of the artist’s development is acheived through being alone with the ‘tools of the trade’, no matter which route they have taken.
There is scope for further discussion within this topic but that will have to come another day. I have to organise some of my chaos, learn a bit more and produce a few more marks on the paper. May you all have an exciting day of learning something new today.