If you had told me as a teenager that I would make anything of my life, I would have labelled you mad! School was hell! I was labelled lazy and stupid, suffered mental torment and bullying from both pupils and teachers alike. To say I was frustrated as to why I just couldn’t absorb information is an understatement. It turned out I wasn’t lazy or stupid, I had dyslexia, but I didn't find this out until it was far too late. I had slipped through the educational system like so many others.
The problem is if I am not interested in a subject I cannot under any circumstances absorb the information! I can read the same page one hundred times and not remember anything I have read. Nothing, nada! Surprisingly the opposite is also true, if something grabs me I absorb everything like a sponge.
You might imagine that is has lead me on a life-long search to try and find an answer. Iv'e done an awful lot of research, and I am relieved to say recent scientific and medical research shows some very interesting facts which I for one find most enlightening, and helpful for those of us who are on a quest for growth. For as far as I am concerned that never ends, especially for artists!
Interesting fact 1/ That apart from injury the largest effect on the brain is through life experiences.
Interesting fact 2/ More importantly you aren’t just learning something new when you experience something new. You are changing the neural mapping of your brain.
Clearly this information gives us a powerful tool to use from the perspective of learning as artists! New experiences literally spark our brains into creating new neural connections. It makes sense when you think about it, new experiences do stimulate us! All our senses are heightened, what we hear, see, smell, we go into a kind of fight or flight mode. Our consciousness becomes sharp, absorbing everything!
An exaggerated example might perhaps be how everything slows down when you are falling off your bike, or in a car crash. Your brain in this type of situation works on full capacity, all the neurons firing giving you time to react and ‘learn what to do’ to save yourself.
So why doesn’t this happen when we are safe at home?
Simple answer is we feel safe. We are relaxed within the familiar environment of the home, school, office, work place. Not likely to be attacked by Tigers, right!
I always advocated that the best teacher for any artist was to get out of the studio and paint plein air, and I can give you many reasons for that! However this new knowledge reinforces that this goes deeper than I knew. It is clear that the worst thing we can do is stay at home! We need to get away from anywhere familiar. It’s not necessary to go far, but make sure you are practicing your painting somewhere you don’t know. Force those neural connections.
You will improve faster…