On Self-Learning: Why I Like it

I find it difficult to contemplate learning in a group, or in a classroom.

I don’t know where this reaction comes from, but I can say without hesitation that I’ve always treasured the time I spend reading on my own, and pondering new ideas.

Why do I enjoy self-learning?

I think that deep inside, I’m a fairly solitary person, with a strong sense of self-reliance, personal pride and curiosity. Something in my gut may compel me to feel that other people actually get in the way between me and the information I want.

However, I’m not a hermit or a recluse. I like to communicate with others, but it seems that communicating on my own schedule or terms (i.e. asynchronously) seems to suit me the best.

An irony of this “lone learner” ethos is that once I have achieved something from my own investigations, I feel a strong need to share it with others.

Famous Self-Taught People

This page lists famous Self-Taught People through history, including such luminaries as Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, Alexander Graham Bell and Charles Dickens, through to modern influential thinkers and business people.
https://notendur.hi.is/joner/eaps/tn_FAMOUS_SELF_TAUGHT_PEOPLE.htm

Wikipedia’s article on Autodidacticism gives a good overview of the meaning and impact of self-learning in different disciplines, and its development through the industrial ages.

 

Explorations in Drawing: Old-school and Digital Tools

Over the years, I’ve always had a pile of half-empty sketchbooks to work in, with various types of paper, sizes or formats.

Over the years, whenever I needed to, I’d pull a sketchbook out from my pile, and draw in it for a page or two to help solidify an idea, play with a new pen or less often, sketch some person, scene or object in front of me. Sometimes I’ve kept a sketchbook in my desk at work, to help me work out a visual design idea.

But in recent years, I haven’t sketched nearly as much as I used to back when I was an art student, or back in the early days of my career.

Recently, I’ve felt the need, and have begun sketching again.  This time though, in addition to pens and pencils, my sketching media include smart phones and tablet computers.

Check out this gallery of sketches in traditional and digital media:

Click image to view this gallery:
Drawing Explorations Gallery

 Media Used

  • Brush-pen (ie. pen and ink) on paper
  • Smart phones (Treo 650 and Blackberry Torch)
  • Blackberry Playbook tablet

 

Rebuilding Foundations: 2012 Colour Studies – Unit 6

Unit 6: Colour in Nature

Continuing with my self-directed study of colour by following the telecourse Colour: An Introduction.

(Check out all my colour assignments here.)

Here are my notes from completing this unit of study:

Click image to view the gallery for this unit:
Colour Studies 2012, Unit 6

The goals for this unit of study were:

  • analyzing colour and form in natural objects

My experiences while completing the assignments:

  • I haven’t drawn anything by hand in a long time. When it came to analyzing the structure of a flower for this unit ( picked a sunflower), I decided that I had to abandon my Blackberry Playbook tablet and use good ol’ pencil and pen in my sketchbook.
  • The Playbook tablet remained an excellent tool for recording the colours that I saw on the skin of yellow and red peppers as I turned them over in my hand. I painted the colours schematically (as mostly vertical strokes) using a fairly large brush, as if the surface of the pepper were rolled out flat like a map of the earth, instead of rendering the pepper’s surface volumetrically.
  • I learned a lot from this unit, appreciating the interior structure of the flower, seeing how small seed and filament-like structures extend out into the myriad of pollen-bearing pieces, densely packed into a spiral form in the near-black centre of the flower. Amazing.
  • I felt an empathetic and emotional response to the flower itself: the visual energy I felt from the beautiful, bright ranges of rich yellows, in it’s pollen aroma, and in the realization of its inner life.

Rebuilding Foundations: 2012 Colour Studies – Unit 5

Unit 5: Discord Energy

Continuing with my self-directed study of colour by following the telecourse Colour: An Introduction.

(Check out all my colour assignments here.)

Here are my notes from completing this unit of study:

Click image to view the gallery for this unit:
Colour Studies 2012, Unit 5

The goals for this unit of study were:

  • mixing alternating, classical and complementary discords

My experiences while completing the assignments:

  • I enjoyed the ideas of discords, and the approaches to them as described by Hudson and Johannes Itten. I found colour and tonal combinations which, for me, evoked particular periods and styles in art, design and fashion. When I see a dark orange against a light red (pink), or light blue next to a dark green, it always makes me think of fashion and illustration from the 40s or 50s.
  • I did this unit exclusively on my Playbook tablet. Even though the colour exercises demonstrate mixing red, yellow, and blue primaries in pigment, I was actually dealing in RGB colour.
  • An enjoyable unit, but I need to produce more work here – it seems too incomplete. It would be a good idea to go back and review the unit examples, video and assignment instructions and see what I may have overlooked.

On Synthesis: Connecting the dots from basic design through multimedia

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been studying the history of British Basic Design movement, and especially, the Bauhaus.It has made me see my own path in art and design in a new way.

Revisiting what I see as the most elemental teachings in colour, visual language, and design has invigorated my curiosity, but it also caused me a lot of confusion. The reason for my confusion was that I was having trouble connecting what I was reading about various artists, methods and art/design approaches from different eras with my own values and personal experiences. Admittedly, my readings and reflections have been a bit unfocused, but share common themes.

Here is a progression of the subjects I’ve studied recently (in some order):

Subject / Source What I Took Away From it
Foundation-level colour studies.
Sources: “Colour: An Introduction” (Hudson/OLA, 1987), “Eye and Brain” (Gregory, ), “Elements of Colour” (Itten, 1970).
Refreshed my knowledge of mixing, contrasts, perception, additive vs. subtractive theories, and in developing personal visual language. Some of Tom Hudson’s colour exercises overlap into explorations of 2D visual language (point, line, shape, texture, etc.) similar to Kandinsky. Ongoing goal is to complete 8 units of study.
Foundation-level colour theory.
Sources: “Elements of Colour” (Johannes Itten, 1970), online resources.
Led me from colour to shape (Itten’s primary and secondary colour-forms) and online and offline reviews of Bauhaus history. Renewed my interest in structure of Bauhaus Basic Design program in the 1920s, and the later UK Basic Design curriculum developments in the 1950s and 1960s. Also researched master colourists Josef Albers and Hans Hoffman, and revisited colour theory models by Chevreul and Munsell, and modern “colour solids” like the RGB colour cube.
Foundation-level visual language.
Sources: “Mark and Image (Hudson/OLA, 1989), “Point and Line to Plane” (Kandinsky, 1926).
Kandinsky’s inspired descriptions of his personal philosophy of visual language. Many of my earliest teachings with Tom Hudson echoed Kandinsky’s ideas.
The Bauhaus, its Teachers and Impact.
Sources: “Bauhaus” (Editors: Jeanine Fidler, Peter Feierabend, 1999), “Kandinsky” (Taschen, 2000), plus online resources.
The social and political landscape of Europe in the 1920s and ’30s, and the differences in philosophy between the Bauhaus’s Directors and major teachers (e.g. Itten, Gropius, Moholy-Nage).
UK Basic Design developments in the 1950s and 1960s.
Sources: Articles and collections, online and offline.
Renewed investigation of my past teacher, Tom Hudson and his role and working relationship with Victor Pasmore, Richard Hamilton and Harry Thurbron. UK Basic Design seemed to adapt Bauhaus approaches, yet applied them to the current cultural context. I pondered this a lot, trying to project it forward to the present day, onto online and digital media, instead of industrial tech of the 60s.
Influences of Basic Design and Modernism on Foundation and Visual Design programs.
Sources: Google searches.
Ongoing ad-hoc study. Most US approaches to “visual literacy” that I’ve seen seem to focus on developing skills in discernment, decoding and judgement (analogous to “reading comprehension”?). Richard Wilde at School of Visual Art (New York) leads courses in visual literacy for his design students. I’m curious to see to what degree developing vis-lit via creation (i.e. “writing”) skills are taught in higher ed, and in high-school art/design instruction.
Current issues in computer-based graphic design, multimedia and web design.
Sources: Google searches.
Ongoing. An online review of graphic design curricula from various institutions will help me understand transformation of issues and themes in previous “modernist” design education, through to today’s highly computer-driven tools and processes. Also curious about how much digital tech (e.g. desktop and tablet computers) is being used in art/design instruction instead of traditional tools in high school and higher ed.

For me, new knowledge  – new information – will only transform my ideas and help me grow if I can use it in some direct way. It must be practical in some sense.

 

Related Posts:

 

Rebuilding Foundations: 2012 Colour Studies – Unit 4

Unit 4: Between Black and White

Continuing with my self-directed study of colour by following the telecourse Colour: An Introduction.

(Check out all my colour assignments here.)

Here are my notes from completing this unit of study:

Click image to view the gallery for this unit:
Colour Studies 2012, Unit 4

The goals for this particularly large unit of study were:

  • mixing chromatic blacks, greys, and whites
  • establishing a grey scale
  • “breaking” a colour, by adding it complementary

My experiences while completing the assignments:

  • Like the other units, I did this unit exclusively on my Playbook tablet. Even though the Colour course exercises demonstrate mixing the red, yellow, and blue subtractive primaries (e.g. oil pigments), I was actually dealing in RGB colour (additive, light).
  • Using a paint program with a basic colour picker that had three sliders (one for Red, one for Green, and one for Blue), picking colours that successively changed from one primary to its complement were a challenge. Going from a saturated colour to a grey was much simpler.
  • A very enjoyable unit, but I think I need to produce more work here – it seems too incomplete in terms of explorations.

Rebuilding Foundations: 2012 Colour Studies – Unit 3

Unit 3: Colour Structures

Continuing with my self-directed study of colour by following the telecourse Colour: An Introduction.

(Check out all my colour assignments here.)

These notes give more detail on my experiences while completing this unit of study:

Click image to view the gallery for this unit:
Colour Studies 2012, Unit 3

The goals for this particularly large unit of study were:

  • further exploration of to colour temperature (warm/cool) aspects
  • to further explore the relationship of colour to form, via personal language and basic mark-making using warm and cool colour combinations
  • using triads and tetrads on the colour wheel to establish colour schemes
  • To use those colour schemes to devise freeform and geometric shapes and lines (layouts)

My experiences while completing the assignments:

  • Again, some drawing aspects (straight-edged forms in the colour layout series) had to be finished on my PC using Photoshop.

Rebuilding Foundations: Colour Studies, Redux

Unit 1: Colour Wheel - Subtractive Primaries and Secondaries
Unit 1: Colour Wheel - Subtractive Primaries and Secondaries

Recently, I’ve been walking myself through a telecourse called “Colour – An Introduction”. This course intends to help anyone effectively use and appreciate colour in many different capacities. It was designed to be for a general audience, with no specific art or design training or prerequisite experience.

Originally co-produced by BC’s Knowledge Network and The Open Learning Agency around 1987, this award-winning telecourse was comprised of nine video programs and a printed course manual. It was first aired on BC’s Knowledge Network and for years was broadcast and offered as a Foundation-level colour course to students across Canada and internationally.

In the mid-2000s, after the OLA’s catalog was taken over by Thompson Rivers University, Colour and its companion Foundation telecourses continued to be offered offline via DVD.

Foundations of Colour

As a student at Emily Carr College in the 80s, I studied under (and later worked for) Master Art Educator Dr. Tom Hudson. At that time, Tom and ECCAD’s Outreach department had made it their mission to make ECCAD’s first year Foundation curriculum available to the general public through distance learning. Colour was the first of four series that Tom wrote and hosted.

Although I’d never formally taken Tom’s Colour telecourse, I was able to get a spare draft copy of its manual, and I religiously taped the video episodes off of TV. Although I’d already taken Foundation Colour classes, the theory and perception of colour continued to fascinate me. I read and bought books on colour and perception, and learned a great deal by studying under Tom’s expert personal guidance. To me, Tom’s manual for “Colour: An Introduction” was a must-have item for my growing library, and an indispensable artifact of Tom’s studio-based teaching methodology.

Computer as Tools for Learning About Colour

I was one of two second year fine arts students selected by Tom to be his “computer students”. Where Tom’s other students used charcoal, ink, graphite or paint to explore visual language in his summer master classes, we worked almost exclusively on Amiga personal computers.

Back in the 1980s, desktop computer technology was still relatively in its infancy, with different platforms offering different capabilities of colour range and spatial resolution. My earliest explorations in computer-based visual literacy research were using a Commodore 64 running Koala Painter and a KoalaPad drawing tablet and stylus. Months later, Emily Carr College acquired dozens of Amiga personal computers, and I continued using the Amiga platform for visual literacy research and animation development over the next four years.

This Round of Research

In my new series of personal research in colour, I’m using a Blackberry Playbook tablet and sometimes, Adobe Photoshop on a Windows PC.

I guess the moral of this story is:

Once a computer-based visual literacy student, always a computer-based visual literacy student. 🙂

Explorations in learning, ideas, and design by E. John Love