Observation: arts of very different stripes and colors have a very important shared demand of their students : the ability to see things differently than most people perceive or are consciously aware of in day-to-day life.
Case in point: The visual arts aren’t the only art I’ve had the pleasure to take up, and among the others is the martial art of Aikido. But in both I’ve noticed something happened, and the way you react to your environment changes and you begin to perceive the way things are just a little differently, just enough to be able to accomplish the goal of both efficiently and fluidly.
Aikido depends on taking the momentum of an attacker and turning it against them. But doing this effectively means having to resist the instinctive desire to well, resist. Aikido is not a contest of strength, but if you keep the attacker at arms length and your balance. You’re just essentially waiting for him to give you something useful, and it will happen if you let it. It’s just not the way most of our minds work to just “go with it”. This is exactly as it was presented to me when I began as a white belt many, many, hours ago.
Similarly for most of us working in the visual arts, seeing something as both flat (the piece of paper) and as having depth at the same time (the illusion of drawing) does not come naturally. Anyone can see with their eyes intuitively the illusion of depth and understand what it is they’re seeing as a representation, but understanding how to make it so is another matter entirely, one that requires the duality of flat and deep to be understood on a conscious level, because art is created consciously.
Getting beyond both of these obstacles, and obstacles to understanding in general, have a good deal to do with us getting over the idea that we know by intuition, instinct, and dare I say by even our own personal experience, the best way to proceed, because there’s always more than one way to skin a cat, as the saying goes.
There’s one other thing that both the visual arts and Aikido share: you can know some things, but never to the point where you can say it’s ever truly ‘enough’.
Keep it humble.