Looking back at when I first started to take interest in this field. I was always curious about how the masters became so good at what they're doing. When I was a student, most people that I came across, including instructors from Art Center constantly stressed the importance of "mileage". The concept of mileage is that one can only become proficient at what they do through a series of repetition. In other words, if you draw the same thing over and over again a thousand times you will eventually become good at drawing that subject.
Initially, I was a huge fan of mileage. So I was constantly drawing and painting, hoping that it would eventually lead me to becoming a "master artist". However, after a while I started to realize that even though I was doing a ton of work, I was not seeing the kind of result that I had hoped to get. The amount of improvement I was seeing was very minor considering I was pulling all nighters and skipping meals to do more art. Shouldn't I be improving at a staggering pace if I'm doing 10 times more work than I was before? Reality suggests that there's more to it than just repetition. I was confused as ever and desperate for a solution to this problem. It wasn't until a while later when I discovered that there is a shortcut to learning. In fact, after reading stories about how the master artists worked, and reconfirming it with leading artists in the industry. I found out that most of them worked through this method to get to where they are. For now we'll call this shortcut Progressive Learning.
Progressive learning is a method of learning that allows the student to efficiently take in information in a progressive manner. The idea is designed to cut down the amount of time it would take you from point A to point B. This method leverages the fact that our minds can absorb small amounts of information at a much faster pace than it can with big chunks of information. In short, it's the "Bang for your buck education method".
Take learning figure drawing for example. Instead of trying to tackle learning how to draw the whole figure at once, I systematically broke down the figure into individual parts such as head, torso, arms, hands and feet, and legs. So every two weeks I would ONLY focus on studying one individual part of the figure and nothing else. The key here is that I'm only working on what's planned and NOTHING else. What this did is it allowed my mind to zone in on learning just one thing at a time instead of 5 things at a time. As a result I was able to significantly cut down the amount of time I needed to become good at drawing the figure. At the end of the cycle when I got through learning all the individual parts, I combined what I had learned and ended up with the ability to draw a whole figure much better than I could before.
So how can you apply progressive learning to what you're working on? here are a couple simple steps you can follow to progressively learn anything.
- Systematic breakdown - cut down what you need to learn into small pieces. Lets call them "bites".
- Assign time frame - analyze each bite and plan out a schedule of how long you would need to take to learn each part. You might need longer time to learn some elements and shorter time for others.
- Focused execution - start to digest the bites, during this time i would focus on just the singular bite and nothing else. rinse wash and repeat with the next bite on the list.
- Information Assembly - After you went through each bite individually, combine your knowledge as a whole and you're ready to rock it!