Unconscious Learning

When I first tried to draw and paint roses, I found it difficult.  The overlapping, irregular petals;  the shadows and  the gentle curves of the flower were complex and hard to render in two dimensions.   After many unsatisfactory attempts, I gave up and chose an easier subject.

The next time I tried to paint roses I was more successful.   The complexity seemed to have vanished.  I found I had a higher skill level.   I wondered why I found it difficult the first time.  I seemed to have learned to paint roses between my painting sessions.

This happens continually.   I chose a subject, paint it as best I can, stop.  Then the  next time I try, it’s much easier – the image seems less complex.  My skill level has magically advanced.

I am continually fascinated by this process – and I’ve come to rely on it.  Now it doesn’t matter how good, bad or ugly the first attempt to paint something is.  The next one will be much better.   There is always a quantum leap.

This is backed up by science.  Studies show that when people finish working at a task and move on to something else, the brain stays active in the task area.  The task is being worked on after conciousness has moved on.  My brain is still painting -while I have gone off to read a book.

This brain activity must be the source of the fabled ‘burst of inspiration’ that comes out of nowhere.

I learn the most in-between my painting sessions.  There an old saying that recognizes this, – “We learn to skate in summer and swim in winter.”


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