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3 Things to Learn Anything

So, as I promised, here’s the 3 Things you should do to learn ANYTHING.

  1. Copywork
  2. Direct Observation/Experience
  3. New Original Work

That’s really it. You can use this to learn just about anything.


Copywork or Emulation is vital when learning art skills like drawing or painting, but it also shows up in language learning, studying math, writing and more. I’d almost bet that this is something you’ve already done without even thinking about it. I remember copying comic book pages by Jim Lee when I was young. Copying them and looking at them carefully inspired me to develop some of those early skills. I have them somewhere… I’ve also done direct copies of masterworks by Rembrandt at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I really believe that copying is one of the fastest ways of improving the quality of your work and studying aesthetics.

There is a danger with doing copies though. And it’s not copyright… It’s not illegal to copy others’ work, even those that are still alive, it is a problem when you claim it as an original. But that’s not really what you want it for anyway, it’s just there to help you improve your skills. The real danger though…is in the limits you place on what you choose to copy. If you exclusively focus on one style of art, more often than not, you just become a bad emulator of that art or artist. What’s best is to make collections of work you love from a wide range of sources, especially the works that inspire the artists you admire. Who are they looking at? What you’ll find is that as you broaden your copy collection, that you’ll acquire bits and pieces from each of those artists and merge them into something that is uniquely yours. Something that becomes an identifiable style associate directly with you. And that means you can bring something that no one else has to the table and you will be sought out for it.

Direct Observation

Direct Observation/Experience. I recommend that once you’ve done some copywork or even simultaneous to that copywork, you go out and do work from direct observation. That can be still lifes, life drawing, landscapes, etc. Take what you’ve learned or seen in the copywork and try to do that from what you observe in your sketchbook. Say you’ve been copying Franklin¬† Booth (look him up!), then go outside with your sketchbook and try drawing trees and shrubs in your neighborhood just like he did. Transferring those skills from copying to the real world will make a huge difference in your ability to use them!

New Original Work

New Original Work. Now that you’ve done some good copies and some great observational drawings, next up is to apply this to something invented. Come up with an original story or illustrate a scene from a short story, poem or song. Something where you have to come up with the visuals. Don’t stress too much about the illustration process, this is really just to help you explore. Do a simple illustration using the style or technique you’ve learned as the focus. This will solidify the things you love the most about it.

Rinse Repeat

Then rinse repeat with as many works as you love again and again. This turns you into an autodidact (self-learner) and gives you a map to competence in whatever you choose to do!

What Now?

The next email will have the final bit of advice and then you’re good to go!

In the meantime, leave a comment below on your thoughts. Have you ever done copywork before? Have you tried connecting these 3 steps in the past, even accidentally?

Also remember to post your progress on instagram using the hashtag #myartprofessor!

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