What I Never Learned in Study Hall
In junior high and high school, the only good thing about study hall was 56 minutes of not having some ranting teacher boringly lecture at me. On the other hand, it wasn’t art, history, or any interesting literature either. Usually, it was time for me to cram for some stupid test. Only in my dreams was there time to read the paperback mystery I’d stubbornly carry just in case there was time leftover from finishing that essay I’d fallen asleep writing the night before, the one that was due in the class right after study hall.
It might have been massively helpful if any of those overbearing, bossy teachers had ever taught study skills. Of course, in a program based on memorization rather than learning, studying and study hall weren’t about improving; they were based on compliance, something which has absolutely not been a useful skill as an adult.
It was my friend and teacher Heather Held who clued me into what studying to improve really entails. “Pick artists and calligraphers whose work you admire then spend equal amounts of time studying the details of their work as you spend practicing your own.” That was the advice Heather passed on from her mentor Brian Walker, and wow, is it helpful.
Ok, so being bad at math, I don’t quite manage to divide my time equally in half when I’m learning or leveling up a skill. Working on as many different things as I can for as long as I can each day means I often fall short of this goal. I find, however, that when I make the time, it pays off exponentially.
Studying forces me to slow down and take in what my eyes observe. People often look at my own work and remark that I must have good eyesight. I really don’t. I have significant astigmatism, which, when I’m not wearing glasses, leaves me seeing everything double like a drop shadow partially peaking out from the lower right of all I perceive. Relaxing the area around my eyes and breathing deeply help me to focus on two dimensional images, something ever more challenging in my 50s, yet despite age and the other vision challenges like allergies, dry eyes, and floaters, I’m getting better and better at ‘seeing.’ – I’ve always joked that my astigmatism is actually why I’m so good at soldering metal with a torch. My eyes are literally looking everywhere at once even when I’m focusing on one particular area.
When studying a historical work, slowly I let my eyes pick up the details in just a small area, trying to emulate a letter, a curve, or a flower petal in my sketchbook. It is such a time consuming endeavor that I get lost in and quickly discover my morning has evaporated. That big orange thing in the sky that insists on taunting me by marking the passage of time is now overhead.
The big payoff is when I return to whatever I’m currently working on, be it two or three dimensional. I find that the 1000th time I look at an image, I clue into the details I’ve missed all the 1000 times I looked at it before. That’s the moment my brain kicks in and starts not only connecting how to level up in a particular technique or style, it’s also when my brain starts firing original ideas for new work like a massive fireworks display to a sped up version of the 1812 Overture.
Got WordPress skills? Help!
The online Q&A forum for my instructional videos is long (long, long) overdue for an overhaul. I’m looking for a highly skilled WordPress wizard to install a super friendly, forum plugin and migrate the data from the old forum.
Interested? Please email experience, examples, and rates to Victoria@victorialansford.com
And in Other News from Lake Victoria*
The Surrealist Librarian’s Guide to the Postal Service – a Book in 2 Places at Once
If you live in or deal with mail and packages to or from the USA, snail mail jokes will be all too familiar. The mail delivery in my own urban forested neighborhood is so bad that in 2018, our Congressman, the late Freedom Fighter John Lewis had to intervene and remind the USPS it has a Constitutional duty to deliver.
In our in-town neighborhood, mail delivery to our front porch is grandfathered in. While that sounds delightful, it means that sometimes packages are put in our very nice mail carriers’ pouches, and sometimes they’re not, regardless of size or weight considerations. It seems we’re all subject to the bizarre and often unexplainable decisions made by the local sorting office.
What’s happening now is just downright surreal. It isn’t simply weeks of delay or anything understandable about a shipping crisis in a pandemic, but perhaps that’s what I should expect concerning a book of surrealism and magic.
I recently scored one of the 50 numbered copies of Nick Bantock’s gorgeous, new retrospective Wasnick, number 42 in fact. It’s the answer to everything. – If a retrospective is autobiographical, should it in fact be called an introspective? Possibly.
I was delighted to discover the package was due to arrive sooner than its estimated October 4 delivery. It came yesterday, a day after it was due to arrive and 5 days ahead of schedule.
So is the USPS.
It can only be described, but never explained, by these screenshots of the package’s history all the way from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada to my home in Atlanta, Georgia, USA and beyond.
I hope the recipient in Johnson City, Tennessee is as happy with his/her copy of #42 as I am. I have always said Nick’s work in magic. Apparently, it now comes with a built in doppelgänger tracking number and sports a package cloning feature.
*Why “Lake Victoria?” Here’s a recent description.
EASTERN CHASING AND REPOUSSÉ WITH VICTORIA LANSFORD (ONLINE), HOSTED BY METALWERX
Tues/Fri, October 12 -29, 2021 from 1pm – 4pm Eastern Time