I love sitting in on an art demo or seminar, taking a workshop, or even just watching an instructional DVD. There is always something new to learn no matter how long you have been painting.
The one thing I do find a little discouraging is that I can never remember everything that was demonstrated or discussed during the event. There is always so much information and so little time to put it to memory. So, I have tried to keep a notebook or sketchbook and pen handy, whenever possible and take the best and most thorough notes I possibly can. I really feel if I write it down, I am more likely to remember it.
Now, you can’t always write down everything that someone says and does. But, you can concentrate on putting down everything that would help you to recollect your understanding of what was actually demonstrated and try to remember the jest of the project or technique.
Note-taking is truly unique and personal to each person doing it. Some of the things I note or write down may make perfect sense to me, but to others it will look like chicken scratch! Take notes for yourself, not for others, because it is only important that you understand them.
Tips for Taking Notes:
Tip #1- Bring a notepad or sketchbook large enough to be of use and small enough to fit nicely in your pocket or purse. If you are in a workshop or at home, the bigger, the better the sketchbook. I love the Kilimanjaro Watercolor Paint Books because they include sketch paper and watercolor paper in the same book. They are also great for journaling and now have a 300 lb cover sheet included to give you a custom title page!
Tip #2- Use a pen to take notes. You don’t have to worry about smearing or the tip wearing down during the demo. Using a pen, because it is permanent, actually makes you commit to the information and not worry about making mistakes. I love the Copic Multiliner SP pens because they are refillable and will last forever! They may be more of an investment in the beginning, however, they really pay for themselves in time!
Tip #3- Use common abbreviations to save space and save time from writing. (Joe, being a retired pharmacist, uses medical abbreviations while taking notes!)
Tip #4- Jot down Key words and Key phrases that might seem familiar but need clarification after the event. Number step by step processes to keep them straight.
Tip #5- Doodle and sketch the ideas to illustrate what is being explained. Visual aids are great for recognizing the meaning of the information later on. Don’t be concerned if you feel you can’t draw. This information is for you and you alone.
Tip #6- List paint colors, materials and supplies used in the project with brand names and sizes if possible. Also, note the position of the artist’s body or hands while painting, the motion of the strokes created, the speed of painting, and unique habits. (Janet Rogers uses a whole roll of paper towels when removing water from her brush while painting. The funny thing is that she allows the entire roll of paper towels to freely unroll under her table while she continues to hold the end in her hand while painting!)
Tip #7- Record observations in the room, temperature, lighting, air flow, humidity, space available, ect. that might make a difference in how the materials react.
Tip #8- Keep a digital camera or even your Smartphone with you at all times to visually record step by step demos and techniques. Take video if possible, however, make sure it is acceptable with the artist before you do.
Tip #9- Sit close to the front, if possible, so you can see and hear properly.
Tip #10- Write slow and legible so you do not have to decipher your notes later. (This is one of my biggest problems! It seems sometimes my mind thinks faster than my hand writes!)
Tip #11- Record the time of day and the date of your notes. The location, instructor, and venue where it is presented, is all good information to include.
Tip #12- Write down quotes and one liners from the instructor. You may just uncover some precious pearls of wisdom that you will cherish for years to come. Think of all of the quotes from artists past on, that their students have shared with others, like “Problems with color are almost never problems with color. They are almost always problems with value” (Eric Wiegardt)
Tip #13- Make “stars” or “astericks (*) next to points you find especially important.
Tip #14- Have colored pencils or value markers handy if it is convenient. They can help you sketch in color and value to emphasize the technique.
After the event:
Tip #15- After you have taken your notes and returned home, do not put the notes away. Reviewing your notes right away is very important in making sure you completely understand what you have written down. When you are taking the notes, you tend to leave parts out that you think you will remember when you need the information. That is not always the case. That information can be replaced in your mind very easily with what you need from the store that night!
Tip #16- Retype or rewrite your notes. Elaborate on the information and create more detailed sketches if needed. This helps you to reorganize your thoughts and helps you to remember more of the information you received.
Tip #17- Print out your pictures and coordinate them with your notes. This gives you a visual reference to the techniques that will help you to duplicate the process more accurately. It will also give you a visual check list of all of the materials used in the demo.
Tip #18- Write down and number the step by step processes in detail to aid in reproducing the technique. Missing a step can be detrimental to the final results.
Tip #19- Retain your original notes no matter how messy or unorganized they look. They are a souvenir of the event and revisiting them from time to time can help you relive the experience. You can file them in folders with dates and places so you can remember exactly where you were and the event you attended. You can also mount them directly into an Idea Notebook for future reference.
Tip #20- Use what you learn right away. If it is possible, go home and bring out all of your materials and take time to reproduce the project that you watched. This is the hands on experience you need to lock all of that great information into your mind! Plus, you have a chance to play around and create new reference materials for future projects.
The point is, a lot of us pay for workshops, DVDs, and sometimes even demos and seminars, to learn something new from another artist. Why not get your money’s worth by capturing all of the information you can by all of the means you can, while you can? You may only get one shot at it. The opportunity may never come around again.
I think it is important, as an artist, to keep on learning. The whole world is a classroom and everyone and everything can teach us something important every day, if we will only pay attention. The colors in a sunrise can become a color palette. The whispers of a child can become a story. The twitter of a bird can become a song. You just never know what blessings God will put before you that will change your whole view of life and art!
So, learn something every day, share what you learn with someone else, and keep the inspirations moving and changing.
Have a Happy Noteworthy Day!
And Keep your Pen and Notepad handy and fill it up!