Hello dear friends and good folk of the internet all around. After a small hiatus due to literally millions of tiny spherical virus particles invading my healthy cells, thus inhibiting my adrenocorticotropic hormone, leading to lowered cortisol levels, and therefor making me feel sick, we are back! As you may have noticed this week it's finally time to write about how to properly do research but before you do I'd like to take a quick detour, because as usual, nothing is what it seems!
As this blog is all about opinions I was very tempted to write a article on how to talk about the differences that can occur. It's a fact of life that people don't always see eye to eye. Whether it is on hard hitting political topics or who's more attractive on a TV show; and sometimes those seem to be one and the same thing. Some of these opinions can be formed by doing research and basing them on available information and or facts. However, not all topics lend themselves to this type of vetting. Art is one of those fields where it's fairly difficult to do the research because so much of it's foundations are subjective. It's almost as easy to argue art is all about rules as it is about breaking them. Because it's so incredibly subjective and hard to back things up there is an almost constant struggle for a moral high ground and this is where things get really hairy. People start throwing around ego's more than arguments. I urge everyone not to judge but just listen instead. Look, there is no one right way of doing things in art. There just isn't. And you know why? Because art is as subjective as a topic as they get. The fundamentals have some set rules but there is no rule that forces you to use them. It's probably a good idea when making production art but that's not what I said. I said art. The activity of self expression. And because there is no right or wrong way of doing things you can also not tell people they are wrong and their methods dumb. Sorry.
So where does that leave us? Hopefully in a spot where you can look at work and find worth in the final result or the idea that lead to it or what it's trying to say. Don't waste time worrying about how you feel about their technique; and if you would've done things differently or if you are better at it. Do that when making your own work. Appreciating images and looking at them without judgement is a tricky thing but much more rewarding. The point here is, the more you know, the better. The more you understand the processes and content of any given subject you are looking at the better equipped you are to add something of value. Snap judgments often lack in value simply because they aren't based on anything. So, research is our friend. Don't know something but have a super strong opinion about it? Maybe do the research first.
So how do you add that extra layer of awesome to your work and yourself? Research! What's the big secret to doing good research? Doing a lot of it. And I mean a lot. Not just 5 minutes of googling an image and pretending to know the rest. You see, research is all about admitting what you don't know and seeking it out. Constantly asking questions and chasing the information.
It's going from:
That's the beauty of research. It transforms you from a idiot to superstar, or, something close enough to it. Here is a quote (that I also used in my IW and IFCC presentations this year) that I absolutely love - even though Mark Twain had some serious flaws.
He hits a little close to home, particularly with what we are seeing on the internet today. People claiming to know all sorts of stuff when they really don't. People claiming all sorts of things as facts when it's really just an opinion. Research will save you from this. Knowledge has this way of making people humble, or at least in most cases. The more you want to know the more likely you are to have an open attitude towards others and the easier it becomes to have a normal conversation. Of course, empathy plays a huge role but that's something for another time.
The quest for knowledge and your 'saga of smart' is a forever ongoing story and it should be treated as such. Never should you come to the point where you feel you have all the knowledge. This saying of course isn't entirely literal, it's more of a philosophy to live by. It's meant to protect you from ever becoming to comfortable and arrogant about what you know. It's understanding that everyone is sharing this same path and some are further along than others for a whole host of different reasons. Understanding this concept will hopefully remove some of the judgement people have reserved for others and replace it with a desire to help.
Ok, enough of this rant. Time for some actual tips on how to improve your research skills.
- The three question rule. On every topic ask three additional questions. You'll be surprised how far that will actually lead you!
- Learn the names of things. Don't just google 'tree'. Find out what types there are and where they live. What's the climate of your painting?
- Start using scholar.google.com for more scientific questions. It's so cool.
- Listen to others. Don't have a thing ready in your head that you want to blurt out as soon as the other person stops talking. Listen and react. Same with research, don't just assume. Read and discover.
- If you don't think you can remember all the info, start taking notes. I used to stick post it notes all over my work space!
- Every time, in a conversation, if you don't know something, look it up if you can.
I didn't get to where I am today, which in many aspects is - relatively speaking - not that far, without stumbling and making mistakes. One thing that got me through it is something that I've spoken about before but, because of it's importance, I'll do it again. The analytical mindset. Understanding that every problem can be solved by having enough information. Duh, of course it can. It's starting down this road which is tricky. Often it comes with many doubts; am I smart enough? Can I find the information? Where do I find it? How do I use it? Will I recognize it even if it hit me in the face?
Often when I see conversations that are actually just one sided opinion fling fests I notice that people assume this non existent baseline. One where everyone can - and should - do or know everything. It just doesn't work like that. Not everyone can be flawless at 3 point perspective, or anatomy, or color theory and so forth. These are tricky things and people learn them in different ways and different speeds. And that is OK. What I don't see is an understanding of this. Because if there was a broad understanding of this problem people would attack each others methods less; or not at all, and discus them instead.
What helped me get through these times was research. Break problems down, research, learn and implement. I've seen some tough times where it was hard to look beyond them; reading about it, learning, talking, listening helped me through. It's the whole reason why I started this blog. To try and help give others some information.
We are all delightfully ignorant of everything we don't know until we are not.
Researching removes some of that ignorance.
Starting with this type of thinking and research is always tricky and some of those doubts never go away, and I'm not entirely sure they are supposed to either. I often kept thinking of myself as this complicated amorphous blob of emotions but the more I do this the more I realize I'm a tangled bunch of cables. From a distance a whole, up close a bunch of tethers. Each their own origin and destination. This helps me understand that I can set aside some doubts, some cables, and just focus on getting some knowledge in. For me research is a tool to help me gain an understanding of the world and myself. A way to mitigate some fears and doubts and not worry where on that bigger path or progress I am, as long as I'm a open and friendly person.
So, in the wise words of Rick and Morty: