How to be an (art) autodidact
December 6, 2010 3:40 PM   Subscribe

Looking for general advice, tips, personal anecdotes, etc from autodidacts (or anyone else) about learning a complex craft/set of skills on your own. (details on the particular discipline inside)

I visited Art Center's entertainment design program recently and knew right off the bat that it was the profession for me. Problem is, I still have a lot to learn before I'll be ready to submit a portfolio, and I'm currently up in Oregon working towards a B.A. that I probably want to finish.

I've been pretty disciplined about putting in time to explore and practice on a daily basis, but lately I've been having a terrible time of it. I just don't know how to go about chipping away at this new discipline that I'm largely unfamiliar with. Looking for any and all advice about starting to teach oneself a complex craft.

I know similar questions have been asked in the past, but I was hoping to frame this one in the context of my particular situation, and the specific skill-set I'm trying to learn
posted by Griffinlb to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not clear on exactly what skills you are trying to learn, can you elaborate? What specifically do you want to be able to do?
posted by Menthol at 4:20 PM on December 6, 2010

Response by poster: Well, for the application students pick a storyline (pre-existing or of their own creation) and then illustrate the characters, the props, the environments, any vehicles, creatures etc. There are a lot of basic drawing/design skills involved because you're theoretically designing things that will be created for an actual, a lot of perspective drawing, accurate rendering, different kinds of lighting, human proportions, technical design, etc. Also, There are a lot of techniques for developing ideas, like ideation, color scripting, photoshop speed painting...

I was trying to stay away from the specifics though. I figure most people don't know about entertainment design, or design for that matter, so I'm looking for general tips about teaching yourself a skill. Like, how do people prefer to manage their time, or identify the most important aspects of the skill they want to learn.

I guess it's not really a straightforward question...
posted by Griffinlb at 4:41 PM on December 6, 2010

Teaching myself something works best when I have a project to work on. (This is definitely backed up by what I've since learned about the usefulness of goals.) When I taught myself HTML back in 1996, I first just experimented gingerly with HTML. Then I realized that it would be pretty easy to make a website. So I sat down, figured out what I needed to do for that, looked through a variety of books till I found one that made sense to me, and did it.

You don't need to do everything at once--that can get really overwhelming really quickly. I'd probably pick something relatively focused and make a project out of it.
posted by wintersweet at 4:51 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm in the industry, and I'll suggest that with scenography / lighting / costume design, one of the best things you can do to learn your craft is to get out and see as many shows as you possibly can.

When it comes to learning how to express your ideas through renderings I would suggest staying away from getting caught up in software (Photoshop, WYSIWYG, SketchUp..) and stick to paper to really hone your skills. All you have to do, is draw something every day.

The complexity that comes along with entertainment design is not going to be learned on your own. The entertainment business is an absolutely collaborative process and can be highly technical, and those are the reasons you'll go to school for it, or start apprenticing designers in the business.

In the mean time, go out and get inspired, read plays, go to art shows, and keep sketching.
posted by gillianr at 5:04 PM on December 6, 2010

Research design competitions for students of the field. For instance, I studied interior design and ASID Icon sponsors one every year. You won't be able to enter, of course, but the parameters they give for the contest are a great prompt for flexing your design muscles. And it's fun!
posted by wwartorff at 5:59 PM on December 6, 2010

If you're in a BA program, have you taken Studio Art courses at your current school? Take Drawing I if you haven't - it's a great course and you will learn a ton, and it's good motivation to keep drawing every day.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:58 PM on December 6, 2010

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