One of the greatest teachers/teaching systems I’ve accidentally found is art – doing art – practicing art. Not the art itself – that’s only a byproduct in this case, a dead form – but the process. The process is infinitely more interesting than the art itself in this approach, because in one session – one “class” – you can learn multiple lessons. You can watch how the lesson changes from one to another, as if it is careening along an unpredictable sea. You can watch them like three-dimensional idea shapes floating by your perception; you can watch when they come up, and when they fade. And when they fade there is often a moment of absence, an absence of idea, a blank space (not necessarily meant to be filled by a man’s name), a darkness that is not “dark” in our current sense. In those moments, too, you see that any path you happen to go – any flow of ideas you sail down – is just one possible progression. But how do you divide yourself into numerous points of perception and go all ways?
Beyond forced grade school classes, I’ve never studied art formally, so a more formal, intentional approach is not the type of practice I’m talking about. In crude terms it could be said that I’m talking about the exact opposite. However, they’re not mutually exclusive within one person. You could just as well practice both. Only, they are very different processes. The kind of practice I’m talking about doesn’t focus as much on perfecting a technical skill, nor does it start with an idea of what it will be; it starts with an impulse only, perhaps an idea that hasn’t taken concrete form. The space for an idea. Oddly, the more you do it, the less you can say what it is. It becomes characterized only by its state.
I feel that you can learn any lesson in this school. It is – maybe up to a certain limit, I can’t know – self-evolving, or self-sustaining, or grows with you. That is, everything is in the classroom. In the moments when you are making art for no sake (whatever that looks like) you are as if suspended and, perfectly easily, without any effort or strain, you learn. All that’s required is patience and sensitivity.
Art can teach you how not to think but simply do, in a fluid rush that does not feel rushed. It can teach you to passively watch your style evolve and do nothing about it. It can teach you economy, that less is more if you mark in the exact appropriate spots, and how to recognize those spots. It can teach you exactly when to stop. It can teach you to take risks and be fearless. It’s a vehicle for destruction, for gentleness, for any emotion or catharsis. It’s a vehicle for messing up. Above all, art can teach you to be free, and by being free you learn everything else. In freedom you do something for nothing, for the sake of learning. Art can teach you to make something without knowing, at any point, what it will be. It eliminates the next step. It teaches you different approaches toward the same thing – toward anything. It can teach you how to keep an overview while working out the details. It teaches you lessons that you can apply to anything else. It slips in and out seamlessly.
Art – and analyzing art’s process – is also a great tool for procrastination.