16 September 2008

Learning From Experts

If you are wanting to improve in some area, does it make sense to learn from someone who is better than you are in that area?

I think virtually everyone would say that yes, it does make sense to learn from someone who is better than you with what you are trying to improve upon.

If you are a 20 handicap golfer and you want to improve, you take lessons from a professional. Then, of course, you practice, practice, and practice some more the techniques you have been taught to improve your game. Practice alone helps tremendously. But, if your techniques are flawed, you may improve some, but you are still practicing flawed methods.

If you are a painter, would you turn down the chance to study with a DaVinci, or Monet, etc.? If you are a composer, would you turn down the chance to intern with Bethoven, or Mozart, etc.? If you like to write horror stories, would you turn down the chance to talk with Steven King? If you are a landscape photographer, would you turn down the chance to make prints with Ansel Adams?

I think most would agree you would be an idiot to turn down any of these opportunities.

If learning from experts wasn't such a good idea, there wouldn't be all the myriad ways to do that very thing. It doesn't matter if the subject is painting, learning how to use cameras, photographic techniques, software, knitting, underwater basket weaving, painting, tiling your bathroom, etc., etc., etc.

And yes, Virginia, this even applies to fractals. It doesn't matter if the program is XenoDream, Apophysis, or even (gasp) Ultra Fractal. In fact, it doesn't matter what the program is, fractal or not. There are people who have risen above the crowd in their knowledge these, and other programs. If you want to improve with such programs, it makes sense to learn from those who can teach you techniques that you don't know. These techniques can range from learning to be more productive in using the program in your exploring of base images to learning more techniques to end up with more artistic images. It doesn't really matter. The key is learning things you don't know from those who do know.

The purpose of these classes isn't to create clones who make the same images as the instructor. Taking photographic classes from a particular photographer doesn't turn you into a duplicate of that photographer. Taking instruction from any expert won't turn you into that expert. It only increases your knowledge of the subject so that you can apply that knowledge to the way that your work. The situation is exactly the same when you take classes to learn more about any particular fractal program.

I really believe this is what wise and smart people do to get ahead.

Of course, you don't have to. Many people are just hobbyists who enjoy the diversion and learning on their own at whatever endeavor they are pursuing. These really aren't the people I'm talking about. I'm talking about those who are serious about their pursuit and genuinely and seriously want to improve in their chosen pursuit.

Just remember this when you read comments referring to the "Mississippi School of Anti-Fractal Art." You may have seen the term used in a snide, condescending, and derogatory way. Why would some choose to ridicule those striving to learn? Beats me. All I know is that it is the opposite of what wise and smart people do who want to learn and improve. It also strikes me as rather petty and juvenile to criticize those who choose to take instruction from those they can learn from.

What do you think?