Remember when you knew it all? For some it was way back in grade school. For others it was up until you went to college and realized there was a lot you had to learn....and yet some never fully understand how much they truly don't know. Being teachable is being willing to let down your guard...allowing someone else to drive even though you might know some or all of the directions. Why? Because most of us will never achieve world class mastery over our craft or marketing skills without getting help from each other.
Richard Hull, one of my illustration teachers from college, to this day will attend a lecture from a visiting illustrator and sit quietly taking notes. Even though his work is great and even though he has illustrated editorial, advertising, and children's books – AND teaches it for a living...he's there...taking notes when most of the student's are not.
Being teachable isn't natural - but it must be learned in order to progress. Sometimes I run across a student that reminds me of myself when I was in college. I had such a passion for being original that I rarely took the advice of my teachers. If they taught the class to do it this way I wanted to do it that way. I see some of my students making the same choices and while I understand it I know it leads to a dead end. There was a point where I realized that everything my teachers had been telling me was right. It was at that point that I started listening and my learning increased at a much faster pace.
Sadly every now and then I run across a student who never seems to trust me enough to take my advice. But it's not just my advice – my fellow teachers confirm the same behavior. I worry about them because in most cases they seem to just pass through art classes as if it were a phase in their life...then they're on to something else and we never see them again.
Two years ago I had to humble myself and learn from a recent graduate – Jed Henry – now a children's book illustrator (and a darn good one too!). He taught me how to use photoshop and it has allowed me to put away the acrylics and produce my images in a fraction of the time. If I hadn't been teachable I can't imagine where I would be. I'll talk more on this in a later post but working on ebooks and apps is so much easier if you can work in layers digitally.
A few weeks ago I was contacted by an 80 year old artist who also was also hungry to learn how to paint digitally. We talked on the phone for about an hour and I helped her through some issues she was having with set up. She had found my digital painting videos on folioacademy and wanted to know if I thought she could handle them. I did – and she dove right in. Later she wrote: “ I have really enjoyed your course and will have many enjoyable hours learning all your techniques.” My teaching is far from perfect and learning from a video isn't the most ideal way but when you're teachable – i.e. humble – you'll absorb more information in a shorter amount of time.