The learning curves we go through as artists are constant. A student of mine turned me on to an interesting concept that helped me digest these transitions, The Four Stages of Learning, as defined by Abraham Maslow (also the author of the Hierarchy of Needs).
Maslow's Four Stages of Learning are these:
1. Unconsciously Incompetent: you don't know that you don't know.
2. Consciously Incompetent: you know there is a deficit of knowledge for a task.
3. Consciously Competent: you are better at the task but you must concentrate and think about it.
4. Unconsciously Competent: you have basically mastered the skill and you do not have to think about it. It just comes naturally.
Seeing this concept in writing is very helpful to me in terms of patience. Like some of my students, I have a (burning) desire to consistently reach higher ground in my painting. But, I know that in many ways I am in only the first stages of learning. In order to get to that higher level I think it is wise to recognize and embrace our deficits as well as our achievements. Sometimes we hover around the second and third levels of competence a little longer than weʼd like, but then one day that lightbulb moment happens and we finally get it. Oh, how I love those lightbulbs! It just takes patience.
The above painting was recently completed on location. Rural landscape used to be one of those subjects that was hard for me to tackle. For some reason, the geometry of cityscapes and interiors has always come easier to me (although my high school math teacher Mrs. Andrews would most likely beg to differ that I am good at geometry in any form). But, after years of practice, practice, practice I feel much more confident in this genre. I guess the reward for keeping at it is that landscape painting has become my greatest love. Iʼm not saying Iʼm at level 4 of competence by any means, but give me a field of grass, trees, and birds chirping and Iʼm a happy artist.
It is often a momentary shock where you know you have been moved to a different plane of awareness.
This is precisely how transformation differs from the mere acquiring of facts and information. Whereas information will often inflate the ego, transformation utterly humbles us. This is a good and probably necessary starting place. –Richard Rohr