Friday, May 26, 2017

Four stages of learning

Here we are at the end of May 2017 and my flower and vegetable gardens are pretty much in. I just UNSUSCRIBED to all the garden/plant/seed supply email lists I've been on and I'm starting to think about painting again.

I switch mediums a couple times a year and once in while I try a new medium.  I spent last June working in acrylic (again) and that is the medium I thought of when I came across the four stages of learning presented by Nicholas Wilton. I'll apply this to my experience with acrylic but it is applicable to other challenges.

1. Unconscious Incompetence
We don't know what we don't know. For years I collected acrylic supplies not knowing which were quality and which ones would make learning this medium even harder for me.

2. Conscious Incompetence
I started painting. Oh, oh. Acrylic dries really fast with hard edges. I bought retarder and interactive acrylics and books and still, I was not happy. In this stage we know enough to realize that our art (or whatever we are trying to learn) is not so good. This is the stage where we either quit or we go for help.

3. Conscious Competence
In this stage I decided to work WITH the medium instead of trying to make it act more like oil paint. I got help by taking an online class last June with Chantel Barber. Through her advice I felt I was starting to "get it" and I changed my attitude about the medium to embrace it's drawbacks as attributes.

4. Unconscious Competence
This is the stage of working "intuitively." This is how I like to paint (of course). By the end of June of last year, I ended up with a few paintings in acrylic that I was happy with. But by mid-summer I had to put the acrylics away and return to pastel to prepare for upcoming workshops in July and October. If I had continued with acrylic I eventually would have been painting intuitively. And at some point I would run out of challenges and then it starts all over again to learn new material.

The point of this post is to remind you (and myself) to recognize that we are always in a stage of learning. Don't give up if you really want to achieve a goal.

Thank you Nicholas Wilton for your post about the four stages of learning. Now, back to my oil painting-in-progress.
Begonia in progress, oil, 10 x 8 inches


  1. Thank you for posting this timely guide of learning. I have recently returned to painting (oil and pastels) after a two year stop (house building/surgery). I am in Stage 2 and it is not a fun place. I downloaded Chantel's ebook as I am considering acrylics, thanks to your past posts about your experience. Now I believe that I need to stick with my oils. Love your potted begonia. We will make a year in our new home on 6/1. We are reaping the benefits of the garden now with fresh summer veggies, flowers, netting yummy dinners and fresh ideas for paintings. Thank you for the inspiration to do the "work" through to stage 4. Charlene