A lot of art education is process-oriented: if you want to paint, you have to pick up a brush. “Learning by doing.” Art history courses supplement this through their review of what has been considered great art over the centuries, the fundamental principles/elements of art and design, and the process of critical visual analysis. While these topics are all important, projected slides, textbook reproductions, and digital images simply can’t compare to experiencing art in person – when and where you can actually see the creative and technical processes as they originally unfolded.
I don’t know how to describe the feeling of standing inches away from some of the greatest paintings I’ve ever seen, noticing nuances in color and brushwork that I didn’t know existed. Or of taking in works of art created hundreds of years ago by someone who is a fellow artist, whose drive to create beauty gives us common ground in spite of the centuries that separate us.
It’s overwhelming, mysterious, beautiful, and proves to me again that art is powerful.
If you want to learn to paint, I think it’s absolutely necessary to spend time breathing the same air as the works that inspire you. See, appreciate, understand, disagree, wonder, feel. And then: create.