Drawing Ink and watercolor wash Life in general Urban Sketchers

Brain Under Construction: Learning How vs. Being Able To

Under Construction, ink & watercolor 5x7"
Under Construction, ink & watercolor 5x7" * I was sitting on the curb just finishing up my sketch when a guy in a truck pulled over and politely asked me to move so he could park in front of his house, where I was sitting. I added the watercolor standing up.

When I returned from my workshop a week ago and told a friend about all I learned, she said something like, “I can’t wait to see your paintings and how what you learned has improved your work.”

If only it were that simple! Learning HOW is quite different from being ABLE to DO what you have learned. Especially when the teacher you study with has painted 8-12 hours a day for 20+ years honing her ability to see, draw and paint. Even when the teacher is extremely generous in her teaching and tries to tell you everything she knows during the intensive week of painting and learning.

I’m still processing what I learned, experimenting with it, and trying to incorporate it into a way of painting that works for me. I promise a post about what I learned soon. But no promises that you’ll see big “improvements” in my work yet. That only comes with practice and time. In fact, after “learning” something new, it’s not unusual for work to show signs of struggle and get “worse,” not “better” for a while.

MEANWHILE…The Studio Conversion

I’m still in the construction/remodeling/moving and sorting stuff process of converting my former studio (half my duplex) back into a rentable apartment and remodeling my former 2-car garage into my new studio (almost done; pictures soon). My carpenter planned to finish a few weeks ago on what turned out to be the only rainy weekend of the winter, which forced postponement.  Now he’s tied up on a big job but hopefully will squeeze mine in over the next week or two.

9 replies on “Brain Under Construction: Learning How vs. Being Able To”

Very wise words about learning. And we are always learning and sometimes cannot detect the ways that our work grows because the changes at first might be subtle. Anyway, it sounds just wonderful. Congratulations!


Sometimes I find that my work even regresses a bit until I can integrate what I’ve just learned into my work. I’d love to hear about your workshop though!
ps – Claire got a real job in SF, so I’ll be coming to visit again – yay!


you’re right about assimilating new thoughts and new ideas into the mix master of ones mind! and sometime what your mind decides to keep is not necessarily something that would be readily observable in a sketch or painting! I’m excited to have begun reading Mr. Campanario’s “The Art of Urban Sketching”…it might never add anything to my art…but just sketching all the time is good exercise and good practice! How wonderful to have a “new” work room…if I could tear the carpet off the floor of my 2nd bedroom (don’t think the apartment owners would approve) I could have my whole spare room for a studio…maybe it’s worth looking into…so I could have the little corner in my kitchen back! 😉


Well, perhaps I’m just looking for it but I thought your sketch of the heavy equipment looked a little more proportional and put together than some of your other similar sketches! Did you think it was different?


Hi Jana – I enjoyed meeting you at the Rose Frantzen workshop and I agree with your post here – it may take a while to assimilate what she taught us. But I came away inspired and I’ve been painting as much as possible since I got back. I’d certainly recommend Frantzen to any artist who wants a fun but serious workshop. Meanwhile – happy painting!


Julia, Thanks so much for visiting and leaving a comment. I’m sorry for the much delayed response but as soon as I got back construction started on my house and studio and I’ve been dealing with that and moving into the new studio (which is dreamy and I’m finally getting to paint in there!). I really enjoyed meeting you too and hope we have the chance to meet again since we’re not too far away. I just popped over to your website/blog to see if you’ve posted any new portraits. I didn’t see any but loved the video of your studio. Beautiful and very comfortable. I’m a neatnik too, and love all the cool organizer thingees in your studio! jana


We live in such a weird time of being able to learn how to do things that only involve clicking buttons. That can be learned so quickly that we (I) forget that normal learning takes tons and tons and tons of practice.

Whoa. I used the word “that” three times in one sentence!


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