“There is no darkness but ignorance.” ~William Shakespeare
Philosopher Meditating – Rembrandt
We need to challenge the notion of living an unexamined life, and rise up to our full potential. There are too many of us lately that are feeling so inclined to continue to run on autopilot and in an uncritical way, and this needs to stop. There’s no better time than the present to make a change and take charge of the persons we’re becoming. We all should be developing and acting upon the skills and insights that we’re capable of. We should not be allowing ourselves or those around us to become unreflective and complacent with the ignorance that seems to be making a place for itself in our current surroundings. It’s going to do damage to ourselves and others if we continue on that way. We’ll miss many opportunities to make our lives, and the lives of others, fuller and more productive.
The Astronomer – Vermeer
And teachers – as teachers, we cannot allow ourselves to be superficial, or give assignments that students can thoughtlessly do. As a consequence, this ends up discouraging their enthusiasm and motivation, and creates missed opportunities to develop their self-discipline and mindfulness. We should encourage questions, conversation, interaction, and debate, and be able to show by example the skills and insights that we’ve cultivated, and how this has helped us to grow and evolve and make a place for ourselves. Sure, that’s not always easy, but as individuals who came to some sort of notion that we wanted to share and help others to improve as human beings, I think it’s safe to say that we didn’t expect this to be easy in the first place.
Russian Schoolroom – Norman Rockwell
As both educators and students in this role we play in life, we should be aware of what learning truly is, and join forces in helping to achieve the utmost that our learning experiences have to offer. Neither student nor teacher should settle on leading an ignorant or anti-intellectual life. There’s no reason for that. Both should know what to expect when they’re put together. Students should be ready to be challenged, informed, and inspired, and teachers should be there to give them that experience, with the possibility of receiving some of that themselves. This applies to an educational environment as well as an every day life type of situation, and both should know that life doesn’t suddenly shut off when we all enter the classroom, nor does a learning experience end once we exit that classroom.
The Bookworm – Carl Spitzweg
Learning is understanding, and in order to truly gain an understanding of something, we need to accept that it may be gradual, and it will become embedded through experience and practice. To attempt to learn without being critical and thoughtful, without analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing, we’re doing ourselves a disservice. If we attempt to teach or learn by mimicking or memorizing only, we’ll never quite gain the understanding. We have to commit to the long term, put ourselves there, and live it. Learning is doing.
Learning is accepting criticism and committing to overcome ego. We all have the capacity to be self-motivated, and can thrive among a community, and collaborate too. We should be open-minded yet critical. We have the capacity to be accepting of others’ points of view as well as checking for accuracy, clarity, logic, and relevance. And while searching for depth and significance, we can be humble, and check our own perception and prejudice. Learning can take place as a part of community with similar interests as well as diverse backgrounds.
In the Studio – Maria Bashkirtseff
Learning is communicating. It’s asking questions, getting answers, and finding solutions. As students, it’s good to let others know when or if we don’t understand in order to gain a better understanding. It’s important to be aware of when we don’t understand, and that’s why mimicking doesn’t cut it. To mimic is not to understand. As teachers, we should pose the question “do you understand?” with some leeway allowed for something more than a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ or a silent nod of the head. We all know the saying “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” As educators, we simply cannot fall into the mundane educational routine of what perhaps some of our educating predecessors have taught us. We can break that mold, and by doing so, create an even bigger community that’s based on reciprocity and camaraderie rather than mediocrity and anti-intellectualism. As students in life, we should challenge our mediocre educators and acquaintances, and seek out those who strive to challenge us.
The Law Student – Norman Rockwell
Learning is identifying purpose. It’s reflecting and examining ourselves, our thinking, and our motivations. Even in times of insecurity, we should not allow ourselves to succumb to self-deception, narrow-mindedness, or fallacies, but have the self-awareness to know when and if we have, and take the steps to make a change. Learning is arriving at well-founded conclusions based on problem solving and being objective. Learning is creatively thinking. It’s allowing ourselves to make mistakes in order to learn from them as well. Learning is growing and evolving.
Learning is immersing ourselves, observing everything around us, paying attention, and listening. It’s working hard, sticking to it, and never settling, while at the same time being accepting and finding common ground. We should all be able to spend time in the quiet spaces, be alone and contemplative, while also be spontaneous, throw ourselves into the mix, and eventually be able to find the quiet among that chaos. It’s in our nature to be curious, intrigued, and fascinated, as well as discerning and skeptical. This should be encouraged, and not stifled. Learning is discovering, adventuring, and a whole lot of uncertainty. It’s going outside of our comfort zone, and knowing that when it’s tough, that that’s good. This is when we need to keep going. And when we arrive at the answer we were looking for, we’ll most likely find that we’ve created several more questions along the way that now need answering too. Learning is a journey.
The Alchemist – Thomas Wyck
Learning is losing. Learning is finding. It’s seeking the new and unknown when we do find our comforts, and knowing we can return to them if we need to. Learning is knowing we might not return because our journey may take us elsewhere, but knowing that our mind can take us anywhere as long as we continue to learn. Learning is expanding, not limiting. It’s multi-faceted, not just specialized. Learning crosses boundaries, and cross-platforms. It’s not just formed on rights and wrongs, or on templates, instruction manuals, and how-to’s. Learning is recognizing that our best results have come from the what ifs, hows and whys.
The Apostle Paul – Rembrandt
We should never stop learning, and should encourage cultivation.
Vanessa Lemen is an award-winning painter based in Carlsbad, CA, with works exhibited and in private collections internationally. Her paintings are layered in subtle allegory, with an explorative process that intertwines realism and imagination to depict humanity, metaphor and story. Her work has been published in the Illustrated Limited Edition books: The Left Hand Of Darkness by Ursula K LeGuin and A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick, and is published in such art books as Spectrum and Infected By Art, and has been featured in articles in magazine such as American Art Collector, ImagineFX, and Poets And Artists. Vanessa is represented by Rehs Contemporary Galleries, writes monthly columns for the Muddy Colors blog, and is an educator who mentors privately, teaches classes online, and instructs at workshops across the US. Her work has earned her The Chesley Award and other awards in publications such Infected By Art, a Spectrum Award nomination, as well as Art Renewal Center’s ARC Salon, and participation in the International ARC Salon Exhibition.
Described through metaphorical imagery, it’s excerpts from her personal journey and reflection that she credits most as the inspiration for her work, and rolling with the unexpected as the very nature of her process. Much like the spontaneity of a dialogue, the marks on the surface are what evoke a response and then a discovery, and a possibility of something new to form. Each piece she creates seems to come from a chaos, and in it, she is able to create a place of reflection and curiosity, a balance of the deep-seated and the unknown, with areas of rest and of movement that intertwine to form a calm amid the chaos.