Learn art direction with paper and pencil, not a computer.
That’s basically one of the “rules” of advertising I heard from American Copywriter the other day.
Nothing could be more true.
I didn’t go to art school. I didn’t go to business school. I didn’t go to music school. I graduated with a Bachelor of Art in Labor and Industrial Relations and Psychology. So a lot of people without much experience would say I don’t have the academic qualification for what I do. Neither did Hitchcock. Johnny Cash doesn’t have a degree in songwriting. Blah Blah Blah.
I learned all of these things – photography/cinematography, design, orchestration and instrumentation – through doing them. Now, there are some who would say that I have no business doing these things sense I’ve never been formally trained in them. Well, even a pretentious audio production professor once told me that the sum total of what he teaches is physics and how to get a job as a studio lackey. “If you can shoot pool you can record music; it’s all angles and impact.”
We learn these things by doing, and by being smart enough to see their connections to one another.
When I was 13 years old and using my dad’s Mamiya Sekor 35mm still camera to shoot pictures on our family vacation to Pagosa Springs, I had no idea I was training for professional cinematography. But 20+ years of taking pictures later it’s pretty clear that trying to understand light and composition was a huge part of what it takes to do this thing.
And banging on my Hofner acoustic into a SM58 for hours a day certainly didn’t give me that Berkeley school of music pedigree or that Full Sail certificate. But, again, 20 years later that was the foundation of what taught me how to write, perform, record and mix something that my teenage stepdaughter will hum along to by the thirteenth measure.
Over the intervening years I’ve learned the rules of musical composition, design, eye line, aperature and f-stop settings, color balance, etc. etc. etc. And it’s been important to learn the rules of whatever you do, but the rules aren’t important so you can feel superior to your client or co-workers (in those cases rules just make you look like a jackass). The rules are important because they enable you to help people and so you know when it’s appropriate to break them and when it’s best to not.
The point isn’t that you don’t need school or training. The point is that you need to learn creative processes by doing. Learning is not a binary process. Learning is the ultimate analog. Why else to do we learn best by metaphor, concepts, trial and error? I feel sorry for all these people who’ve learned how to make music using a computer (I’m NOT saying their not musicians) or how to make films without holding a heavy metal camera up to their eye and cutting negatives, burning photo paper or splicing tape.
Bloody fingers and broken strings are just how you get there. And if you can’t play a left-handed instrument backwards, how are you gonna learn that in school?