Learning Visually

Erik ReeL painting
Erik ReeL, opus 1753, acrylic painting

Q: So this issue with your hearing: did it affect your studies in  any way?

ReeL: Yes, in a very important way.

As far as taking in information, learning, it is far more difficult for me to learn things via spoken language; far easier to learn by reading or to learn visually. College is primarily a lecture system. You are expected to learn primarily through spoken language.

What saved me was  being an avid reader and there was always writing. Better yet, in art and math classes, what you learn is primarily taken in visually.

Q: Ah, I see now where the art and math come in. Those were areas where you could more easily compensate.

ReeL: Yes, they were easier for me, that’s for sure.

By the time I got to college I had pretty much figured out that it was going to be either Mathematics or Art . For the rest of my curriculum, I would as much as possible fill with courses in areas I was interested in which were highly dependent on reading and writing papers or primarily visual information. Fortunately I began in a private college that emphasized heavy reading loads and lots of papers.

Even in art history courses, a tremendous amount of the learning load is really visual, augmented by your reading. In the end, it is primarily a lot of reading with some writing and I never had a problem with that. Especially in remembering paintings: I usually have very good recall of a painting, even if I’ve only seen it once, providing I get a really good look at it.

Q: That’s a nice skill to have in an art history class. I remember finals where you had to do a comparison essay, but were only shown a detail of a each painting. That just killed people.

ReeL: Yes, I liked those. I never had any trouble recognizing which painting the detail came from because I remember the whole painting. Sometimes it was easier because the detail is more close up and you could see how the paint is applied, which is a big clue, so in a way, you had more information.

Q: I’m afraid I never saw it that way. You must have photographic memory.

ReeL: No. Not at all. Nothing instant about it, not even close. I have to get into it, really look at a painting, experience it fully.  It helps if you really like painting.

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