Experimenting on Art Student’s Brains

I got a great question awhile back from an art student-to-be.

“Hi Jessica, can you tell me the difference between the obvious two hour and three hour classes?

The short answer to her question? I was using you guys as guinea pigs to see how I can transform your BRAINS.

Here’s what I really replied…

I am experimenting a bit with the formats, but I designed this 3/hour a day experience based on some of the latest science on deep focus and re-wiring your brain.
The 3 hour block is about as long as you can optimally focus, with no distractions, for some SERIOUS brain re-wiring. I am excited to test out the theories I have been reading out in the book Deep Work by Cal Newport by putting them into action in this class. So, that’s the main difference!
The 2 hour class will not hit the full un-distracted 3 hour block as today’s class, but I will assign homework for each day during that week, so the focus would be a bit more divided. But the same material will be covered, and as always I customize the drawing subjects and mediums to each unique art student.”

I’ve been really influence by the book Deep Work, and another super-cool non-fiction book, Mastery, both of which have some exciting implications for how people can learn more deeply and more quickly.

Maybe I’m outing myself as a millennial by my amazement at what our brains seem to be capable of without the distractions built into our social-media mania lifestyles.Concentrating and focusing without distractions for 3-4 hour blocks can apparently super-charge your cognitive abilities to improve skills (like drawing!) and I wanted to try it out on my students 😉

By using this method, I hypothesized we’d be able to advance more in 2 weeks of 3 hour time chunks than in a longer session of only 2 hour classes.

The RESULTS are in. 

It’s been a month since my experiment began, and by now I’ve been able to compare student’s growth between 2 and 3 hour class sessions.

Guess which one works best?

3 hours of deep work, just as Cal Newport discusses in his book, have made a noticeable difference in student’s ability to make significant progress in just one week.

Check out some of their work!

BEFORE: Self-portrait by student day 1 of 3 hour class

AFTER 2 weeks of 3 hour classes, student self-portrait


Subtractive Drawing: “drawing” with an eraser

Although we accomplished a lot in the 2 hour class sessions, it often felt like we were leaving just as we were really getting into the groove.

Color mixing with watercolors

Check out the videos and links above to learn more about mastering skills and working deeply! It’s so useful for all kinds of creativity.

And if you’d like to try out a 3 hour session yourself, sign up for 10 Steps to Drawing class this December or January.  No classes Feb. 2018, but stay tuned for the spring schedule coming out before the new year.

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