The 3 Steps of apprenticeship
According to Robert Greene in his book Mastery, there are 3 stages of apprenticeship. It was interesting upon reflection to note that as I took an ‘Illustrating Children’s books” class 3 years in a row, each time I took the class corresponded to a step of apprenticeship.
According to Greene, the apprenticeship phase is more relevant than ever in the acquisition of skill.
Step One: Deep Observation.
I’ll be honest at this time, I was not even vaguely aware how to judge what is good in the context of a children’s book market. By the end of this course I all but had a new understanding of what might be considered good. I printed out the best work from my classmates and put them on my wall as a guidepost. I observed the ones always getting picked for reviews, but I also observed the whiners and complainers as an example of how not to act.
Step Two: Practice Mode
The most critical part of the apprenticeship according to Greene is the practice mode, “Practice toward the acquisition of skills”. Now that I knew what to aim for I could practice the specific skills. I was not trying to learn every skill, instead I focused on the skills that I considered important and focused exclusively on that. I was gaining tacid knowledge. I could demonstrate what I was doing, but it was hard to put it into words. (This phase actually took an entire year from the first to the second class)
Step Three - Experimentation - the active mode
“As you gain skill and confidence you must move towards a more active mode of experimentation” - Robert Greene
Before I was working within the boundaries I could understand. Now, I needed to try new things. To do risky things and open myself to criticism and to see if i could learn from that. Instead of aiming for the picture-book market which was what the class was about, I aimed for work in the chapter-book market, typically in black and white or limited color and focusing more on line work than painterly shapes.
And those are the 3 phases of learning a skill via an apprenticeship model.