Recently, I’ve been coming back to a simple study method – copying. The idea is that by reproducing the work of an expert, with luck and attentiveness, one may glean elements of the expert’s thought process.
About a year ago, I came up with the idea for go, and titled my post on L19 “professional advice.” The idea was to play through a game record as if one were one of the players, and after each move to compare one’s choice to the move made by the professional in the game. In this manner, one could treat the professional’s move as a comment on one’s own choice, and although the pro may be rather tight-lipped as to his actual motivation, the effort one makes by comparing can offer valuable reinforcement of fundamental principles that need be applied. Whether this exercise is valuable in the long run, I can’t say. I did improve a rank after a long stagnation, but got off track and stopped doing the exercise after half a year and have since gotten weaker. Following a period of frivolous play, I took a break from playing, and have revived the method. We’ll see how it works out.
The next area where I have been trying the method is painting. Here I have started by choosing particular concepts that interest me and copying a (reproduction) of a painting that displays that quality. My first attempt involved the question of how a painter retains the consistency of one substance, for example cloth or skin, while at the same time using a variety of colors and strong contrasts. I don’t have much knowledge as to the original techniques employed, but I found the effort to replicate the illusion nevertheless instructive. I copied part of a painting of El Greco’s, and enjoyed trying to reproduce the subtle gradation contrasts and the blending of colors to both unify and enliven the surface. I do think though that such an exercise would be more beneficial if I had a better grasp on the theoretical underpinnings.
As to Chinese, copying the sounds of a native speaker is essential to becoming intelligible, and I have done this from the start. In this case, I have read a bit about how the sounds are produced, and I think that without this, it would be a good deal harder to differentiate between sounds that are not differentiated in English.
Copying is an excellent tool, because it gives you the opportunity to appreciate what goes into performing a skill at a high level, offers insights into your own process, and helps narrow your own gaps through focused and enjoyable practice.