Do artists need to learn non-computer skills?

D. Peters asked: "Ok, random question. A bunch of art teachers are debating whether or not learning how to use a ruler and how to draw things to scale is still a needed skill for today's artists. Some argue that with technology, we no longer have the need to learn how to scale up or down by hand. Others say that even with the technology, there is still a need for artists to learn how to draw and shape to scale by hand. Opinion?"
Jeanette in my basement studio, which I occupied 1985-1991
My answer: I feel nearly all practical skills are worth learning, even if a computer can do them more efficiently. The more skills you master, the stronger you are as a person and as an artist. Consider, by way of example, the skill of mental arithmetic. If you can accurately add a column of numbers in your head, you will use the skill all the time, even though that function is readily mechanized by calculators.

I suppose teachers of art rightly worry about which skills are more worth teaching than others, given the limited time they have to prepare a group of graduates for the real demands of a job marketplace. Most art teachers I've asked about this question have told me that both traditional skills (such as perspective) and computer skills (such as Google Sketchup) are worth learning, but the problem is the limited class time available to teach it all. Many digital animation studios want animators who have some training in hand-drawn or stop motion animation because it gives their digital work more grounding.

The path of learning is different when you are teaching yourself. You will teach yourself whatever skills you need to match the demands of a given project. Project-based self-teaching is fueled entirely by your personal obsessions. It may lead you to a rare mastery of a forgotten art, such as ornamental glass art. 

In this new Internet economy, the people who succeed are those who—lured by the happy demons of curiosity—learn a suite of skills, including both digital and traditional skills, that makes them different from anyone else, and thus indispensable to society. And because we're human, we might wish to learn skills that have no immediate practical value whatsoever, such as juggling, piano playing, wood engraving, or knitting. 

Such learning, I believe, is at the core of Adam Savage's Ten Rules for Success.
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