Lifelong Learning

Ever since I was a boy I have been curious about things around me. How they work, why they work, can I use them to do new things? It’s been a lifelong learning curve, one that continues to this day. I love to learn new things, even six decades on. Problem is, there is only so much space in this little brain of mine. Something has to give.

Most people remember things that are important to them but tend to forget unused knowledge. Use it or lose it. For example, when was the last time you were able to recite your thirteen times table? Or the atomic weight of Gold? It’s 197 in case you wondered (OK, for those that rounding would annoy, 196.966569). But I for one have rarely needed those tidbits of information since my school days. So I tend to forget them. Most do.


Which brings me to the point of this post. Relearning things can be both useful and necessary.

Case in point.

I have a favourite educator. I shall call him Deke McLelland, since that is after all his name. Deke has authored definitive training books on Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator since the beginning, with his first book on Illustrator specifically coming out thirty five years ago in 1987 when the program launched. He has written new books every year since and never skipped a version or an upgrade. He is a master of the program in the truest sense and I have been a student of his since around 2004, way back when we were all using CS3.

Back in the mists of time Deke launched a new online training venture, which he called the One-on-One series. The concept was simple. Self-paced project based video training, three courses for each program. Broken down into the most detailed training videos I have ever seen. Each of the three courses ran to around 15 hours, give or take either way. The three courses were broken down thusly:

  • Fundamentals
    Covering the basics like opening and saving files, navigating, the interface and usage of all the tools
  • Advanced
    Beyond the basics, getting the most from each tool using practical real-world examples of problem solving, and techniques as used every day by himself and designers around the world
  • Mastery
    Propeller head territory. e.g. if you want to know how blend modes work under the hood, he breaks down the actual mathematical formulas, giving a comprehensive understanding of what they do and how they work. Also, colour theory, exactly how CMYK separations work and when and why you might need them. And much more.

An Annual Pilgrimage

As you may imagine with such a wealth of information to absorb every year, only some of it sticks. That which sticks becomes incorporated into daily use saving time and money with every application. Problems become speed bumps easily crossed without taking your foot off the gas, and deliverables are delivered on time every time.

But there is just. so. much. to. remember.

That’s why lifelong learning is not a goal for me, so much as a way of life. Each year since the inception of his One-on-One series Deke has released an updated series of courses, to address the newest features and changes to each program. And each year I retake each of the three courses.

This not only brings me up to speed on those new techniques and the latest developments, it refreshes for me those things that may have slipped through the net due to lack of use. Therefore adding to my repertoire as those things, too, are finally assimilated. It’s fair to say I have a far better understanding of what goes on under the hood than many. That’s due entirely to Deke’s comprehensive training as well as my own persistence on retaking his courses each year as a refresher. I’m stubborn enough to do it and humble enough to know that I need to. I (re)learn something new with every course, and it is a lot of fun realizing after taking these courses that I finally understand how to fix one more intractable issue that has been bugging me for months. Check that box.

I must admit it can be daunting, faced with going back to the beginning every time. That’s a whole lot of training about stuff which, in large, I by now know by heart. But there is always. Always. A nugget I missed. Something which may only have a marginal use case, but which will at some stage save hours of head scratching or attempting to find how to achieve the impossible, pull things from the edge of defeat. It doesn’t hurt that it makes me look amazing along the way. For example, the header image for this article was made using applied techniques learned in this course. It is comprised of multiple dynamic effects overlaid onto a single straight line. Ugly, true. Whether a sane person would use such an eye-watering design in the real-world is not relevant. Knowing how to make it is priceless. Again, it’s made from one line. Which makes it editable. Flexible. Alterable, with a click. Ditto the text, completely editable. That’s power usage. You don’t learn this on Youtube, baby.

All thanks to the teachings of Deke McLelland. My hero.


Enough of this fandom. I just wanted to say, I have completed my 2022 retake of the Illustrator: One-on-One Advanced series (16 hours) and after a short break to rinse my bleary eyes I will commence the Illustrator: One-on-One Mastery course. And that will undoubtedly inspire and entertain while educating me. Again.

Carl Green 2022 Certificate of completion for Adobe Illustrator One-on-One Advanced.
Illustrator: One-on-One Advanced Certificate of Completion
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