Recently came across this quotation from Confucius, of all people:
“There are three ways to gain knowledge: reflection, which is the noblest, imitation, which is the easiest, and experience, which is the bitterest.”
I can hardly distinguish between imitation and experience, and as for reflection we should probably add instruction, or transmission through books, which is theoretical knowledge and to me no real knowledge at all. Some artists are able to learn from their teachers, or from their art history classes, draw the obvious conclusions and make their work accordingly up to date. I never could. I’m sure a lot’s been lost in translation, assuming it’s not apocryphal anyway.