I am glad people are learning.
I will recount a story:
Michael Mazur is the most famous artist who has graduated from Amherst College, my alma mater.
I went to his lecture, where the audience was mostly PhD's. He proceeded to show the audience how he did "Air Drawings;" that is, he took a finger and drew circles and zig-zags in the air. Much like a child would play an "air guitar," that is, act like he is playing a real guitar, same gestures, etc., Mazur was drawing in the air. I looked about and all were completely serious, especially Mazur. No one questioned this, if it were art, not a snicker or a cough. At the end, applause all around.
Now for me, this story represents so much of the art world. We blindly follow anything or anyone under the rubric of art, or artist, without proof. If I told someone that their husband or wife were cheating, they would demand evidence. But if I tell you that this blank canvas or invisible object is art, or this color is the secret to impressionist painting, all blindly nod.
Art has replaced for many organized religions. It suffers from an even worse mysticism. Critics have become the high priests, and few question the current dogma for fear of being ostracized. No style is immune from it, although realism is, for the most part grounded in visual facts and a step toward critical thinking. But realism, as I have seen, has its own tendencies to be swayed by unreliable techniques and formulas. There are painting gurus who offer little in the way of clear explanations. Just paint what you see is the mantra. The present disregard of Munsell, a quite rational approach to color, is another example. Many prefer just to "feel" color instead. This is the "Jesus Take the Wheel" kind of thinking. Somehow, all will work out if the god of art is channeled.
The only way to begin to get out of the morass of 20th century art thinking is by logic. We need to ask why a Polka-Dot by Damien Hirst is any better than one by another painter when the results are interchangeable. We also need to ask why painting cannot be learned through reason. Every other discipline benefits from it, from medicine to music. (how was the musical scale invented in the first place.) We need to honestly appraise the art of the past and through out our idols if they don't measure up. No matter how you spin it, is Renoir that much of a better painter than Henri Martin or Le Sidaner? Why does he enjoy the art shrine and they don't? Should a Peter Doig sell for more than an Ingres? Not in a rational world.
Aristotle believed that we can indeed trust our senses. What we see is what we see. No amount of posturing, goading (or brain washing) should affect the mind of a person who trusts his senses, observes, thinks and concludes. Art will benefit and change for the better when we learn to question our assumptions, reject useless formulas, replace received ideas with up to date data, and, finally, have the courage to think for ourselves.