Now, I would generally be wary of "academic" art, particularly academic modern art, because I've always thought that the more intellectual apparatus one needs to interpret a work of art -- the more you need a layer of jargon between the viewer and the work itself -- the less it's real art, and the more it becomes an elitist language game. I feel the same way about academic literary criticism and, for that matter, academicized literature... the type of self-referential, unlived drivel you get from the Iowa Writers' Workshop.
Having said that, learning your craft is different. The Regular Wife, the Regular Son and I went this afternoon (I was playing hooky, the RS was off school) to the Milwaukee Art Museum to see an exhibit of "self-taught" artists. The works were generally interesting, but in a somewhat clinical way. The best of them were obsessive-compulsive doodlings that showed a great deal of vision, but in a way that made me think that the artists were possibly mad. Indeed, some of them were. Here's an example by Scottie Wilson:
I see talent here, but it seems talent at the service of obscurity, not at the service of speaking to an intelligent human audience. I don't see someone who has learned his craft in an adult way, but rather a rather childish, private exercise.
Anyway, we left that exhibit and walked down the hall to the permanent collection for a refresher in what great art actually can be: