Learning to Take Chances
What can we learn by copying or working like a
famous artist? It's not to represent a particular
painting, but to discover and practice using the
constraints that made the work possible. It's not
by chance that Jean Arp and Ellsworth Kelly are
our teachers this time.
Artists have always used chance as a task constraint to introduce surprise into their work. The person meant to be surprised is the artist. The purpose is to preclude reliable solutions and promote novel ones to a creativity problem. Accidents, being chance events, are always surprising. Some artists, like Leonardo da Vinci looking for patterns in puddles and stains, search for accidents. Others try to manufacture them. The Surrealists, for example, began paintings with [automatic writing,] a kind of doodling designed to preclude control and promote chance.
In both cases, [accidents] are only meant to jump-start the creative process. Whether a composition is musical, poetic, or painterly, accident or chance is never the only constraint. The elements (doodles, words, colors, configurations, durations) chosen or arranged by chance procedures are subject to other constraints (goal and task).
ARP AND KELLY
Chance is a particularly appropriate constraint in making collages. Many of Jean Arp's collages were produced in three steps. The artist (1) chose