Monday, July 25, 2011

Problem Solving

"Essentially, painting is problem solving." ~ ennyman

It was a thought I scribbled on a piece of paper while painting this weekend. Making art involves solving a whole slew of problems. First, what surface should I paint on, or create on using what medium? Am I working toward a goal? (For example, a portrait of a person.) Or am I allowing the event to simply unfold? If I just smear colors on a surface, which colors? What kind of music should I play, since that also influences the serenity or rapidity with which I lay paint on the surface?

There is a whole sequence of steps involved in each decision which most artists approach intuitively rather than scientifically. This intuitive process is fine tuned through experiment and experience. We know, for example, that doing "this" doesn't work. Though in a moment of incredulity an artist might try such a thing to see if he or she can make it work. Many artists are boundary pushers, questioning the rules and continually re-writing their own.

Problem solving begins with identifying and defining the problem. As a blog writer I do this every day. Problem: what will I write about today? Step two: how can I make it meaningful for my readers so that it is not a waste of their time to re-visit? Magazine editors do this all the time.

The next step in problem solving is coming up with a strategy. The problem might be, what should we have for supper? The strategy usually begins with rummaging around the fridge to see what is available, gathering information in order to help make the decision. Additional information might include an intuitive knowledge of how close the nearest store is, how much time you have, and how many days till the next paycheck.

For artists, every situation is unique. Sometimes one is working at mastering a certain skill or new style. Sometimes one is trying to produce something for a specific purpose, perhaps to fulfill a commission or complete a series. Sometimes one is simply exploring the possibilities of line, shape, form and color. The problem is that which confronts you on the canvas.

There's a sense in which life itself is a canvas. How we express ourselves is a form of problem solving, sometimes haphazard and sometimes deliberate. Sometimes bold, sometimes subtle. Some days it's nothing short of beautiful.

May you have one of those beautiful days today.

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