• Carolyn Land

Chance or Choice

“The object, which is the back of every true work of art, is the attainment of a state of being; a state of high functioning, a more than ordinary moment of existence.”  Robert Henri

Nature Speaks

Nature Speaks                                    Collage


We have all had defining moments in our lives, as we travel down this path called life, that make us who we are.   Some of those moments are by choice and others by chance. Most of us can identify points in our life that changed how we thought, felt about something important, or changed the direction our life. We will never know the exact misfortunes we have avoided by making these decisions or the exact magnitude of our unbidden graces. But being human most of us ask at some point, what if?

It is not much different when we create art. There are defining moments in any creative endeavor. One addition to a work or subtraction from a work can change the whole feel of a it. Word order can change the meaning of a story, and one misread line can change the tone of a dramatic presentation.

In the arts we talk about the happy accidents.  Thing that just happen; and we, as artists, know instantly something magical happened and we were not consciously in control.

I have written a lot lately about painting from your inner core…your heart, by getting to the place where the art just comes out of you. This is “by chance”.  It happens!  But as artists we also know that along with making art that is personal, genuine, and speaks to the viewer, comes making art which is compositionally sound.  This can be the defining moment in a painting.  Its when the emotional attachment to what we just produced takes a distant step away and we ask ourselves that hard question. Is it working?  Is it saying what I feel or is there something just not right yet? This is where the “tweaking process” comes in.

Changing one element in what we have done can change the whole feel of what we have created.  Here is where choice comes in. Tweaks are, by definition, any small modifications intended to improve. We need to think carefully about this process, because it can alter what has come from our heart.

When we feel a dissonance between what we were feeling while we were in the creative process and what we see when we pause, we need to put the work away and come back, later, with fresh eyes.  Creating is a lot like life. Things can happen by chance when you paint from your core. Or we can choose very carefully every line, mark, color, and texture. If we are doing that, we are probably not allowing our inner artist to come out? But in the end we do need to use our critical eye to make sure the viewer get our story right.

“Every good artist paints what he is.”    Jackson Pollock

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