Tuesday, January 24, 2012

constraint and creativity

A while ago, I was taking this course on Material and Techniques of Post-war Abstract Expressionist Painting from Moma. The instructor for the course spent quite a bit of time talking about studio rules. Yesterday I was listening to this video from Vi Hart.  She talks about 'loose sort of rules' when drawing/doodling.  This morning I was listening to this podcast from 99% Invisible.  Here he was talking about constraints.

By studio rules, the instructor was discussing how art is often made within a self-imposed set of rules. Some of them you can see for yourself, such as in this Rothko painting at Moma; or indeed, any of these.  You could say that his studio rule was for largely rectangular forms created by painting and over paintings with thin translucent layers of paint.  The edges of the forms should be loose, and I am sure that there were also rules about colour choice and order.  For instance I assume that brighter whiter colours formed more of the bottom layers in order to achieve the glow.

A set of rules.

Vi Hart talks about how a set of rules, that are very simple, such as lines from a central point every 100º or every 122º or every 180º.  Or a simple rule that creates the fibonacci series.
The first two numbers in the Fibonacci sequence are 0 and 1, and each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two (from Wiki)

So for example the sequence goes 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21....

What it creates though is spirals, like in the cauliflower below, which is a wildly exaggerated spiral that is normally there, or pine cones, flowers etc etc etc

So this simple rule is a constraint.

In 99% invisible, the question is more of a time and physical space restraint.

99% Invisible-45- Immersive Ideal by Roman Mars

Why, you might ask yourself am I rattling on and on and on about restraint?  I think it is an interesting route to access creativity, to funnel it and to get it to flow.  As I posted a while ago, I feel like my painting this year has not really been moving, it is here and there but unco-ordinated.  I don't have a studio rule.  I have imposed these on myself before, the canvas a day project, the Immigration series...but nothing so far this year, and I think this is what I am missing, although I have temporarily restarted the canvas a day to get ANY sort of rule going.  I have a rule to spend a half hour each day drawing from the Artwork of the day blog/post from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

Still searching for that rule it would seem, though I think this year it is going to have to do with straight lines.

It does make me ponder about the relationship between constraint and creativity, no?


Mother Theresa said...

Yeah, that does work...I do that when I go to aerobics events. I'm just happy when I don't get lost while trying to follow the choreographies, and I don't worry about trying to look good or do anything fancy. So, I hope all the illnesses are over and that you'll be back to a more normal life soon. Keep on running! :)

elpadawan said...

This makes me think about all the constraints I have to cope with when developing software. It actually also sometimes forces creativity out of people. Although not all the time... (Not that I would call the software I work on "art", though)

oreneta said...

Mother T....slooooowly!!!! They are slowly getting better.

ElP.....it will be interesting if in future software design does get some of those titles. I am not sure it will be up there with Leonardo, but there is no question that it is a creative process. We had to define artist and artisan the other day for Youngest's homework. The major difference was that artists create a different work every time, while artisans work with their hands to create much the same thing over and over and over....a particular cheese for instance. Though some artisans, clearly would also be creating new ones from time to time.

elpadawan said...

Although I'd definitely say that in the software world, for one "artisan", you really have a slew of "sloppy painters trying to sell sub-par paintings on touristy areas"...