Posted in Life

“Scientific Artist”: Balancing Creativity and Practicality

five bulb lights
Photo by Rodolfo Clix

Dreams vs reality.  Emotions vs logic.  Left brain vs right brain.  Spontaneity vs schedule.

Call it what you will, it all boils down to the same struggle.

On the one hand, we want to be creative and free and pursue our passions.  We want to spend our days creating art in all forms, being outside, staying up late, following our impulses.  The thought of spending the rest of our lives chained to the proverbial corporate desk repulses us. We don’t want to do menial homework assignments or file someone else’s business.  We want to go on road trips and paint with our fingers and spend hours listening to our favorite music.

We just want to easily make a living doing what we love.  Of course we do–who wouldn’t?

On the other hand, part of us knows that just isn’t practical.  We don’t want to be that starving artist living in their parents attic who never sells a painting.  Society tells us to be realistic, and we know that society has a very good point. We want to be confident in our future, be financially stable, be health conscious, keep our house clean, feed the cat … the list goes on.  We have responsibilities, and we need and want to stay on top of them. We want to be rational and functional adults.

I think about this struggle all the time, and lately I’ve realized that life doesn’t work at either extreme.  That’s why I chose this title: the Scientific Artist. I’m definitely a scientific thinker; I analyze information, put things in categories, want things to make sense, try to follow the logical course.  But I’m also an artist; I create new things, notice colors, love unstructured creative time, and have an intuitive sense for aesthetic.

These two methods of thought aren’t mutually exclusive.  I try to bring science to my art and art to my science, keeping my expression rational while keeping my observations human.

I definitely don’t have all the answers yet, and I still see several areas of life where the two seem to be in conflict.  I’ll revisit this topic several times on this blog. For now, I’m trying to equally use my logical side and my creative side.

What do you think?  Have you felt this struggle before?  What has helped you find balance?

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Posted in Writing

#TBT: Rain

Rain is freshness, the earth being washed clean.  Rain takes me back to childhood, to racing raindrops and monsoons and wood chip floating tournaments and cinnamon rolls and thunder and lightning and the wonder of witnessing chalk become paint.  Rain is release and renewal, like the clouds are crying out all their hurt and stress and fears. Rain is quiet and thought-provoking, making the youngest child and oldest grandpa take a moment to stop and look up.  Rain is adrenaline, running to catch the bus and shelter important papers. Rain is freeing, jumping on squeaky grass and splashing through roadside oceans, an excuse to get thoroughly muddy and soaked to the skin. All at once rain is happy, forlorn, excited, peaceful, panicked, wild, silent.  Rain is all I’ve ever needed, no matter what mood I’m in.   –Fall 2015

Posted in Painting

Old Dry Paint

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A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new. –Albert Einstein

While going through boxes of art supplies, I found this palette.  I think I got it as a Christmas present from my mom when I was about thirteen, along with a package of plastic brushes and several bottles of cheap bottled acrylic paint (the kind you buy at Walmart for craft projects).  This was before I’d ever really attempted painting and I had no clue what I was doing.

Looking at this palette I can see so much of my “artistic” journey.  I can see the disproportionately large piles of blues and greens, clearly my favorite colors, all my attempts to reproduce the sea and the sky.  I can see the small indents on the side where I squeezed out my older sisters tubed watercolors; those where the first semi-professional art supplies I’d encountered, but they were old and low quality and I barely knew how to use them.  I can see puddles where I let too much paint go to waste because I didn’t know how to budget my time.  I can see my attempts at skin tones, my too-acidic greens, my boring purple, my gross overuse of black.  I can see my sunset, my stormy sea, my castle, my abstract.  I can see some colors I hate, and some I actually love and wish I could rehydrate and use again.

One of my sisters once asked me why I never cleaned it off in between uses, and I couldn’t really give her an answer.  It wouldn’t have been hard while the paint was wet.  Honestly, I think I just liked the aesthetic.  Maybe it made me feel more official, or stood as proof of the creative process, proof that I was a “painter” now.  I only fit that category on a technicality; I really didn’t know how to paint.  I just kind of went for it.  I wielded those brushes like my familiar colored pencils, laying down layers of color that seemed right, sometimes stabbing the brush aggressively in an attempt at texture.  When I messed up or dripped paint, I instinctively wiped it up with the closest available thing: my hands.  My hands were always covered in paint after I finished a project.  My painting style with this palette and those cheap acrylics was bizarre, although somewhat logical from my standpoint.

Also in that box was a stack of canvases.  Some were completed projects, some were blank, but most were half done.  I remember every one of those projects, just as I remember the growing frustration, the feelings of doubt, the descent into apathy, and finally tossing it in the pile and refusing to think about it again.  (I’m sure everyone who has dabbled in the arts knows what I’m talking about.)  That was the part I liked least about my newly discovered art medium: unlike graphite, you can’t erase paint.  Once you put in down and it dries, there it is, and there it remains.  Especially with a fast drying paint like acrylic, you have a limited window to move things around and adjust before the paint is stuck.  Without any formal art education, I didn’t know any way to “fix” a painting once I messed up and the paint dried.

Just like in life, sometimes we make ugly mistakes and are left with a patch of ugly dry paint we feel like we’ll spend a lifetime trying to paint over.  We can always look back on our mistakes but no longer have the power to change anything or do something different.  We’re just stuck with old dry paint.  The melodrama!  But like that old palette, we can see the bright colors and messy edges and choppy leftover brushstrokes that show just how much we were trying.  And we can always bust out our battered brushes and paint something new.

I still haven’t cleaned that old palette, and I’m don’t think I ever will.