Know When to Hold Them

Below is a description of a creative endeavor by graphic designer Paula Scher, (who has many other credits to her name http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paula_Scher):

“There’s a certain amount of intuitive thinking that goes into everything. It’s so hard to describe how things happen intuitively. I can describe it as a computer and a slot machine. I have a pile of stuff in my brain, a pile of stuff from all the books I’ve read and all the movies I’ve seen. Every piece of artwork I’ve ever looked at. Every conversation that’s inspired me, every piece of street art I’ve seen along the way. Anything I’ve purchased, rejected, loved, hated. It’s all in there. It’s all on one side of the brain.

And on the other side of the brain is a specific brief that comes from my understanding of the project and says, okay, this solution is made up of A, B, C, and D. And if you pull the handle on the slot machine, they sort of run around in a circle, and what you hope is that those three cherries line up, and the cash comes out.”

I like this.  It describes how random the outcome of “good art” can be at times.  If you think you have a handle on the process because you have drawing skills, or color mixing skills or you know how to handle a brush, you will likely be short-changed. If you think you have a handle on it because you are passionate and emotive, good luck.  If you think you have a handle on it because you have an idea, something important to say, a cogent thought about something about which you are passionate and you even have the skills to communicate  it, you are still likely to fall short.  So WTF?

It takes some kind of star alignment, some kind of belief and trust, some kind of something to transcend the ordinary and create a piece of art that sings. It’s a mystery. Certainly the more skills you can put into the “brain pile”, like the more coins in your pocket, the greater the chance of success.  But the word chance is still in there and you can’t control it no matter how hard you try.   The more willingness you have to keep “pulling the lever” the greater chance of success.  (And then you have to define success.)

So the questions remain.

The one thing that is sure about the whole gamble is that you have to get to the table before you can “win” (I hate that word when it comes to art, but what can you do when you pick this analogy?) Showing up and paying attention to what you are doing and honoring what is engaging to you  is key.

In most recent experience with a gambling machine was with video poker.  My second pull I got the ever-so-rare royal flush—Ace, king, queen, jack, ten of one suit.  But I wasn’t really present in the activity, so I inadvertently asked for five new cards instead of cementing my win.  It was only a nickel machine so it wasn’t a big loss.  But the analogy carries through.  The pay-off requires a combination of things but especially showing up and paying attention.  The size of it depends on how much you are willing to risk. But there’s no guarantee. The best way to “win” is to enjoy the process.

This week you’re on your own.  I’ll be in class for questions, etc., but there will be no new exercise. If you need to start anew, consider our most recent exercises to repeat.  Come on down or you might miss the jack-pot.

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