What’s In a Name?
First things first…you may or may not be wondering: why is this blog titled “The Scientific Artist? Perhaps you are thinking “that sounds like a contradiction in terms! What’s so-called ‘scientific’ about art?”
The name comes about for a number of reasons. Among them is a personal one. I was once referred to by that title, no doubt somewhat mockingly, by a former comic book artist. At best it was a name given with a mixture of scorn and perhaps some small percentage of puzzled approval as well. But it was clear to me that the labeller in question did not understand me, nor share my artistic goals, nor my lifelong interest in what you could call (for lack of a better term) the “scientific” side of art. I was looked upon with a mixture of bemusement, fascination, and a large dose of incomprehension.
At first I was bothered, but upon reflection I decided to wear the name as a badge of honor, because it’s possible that it was a name well-chosen after all.
For there IS a lot of science and scientific thought in art, and behind art, lurking in the background; far more than we think. Hence a second reason for the name: this blog is for all those interested in “the science of art”, who aim to be “scientific artists”.
In the experience of some few gifted artists, those natural geniuses, I suppose it may never be necessary to bring the science of art to the surface of the mind, to comb through it looking for clues and new understanding; they are the ones who say ” I never think about it, I just do it, and I don’t know exactly HOW I do it, and I can’t and won’t explain it to you. I just DO, that’s all. Why think about art?”
All well and good; but what about all the rest of us, students and professionals alike, who are dissatisfied, and want to improve? What do we do? Do we just madly scribble away, with a feeble grin on the face, aiming to gain and improve by mere volume of drawings and a heart full of “hope”? “If I fill 20 sketchbooks, then I’ll be there?” Do we wait for that magic day when enlightenment will descend upon us at one fell swoop?
Not good enough. For what do we see around us which improves, by itself, without conscious intention and structured effort, by the mere passage of years alone? The artists who see that passing time guarantees nothing realize the necessity for the presence of “science” in their art: intellectual effort, study, a methodical approach; the separating of the true from the false, the study of the natural principles around them , and so on.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Scientific methods or processes are considered fundamental to the scientific investigation and acquisition of new knowledge based upon physical evidence. Scientists use observations, hypotheses and deductions to propose explanations for natural phenomena in the form of theories. Predictions from these theories are tested by experiment. Any theory which is cogent enough to make predictions can then be tested reproducibly in this way. The method is commonly taken as the underlying logic of scientific practice. A scientific method is essentially an extremely cautious means of building a supportable, evidence-based understanding of our natural world.
What if we approached art in the same way---if we built our knowledge and practice methodically, instead of constructing random manneristic assemblages: a bit of Lee here, a dash of Kirby there, dose it with some Mignola, and Timmitate to your heart’s content…
For me the way of “The Scientific Artist” is the only pathway I see which will help me improve, and “find my own style”. Morever it will give steadiness, and that is vital as a commercial artist---you have to produce every day, not just on “inspiration days”.
Why should artwork be an escape away from the so-called “intellectual”? Often, artists seem to pride themselves in their lack of any kind of “intellectuality”. Many, especially in these times, seem to see art and the creation of artwork as only an emotional exercise. The belief seems to be “with sufficient emotion, the art will come”. Again, fine and good if they believe that. But I say this: why not both head AND heart? Each has its place and will act in due course…and each needs the other, in art as well as everywhere else. They knew this in the past; the painters and illustrators from even 100 years ago, let alone further back, demonstrated an average level of craft unmatched today. They combined rigourous study with great emotion; each accented the other. A close study of past masterworks leads to the conclusion: these artists not only felt deeply, but thought deeply as well.
The halls of art schools are filled with students, year in and year out. How many clearly realize that in order to improve, time spent making many hundreds of overly large drawings with thick charcoal sticks is not enough by itself, nor is merely paying the tuition fee; that multiple piercings are not enough, nor voluminous dark clothes and tattoos and funny little caps with small brims and the latest eyewear. Understanding is bought more dearly than that, and the mere surging expression of emotion is not enough either.
How many realize that, if they wish to improve, in reality they are all “scientific artists”, and must be, whether nor not they acknowledge it?
I know, I know---perhaps this does not seem “individual” enough to them, to join the anonymous ranks of those scratching and clawing their way up the craft-slopes of “Art Mountain”, to follow in the same footsteps as those who came before. They’ve always been told that to be an artist one must at all times and everywhere be Quirky and Different and Intuitive and Unpredictable and Emotive and…and that Science has no place in art, and besides study is dull, and you only need to know how to spell if you are a bookworm or librarian…
Despite it all I persist in thinking there are some others out there of a different stripe, and so this blog is for those of you who also want to wear the label proudly: for all you Scientific Artists out there. You know who you are.