I have been surveying “how to” books again. There are some good ones out there. Most of them break the process of drawing or painting down into systematic steps which are intended to make the complex pictorial task simpler. Yet there is something about the carefulness of how to books that has always bothered me a little. In the attempt to eliminate mistakes, they demonstrate much unnoticed over-confidence in regard to what is “correct.” And where is innovation?
Innovation is hard to define. One way it comes about is through personality. Everyone is different, and if an artist impresses his (or her) identity into a work it perforce becomes individual. And yet to put your own ideas down, you must engage your own struggle with the material. That struggle leads to mistakes — those effects that were not intended but which occurred because of some blank space about what you know.
I call these extraneous mistakes “noise.” In the above my aim was to portray a geranium, and yet there were things in the background that were complicated and hard to summarize. It’s a short, spur of the moment picture. And I was just putting down quick colors and lines in the moment. Much of what enters is accident, wasn’t necessarily meant to be there, yet IS there.
Sometimes the noise contains ideas, sometimes not. But sometimes it has amorphous glimmers, or the nubs of ideas, ideas hidden in the shadows, and whispers. If you let that noise happen, you capture the all of your thought — even its indecision and confusion.
When you follow a recipe, you get the meal that was foreseen all along through the instructions. In contrast to that, “noise” provides one path to an unknown future destination of ideas. The recipe is like a map of known territory. The noise is a path through twilight.
That’s all the difference I can think to describe between these two states. Every artist does a bit of both things, follows directions and makes noise. I just want to be an advocate for the noise.