Problem Solving in Both Art and Life

“Essentially, painting is problem solving.” ~ ennyman

It was a thought I scribbled on a piece of paper while painting one weekend a few years back. Making art involves solving a whole slew of problems. First, what surface should I paint on, or create on using what medium? Am I working toward a goal? (For example, a portrait of a person.) Or am I allowing the event to simply unfold? If I just smear colors on a surface, which colors? What kind of music should I play, since, in my case, that also influences the serenity or haste with which I lay paint on the surface?

Image for post
Image for post
Illustration by the author.

There is a whole sequence of steps involved in each decision, which most artists approach intuitively rather than scientifically. This intuitive process is fine tuned through experiment and experience. We know, for example, that doing “this” doesn’t work. Though in a moment of incredulity an artist might try such a thing to see if he or she can still bend it to his or her purpose. Many artists are boundary pushers, questioning the rules and continually re-writing their own.

Problem solving begins with identifying and defining the problem. As a blog writer I do this every day. Problem: what will I write about today? Step two: how can I make it meaningful for my readers so that it is not a waste of their time to re-visit? Magazine editors, as they curate content, do this all the time.

The next step in problem solving is coming up with a strategy. The problem might be, what should we have for supper? The strategy usually begins with rummaging around the fridge, freezer or pantry to see what is available, gathering information that will help make the decision. Additional information might include knowledge of how close the nearest store is, how much time you have, and how many days till the next paycheck.

For artists, every situation is unique. Sometimes one is working at mastering a certain skill or new style. Sometimes one is trying to produce something for a specific purpose, perhaps to fulfill a commission or complete a series. Sometimes one is simply exploring the possibilities of line, shape, form and color. The problem is that which confronts you on the canvas.

There’s a sense in which life itself is a canvas. How we express ourselves is a form of problem solving, sometimes haphazard and sometimes deliberate. Sometimes bold, sometimes subtle. Some days it’s nothing short of beautiful.

May you have one of those beautiful days today.

Originally published at
Painting and illustration here both by the author.

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon

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