Saturday, July 15, 2006

Accidental Circumstances

I remember once reading that Leonardo DaVinci commented that the most interesting paintings occurred where people spit. He was talking about the public fountains where people would stop for a drink of water and rinse out their mouths spitting it out on the fountain wall. The random shapes and stains intrigued Leonardo and he would see many things in them. I have also read about artists that would pore, splatter, and drip paint onto their canvas and let it dry. They would then stare at the surface until some shape made them think of an image and the direction of the painting would be determined. But what about working in a deliberate manner and then some accidental slip up occurs and the result is a remarkable effect.

Many times I have had this accidental slip up give me some great results. I would worry, though, if this were a legitimate element of my painting. After all I didn’t deliberately intend to create that effect, shape, form, or whatever. How much could I take credit for that? How long was I going to have to wait until another wonderful accident occurred that I could exploit and claim as my own? I thought that this was a dumb thing to think about. Years later, during a workshop I was doing, I had a student show me one of her mistakes and she wanted to know if it was okay to keep it in the painting. More importantly, she wanted to know how to do it again.

Do my accidents and mistakes happen because I am just going along on automatic pilot? Do I really pay attention to my accidental happenings? Do I really learn from them or even want to learn from them? I started paying more attention to them and learned more than I expected. Because of this attention, I have discovered wonderful colors and color combinations that I otherwise would never have known about. I discovered bits and pieces of things that could be elaborated on to get wonderful effects. Most importantly, I learned how to create them over and over again.

One of the things that I now tell others is that art does not happen by accident. It may have its roots or beginnings in accidental situations but then the artist needs to take that and work it until it has taken a shape and form of its own. I tell students that they must pay attention to their mistakes and be able to create them again. That if they make something accidentally and cannot recreate it then it is not art. Art happens on purpose, it is deliberate. The artist has learned how to use the tools and materials and from them create something new.

One of my views of being an artist is that I stand in the middle of chaos, watching and waiting. Occasionally I reach out and grab a piece of chaos. I look at it and study it. Maybe it is complete in itself, maybe it is not. I reach out and grab a second piece, a third, and maybe even more. Eventually I work to assemble these pieces into something new and whole. To bring order out of the chaos.

So why am I thinking about all this accidental chaos? Tuesday afternoon, on my way home, another driver, who was not paying attention, was speeding and ran a stop sign. Being an old fart I tend to drive more cautiously. I caught a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye and my parental instincts kicked in. I had just a moment to slam on my brakes and to try to swerve my van. I was partially successful. Both vehicles were totaled. I was later told what I did saved his life. If I had hit him straight on at the speed I was going (50 mph) my large commercial van would’ve torn through the car’s cabin and crushed his head. I also would’ve been severely injured or killed. I still get nauseas when I think about it.

This accident now sets me on a different path. I no longer have a vehicle and we cannot afford to replace it right now. Plans that were made for the next month or two now need to be rethought and reconsidered. However, it has not changed my priorities. I got to come home to my priorities, my wife, children, grandson, cats and dogs, and all things living. I guess it must be time for a new adventure.

The above painting is titled “A Solitary Cypress”. It measures 23“ X 17.5“ and is oil on a hardwood panel and was completed in May 2006. The van to the right is titled a total wreck. It is my 1999 GMC Savannah 3500 diesel that was wrecked in the accident.


Blogger KJ said...

Incredible story, Ed... and a great tie-in to painting. This sort of happening can really bring focus to priorities. Glad you're here to tell about it, Wow!

7:27 AM  
Blogger amber said...

wondeful interpretation of how life reflects art or vice versa Glad you're ok sorry you no longer have a vehicle ,that's got to be pain
i think the topic of accidental learning experience is interesting
I don't think all people would leand from accidents
it takes someone who is searching someone who sees things, someone who wants to create new things a
True artist

8:24 AM  
Blogger Lori Witzel said...

Ed --
First, am so thankful you're unhurt other than spooked (at least I hope that's all the physical/psychic trauma.) And am so glad your instincts saved someone else from a worse fate than they suffered.

Second, I'll light a metaphoric candle and keep y'all in my thoughts in hopes that the inconvenience and financial hurt is as minor as possible.

And third, what a gift you have for reflection and spinning straw into gold. Thank you for sharing this, and again, am so glad you're basically okay.

10:21 AM  
Blogger jenncat said...

holy cow! thank God everyone is ok!
good thing you're an old fart :)
i hope you find transportation soon!
and i agree with what lori said - you have a gift for spinning straw into gold. thank you for your insights - they're very helpful - jen

2:02 PM  
Blogger Globetrotter said...

Time to buy a Prius.

In all honesty, I'm very glad that you are taking all this philosophically.

Great post despite the circumstances. As I was reading, I was going to compare spit to an orgasm and wonder what Da Vinci would have said about that. In the end, after reading this post I and your other readers are simply delighted that you're OK.

5:26 PM  
Blogger Lisa Call said...

First, I'm glad you were not seriously hurt. Great reflexes!

I've been thinking about your post all day while working in my studio. Just posted my thoughts on my blog as they were rather lengthy for a comment here.

8:46 PM  
Blogger Smith Tech said...

Great Work!!!
this is a good link you can refer Art Collection

7:39 AM  
Blogger Ed Maskevich said...

Thank You to everyone. You have all been so kind with your comments. It is much appreciated.

8:00 AM  
Blogger Tracy Helgeson said...

Hi Ed, So glad that you were not hurt and ONLY lost your vehicle. Perhaps somehow, not having a car for awhile will save you from some other bad luck, who knows?

It's good that you can look at this in a positive manner.

9:14 AM  
Blogger Lori Witzel said...

Hola, Ed...hope the dust is settling and there's some light sparkling on it.

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a few comments, you're becoming one of my favorite "common-taters"...

Take care!

7:04 AM  
Blogger Lesly said...

Hi Ed,
What an interesting post you have here ... very thought provoking. I am often frustrated when I cannot recreate something that "happened" in one of my paintings. I have been reading Nita Leland 'The Creative Artist' and I see links there with what you are saying. Its all about freeing up your creative self ... so these 'happenings' may not be accidents but our inner artist popping out! Wish mine would pop out a bit more often!

With regard to your accident ... these things really are life changing events, aren't they? I am so glad that you were not seriously injured and are safely at home now with your family.

My brother was killed in a road accident in Saudi Arabia and one year later I missed death by a whisker when I drove my car off a bend and over a steep bank. Car was a write-off, I was merely battered. You certainly never forget how impermanent this life is after that sort of experience.

It will take a while for your heart to stop galloping when you think 'how near was that', but you'll be even closer to those you love.

Oh! and by the way, this painting is lovely ....

5:13 PM  
Blogger The Epiphany Artist said...

Beautiful painting and holy cow what an experience! Hey post on for your area and May be some one has a vehicle they want to donate !

10:25 PM  
Blogger Lori Witzel said...

Ed, let us know how vehicle stuff is going, and how you're doing, when you get the chance.

Here's hoping your radiant colors are shining on this weekend morning!

10:07 AM  

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