A simple scatter plot, which graphs independent variables (events that happen independently of each other.)
Creativity is like a scatter plot; it’s not a linear process.
As I look back upon the art I’ve produced over the past six years, I’ve noticed a trend. Actually, it’s a lack of a trend. A trendless trend.
Here’s what I mean: Since 2003, I have been painting and designing according to two very different styles of painting; each has two very different compositional approaches: 1) minimal, reductive paintings and 2) maximalist abstract paintings.
I once thought that I had to choose one of these styles of painting — for once and for all, and for good. I could be only a minimalist or a maximalist. But not both. Not having made up my mind, the way I saw it, was a sign of weakness.
Yet, after much deliberation, I never did make a choice. I just kept on making.
And so I continue: I get really into minimalism. But after a while, I hit a wall, and then get really into maximalist abstract painting, only to get distracted, and re-inspired, by minimalist painting all over again. Hence, my output has leapfrogged from one idea to the next, with seemingly little rhyme or reason, for years.
Two very different styles of painting: Left: Space Loop I, a minimal painting from 2008. Right: Where Is Gibarian?, a maximalist abstract painting from 2008.
Let your mind bounce from one idea to the next
Good things happen when you follow your creative whims. Surveying my work over recent years, I realize that elements within my compositions are completely modular. For example, a trio of stripes from a minimal painting can easily serve as a focal point in a maximalist abstract painting.
Any color, stripe or shape can be applied to any painting I choose to make, regardless of the associated style.
Therefore, rather than see my creativity as a linear process, I have chosen to see what I make in terms of a scatter plot — a collection of independent variables that reside at different places on a graph — like the one above.
Over time, I have changed my mind frequently, going from one idea to the next, one painting to the next. Each painting is much like an independent variable, even though it is informed by my previous experiences.
Don’t make sense, just make
The creative “jumping around” may not make sense from a near-term perspective. However, I bet you could draw a trend line through a graph of everything I’ve made, delineating the average between all of these points, and everything would interconnect.
It’s easy to say that we should know exactly what we stand for at all times. It’s easy to adopt a singular art style and repeat whatever worked for you in the past. That’s safe. That makes sense.
But when you no longer think about making sense, you free up your mind to focus on making. And making, after all, is what art is all about.