Evolutionary ‘creation’ means that organisms improve, not because of the designing hand of an external God, but rather through the unceasing movement of creatures interacting with others that occasionally results in notable improvements. Some writers have projected a guiding will onto the earth, with the revelation of humans as a manifestation of its consciousness. This goes a bit far, in my mind, blending science with superstation in one story. As I’ve written elsewhere, I prefer to keep them distinct. Weaving inputted intentions into the scientific narrative puts a magical agency in the planet, which only makes us wonder about the location of its brain and the mechanism of expressing a terrestrial will. Certainly humans, with all our terra-deforming activity can’t be the highest expression. Not yet, at least.

Be that as it may, the notion of unplanned discovery leading to the creation of something wonderful is intriguing. It’s a dynamic I’m looking to emulate in painting. This is not a scientific experiment, but rather an artistic one aimed at realizing a different type of personal awareness, one that has symmetry with the evolutionary process. It is also nothing new; painters do this all the time.

Look at the work of Van Gogh – you rarely see strict outlines. Rather, there is a hail of brushwork that both integrates and separates forms. Line is not indicating boundary; rather your mind is perceiving patterns and interpreting them as forms. A wave of green-black becomes a cypress tree, and a similar pattern in blue becomes sky and clouds as the brush work swirls within the boundaries of the canvass. It’s a kind of discovery through brushwork. Vincent was very connected with the earth and those who toil it. It’s no surprise that his art broadcasts a message of organic life that is nevertheless not a descriptive representation of individual things.

The human mind is rather analytical, and Vincent’s letters are replete with reflection, comparisons and analysis of the work of others. Yet he was able to oscillate between analysis and execution. For Vincent, growth as an artist can in the execution itself. His strong will precluded a scientific approach. There was a relentless will that drove the action of painting, and you can see this manifested in the frenetic brushwork itself. This speaks of the principle of life finding a new existence. Vincent mutated the way we see – no one had ever perceived through art like he did. Today, after you take in his canvasses, you cannot go outside and see things the same way.

Is this mimicking the evolutionary discovery process in art? How do we teach others to make similar discoveries? The thinking that brought the Vincent’s innovations is not the thinking that will bring the next. Rather, the lesson is the discovery process itself. It’s an attitude, a methodology of discovery. The rational Vincent set himself up to be able to explore. It is possible to get in the exploration mindset through a controlled process that allows discovery to playout within the ‘world’ of the canvass.

To similarly achieve this, we just need to define conceptual equivalences. Since we cannot mimic the entire evolutionary process, we can setup a micro-session. The idea is to conceive of you hand and brush as a creature, and constrain exploration within the canvass. Think of the act of pushing paint around the canvass in terms of this metaphor: the ‘creature’ is exploring its boundaries, being attracted by certain things (other colors), assimilating with its surroundings, pushing here, giving way there, being assertive and defensive in one area, and merging, blending in other areas. The behavior is determined by a number of factors, including the color loaded, perceived associations and contrasts with other colors and the ‘boundaries’ of the composition.

The goal is to become one with your brush, letting it lead, exploring surroundings, allowing intuition and the ‘laws’ of art govern your reactions. The visual energy of the loaded color will react to other colors and forms. Conceive of your brush as a perceptive creature, as the ‘active agent’ in its own world. Do not guide it by a preconceived design, but let your inner conditioning as an artist, based on experiences from the past, guide your reactions. Be very mindful of every turn, of surroundings, of what your active agent wants and needs, how it reacts. Don’t think of your hand as the executor of your mind’s plan. Rather, let your mind be the mechanism of perception and response to what your hand is doing. Add and remove color, blend or differentiate. Execute intuitively without analytical reasoning. We can’t quite describe it because the process is both intentional and not rational. You shouldn’t be thinking ‘the form turns, so I need to make it darker’, or ‘here is red, which needs to be enhanced by the application of a compliment’.

That would be like having a pro basketball player thinking ‘now I’m going to take a shot, so I have to have my feet plated and my elbow under my hand, bend knees first and let the jump flow with a final flick of the wrist’. The masters of basketball or any sport do not deconstruct their movements when they are ‘in the zone’. The movements are just natural. For the master, whatever they do should be done. There is no need for a book of instructions, or coaches planning every play. Their actions are normative by definition. Masters do what they do because they are masters; they don’t act to be justified. In the same way, allow yourself to get into an execution zone. Get in ‘creative creature mode’ as you execute brushwork.

Not every mutation in nature yields pleasing results. Likewise, sticking to this discovery mode may not immediately yield artwork that should be framed. You may not be a master yet. Nevertheless, the process is more about how you think and perceive than it is about the outcome. By allowing your fingers to do the thinking, you will be present and open to responding, and the process will be teaching you based on outcomes. It is trial and error, unfolding as a dialectic when you interact, discover and then step back to understand, reload your brush and go back in. As you get into an action-response rhythm, the act of painting becomes meditative. An evolving progression that builds a work of art from the inside-out.

The discovery mindset will remove boundaries and pre-conceived notions and lead to unexpected ‘mutations’ of the subject matter. As Michelangelo ‘freed’ the figures inherent in the blocks of marble, so you too will release a work that is both yours and beyond yourself. This is a mystery in art, as the creator is not really a designer, but more of a responder, a liberator of worlds. You get the sense that you are participating in a slow revelation.

Nature is full of recursive patterns – the spirals of galaxies are mirrored in the spirals of conch shells. Fractal branching can indefinitely recursive. Your creativity, when in discovery mode, is a recursion of the creative process of the earth and the universe. That revelation is mystifying and wonderful. It will give you a new sense of being, and an empathy with the creative process of nature.

— Roy Zuniga
Kirkland, WA

Copyright © 2016 Roy Zuniga