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Every day that I sculpt I have accidents that happen.  Occasionally a sculpture will leap off my worktable and break into several pieces and – since I’m working with clay that is made out of paper and dries in the air – things happen to the sculpture all during the creating process.   For instance, once the sculpture is started and I add clay to a certain area, that new wet clay is placed onto the existing dry clay and while it is drying,  moves portions of the sculpture around.

When I first started working with this material, I tried to correct these “accidental” rearrangements of my sculpture but now I will consider these accidents to see if they actually help the design or make it unique in some way.  I have decided that the accidents are sometimes a form of unique guidance and serendipity and welcome many of those accidents as part of my creative process.

Many artists today and throughout history knew accidents were often a good component in helping them create their works.  Of course some accidents will just feel like a catastrophe!

me with the finished sculpture,
Okaga, the South Wind.  Later that same
day while working on smoothing out
the last few areas, this sculpture fell
off the back of this table and all its
legs broke; some in two places!

What do you think?  Do you believe that art doesn’t “just happen” because of perfect planning and perfect control – it also happens by seemingly random accidents sprinkled in?

Check out the quotes below (thanks to art-quotes.com) from artists regarding accidents in their work.  Which is your favorite?

It’s time for me to get to work.  I hope your (and my) art accidents are all good ones today.

~Alex

All painting is an accident. But it’s also not an accident, because one must select what part of the accident one chooses to preserve. (Francis Bacon)

It’s the nasty and the accident that form the foundation for elegance that comes later. (Nick Bantock)

In art, there is one thing which does not receive sufficient attention. The element which is left to the human will is not nearly so large as people think. (Charles Baudelaire)

U2 is sort of song writing by accident really. We don’t really know what we’re doing and when we do, it doesn’t seem to help. (Bono)

Oops! I wonder how that blob of paint turned up in the sky? – that must be how many a bird ‘happened’ in a landscape and how extra leaves were added to overhanging branches. (Jeane Duffey)

Accident is veiled necessity. (Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach)

Accident is design / And design is accident / In a cloud of unknowing. (T. S. Eliot)

There are many accidents that are nothing but accidents – and forget it. But there are some that were brought about only because you are the person you are… you have the wherewithal, intelligence, and energy to recognize it and do something with it. (Helen Frankenthaler)

We try not to have ideas, preferring accidents. To create, you must empty yourself of every thought. (Gilbert George)

It may have been accidental but you knew enough to let this alone. The intelligent painter is always making use of accidents. (Charles Hawthorne)

The most persistent principles in the universe are accident and error. (Frank Herbert)

I have meant what I have done. Or – I have often meant what I have done. Or – I have sometimes meant what I have done. Or – I have tried to mean what I was doing. (Jasper Johns)

A creative train of thought is set off by: the unexpected, the unknown, the accidental, the disorderly, the absurd, the impossible. (Asger Jorn)

We never learned how to solve problems, create effects, get concrete results. So we hope for, and rely on fortuitous accidents. What we do by accident we call ‘creative.’ (Brian Knowles)

You need accidents, otherwise it is fake. (Sotirios Kotoulas)

Experiment by applying a few strokes suggesting the subject and see what happens… develop the piece from interesting accidents. (Jean-Francis Le Saint)

It was accidental before but now it’s become my method. (Hui Lin Liu)

At first laying down, as a fact fundamental, / That nothing with God can be accidental. (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

I throw down the gauntlet to chance. For example, I prepare the ground for a picture by cleaning my brush over the canvas. Spilling a little turpentine can also be helpful. (Joan Miro)

Surprises are the joy of living. Surprises directly touch the soul. Good surprises energize and bad surprises teach. (Alev Oguz)

Accidents, try to change them – it’s impossible. The accidental reveals man. (Pablo Picasso)

When a person is prepared to receive something, a series of accidents takes place. (Irving Sandler)

Every brushstroke has a certain tension, a certain nervousness. Every brushstroke is, in a sense, some kind of accident. (Raphael Soyer)

As soon as you accept the accidental effects, they are no longer accidents. They are necessity – the part of yourself that you could not expect or design beforehand. Thus the realm of your creativity grows wider. (Kazuaki Tanahashi)

The unforseen event, the ‘accident,’ the unexpected all play a very large part in my creative play. I prefer to let the materials suggest the direction of a work. (Burnell Yow!)


comments

  1. Suzy | July 16, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    This is my favorite quote, simply because it sounds like the insides of what’s in my head…

    “I have meant what I have done. Or – I have often meant what I have done. Or – I have sometimes meant what I have done. Or – I have tried to mean what I was doing”. (Jasper Johns)

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  5. SherrillZkd | December 17, 2015 at 1:29 am

    Great article.

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