The Art of Not Planning

The Art of Not Planning

The great mistake is to anticipate the outcome of the engagement; you ought not to be thinking of whether it ends in victory or defeat. Let nature take its course, and your tools will strike at the right moment.

Like so many of his quotes, this statement by Bruce Lee holds weight in disciplines outside of fighting. It speaks to the folly of expectation, and how it can interfere with our natural gifts.

Much of my work in the Waveform Expressionist style is unplanned. I approach the canvas with a fresh mind, a fresh internal canvas, and see what rhythms I am responding to in that moment. The closest my style comes to “a plan” would be to explore movement across the canvas in an acrylic under layer, which is a cheaper medium with which to mentally ramble. Once I have achieved a dynamic sense of motion, I’ll come in with oils to develop texture and color choices. Another Lee quote comes to mind:

It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.

I can’t think of a better way to frame abstract art in the mind. The artist has an elemental message in the work, and everything not conveying that message is stripped away. Depicting a wonderfully realistic likeness of a tree, or figure, is not necessarily going to get at the spirit of the subject. It’s not unlike sculpting, or the quote by Michelangelo:

Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.

In freeing that statue from the block of stone, free yourself of expectation, anxiety, and aims. Paint what is in you at that moment, in that moment.

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