The problem of order


Dear Artist,

Walking on a pathway in a wood in the late afternoon. There’s an orange sun flirting with the latticework, like a bus gamboling on the horizon. The trees are mysterious, clinging, cobwebby — in silhouette like actors moving. Fog fills the spaces. The words of Emily Carr when she was looking at a forest: “Perfectly ordered disorder designed with a helter-skelter magnificence.”

I’m working on the yin and yang of order. How important is order? The conventions of art are filled with rules of order: “Always lay out the colors of your palette in the same order.” “Draw first, then under-paint, then put fat over lean.” “In watercolor, creep up on the subject, or, on the other hand, put down your strongest motifs first.” We’ve walked this path a hundred times. I’m re-examining the recipes.

In art, queue-jumping is the norm. Commissions, for example, need not be completed in the order in which they were requested. In the production of art, work and its quality are at their best when the artist is ready for the task. And every task is approached with an open mind. Linear systems are suspect. What of recipes and bags of tricks? Looking at your work afresh in the cold gray light of dawn — things that you thought you were going to have to do — you don’t have to do. And things that you didn’t know you have to do — you have to do. Think outside of the box. Think of the possibilities. Think what could be. Think on your feet.

Here in the fading light, dew is settling on my laptop. A gray field-vole, not yet into hibernation, moves through and along its grassy pathway, sorting its world. I’m dividing my world into two main kinds of artists: There are those who see the world in a state of chaos — and need to put it into order — and those who accept the disorder, and go with the flow. Somewhere, there’s music. A piano concerto. I’m thinking of Alfred Brendel: “Art gives a sense of order, life is basically chaotic, and there’s a tension between them. A sense of order comes from chaos and contains a bit of it, but it’s the sense of order that makes a work of art.”

Best regards,


PS: “The world is not to be put in order; the world is order, incarnate. It is for us to harmonize with this order.” (Henry Miller)

Esoterica: I promote a system called RPS (Relaxed Pressure Scheduling). More of an attitude than an orderly method, it invites the worker to keep leaning into the direction of interest and desire. A condition of calm is achieved by allowing the process itself to cause the pressure. The result is a feeling of workmanlike progress, remarkable throughput, and creative joy.


Order creates chaos
by Carolynn Doan


painting by Carolynn Doan

I have also been musing over order and chaos of late. Some would have you think that order arises out of chaos but I am leaning towards chaos arising from order. The entire natural world is ordered, from the smallest subatomic particles to the largest of plants and beasts. Order is what we are… and then life gets in the way of things. This is not to say that chaos is not necessary, exciting and spawns creative thought. If chaos did not develop out of order we would have no reason to ‘create,’ to handle it, live within it and handle being surrounded by it.


Going with relaxed flow
by Judith Jancowski

God designed the world in perfect order and harmony. It is mankind that makes things scattered. I have always been orderly and worked in an orderly way. However when I went to art school I worked thirty-two hours a week and had an extra full course load and I was a single parent with three kids. Order didn’t always work out as planned but somehow things always got done. We have to go with a flow of life that allows us to function in a relaxed manner and still accomplish our goals. This in itself requires creative thinking. At one time, I worked on an art piece until it was completed. Now I work on several at a time and carry on with my activities and everything seems to come together. Each activity seems to contribute to the other in some way. I guess you would call it a creative flow. Even stopping to take the time to read or exchange a phone call or check a message to some may seem like taking them from their art-making but it in fact adds to it.


Creative tension
by Olinda Everett, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Christmas is an excellent time for musing on the advantages of inhabiting the realm between the imperatives of preparation and the creative harmonization of artistic production: peace and calm is not what I find there. Art is not order. Art is a different order if you like. True, I have to juggle many different weights in the air while painting: for me the rules are not part of the flesh, they are still insisting on fighting among themselves, they try to escape they behave badly. Sometimes they have to be sent to Coventry for a bit. But I do this perched on a reality that is a figment of my own imagination, not on the solid ground of cake recipes, children’s clothes, the price of potatoes. So there are here at least two different and opposed sets of reality with quite different rules from each other. Aren’t there?


by Radha (Linda Saccoccio) NYC

Time needs to become somewhat habitual so that the flow is naturally prepared to be set in motion unconsciously through the underlying expectation or preparation (Pavlovian you might say). Rhythm to work habits simplify by nature of organization of time. I have a variety of responsibilities not directly related to painting so this is essential. When I get to my studio on the days that are reserved with blocks of time to paint I am free of other obligations and I shift into art mode. I allow the work to flow spontaneously and am guided by a natural feeling for a sense of order through the lines I lay down. There are feelings of pushing, pulling, opening, breathing, conflict or harmony, etc. All of these lines or gestures are held together with a sensibility I have for order, some kind of balance that I see as giving clarity of expression. It grounds the visual elements. I don’t really know where this sensibility comes from. My guess is that it is rooted both in external elements like nature and time as well as through intuition and a connection to the unknowable.


A place for everything and everything in its place
by Laurie Irwin


painting by Laurie Irwin

I have been the type who follows along in an orderly fashion. Hence I have not painted in 9 months. Once a person who if I didn’t paint weekly I lost it, so I felt. Couldn’t function. But this last March I got my house in order and sold it. I’d always said once my child was grown I’d sell and off to greener pastures, somewhere where people appreciate art more. Studio was assembled and in working order in the new house a month ago and still I didn’t paint. With a full time job as well, time was filled with other things. But the guilt was building. All those years of growth and I was putting it on a shelf. Could it be? My daughter kept insisting that I paint. But alas, today I have thrown away the sense of needing order. Spent 3 hours today skipping through my photographs all neatly organized in binders from all my travels. I came up with some good but usual ones for some garden scenes. Focal points all neatly worked out, color schemes set in order. Then all of a sudden I was pulling rushing water and mist filled photos out. Then the juices really flowed and I was suddenly looking in an abstract way at shapes in rocks and cliffs I had photographed. Now I have given myself the right to play. Set up all my pastels, got some cheap paper out, told myself not to reproduce the photo but find some shapes and flow. I think the tap has been turned on again.


Order and chaos
by Rich Nelson, Maui, Hawaii

What nature brings to the table may outwardly appear chaotic, but where would we be without the laws of gravity, perspective, illumination and the like? Perspective orders space according to how we perceive or natural world. Its use, coupled with a similar understanding of light and shade, converted a disjointed and unnatural rendering of nature into the High Renaissance compositions.

If we perceive nature as disjointed elements scattered by chance before our eyes, we can still navigate through this chaos because of the laws of nature. Distant forms appear smaller and in less contrast. Light treats each element equally, i.e. a lemon and apple on green grass are perceived as the same colors whether in light or shade. We all learn this before we can walk or talk, but few are conscious of the subjective computing that accompanies perception.

We are capable of many types and levels of discrimination to determine the many differences that exist between us, our institutions, etc. We are sometimes less able to find what we have in common. Seeing colors in the light of day reveals their distinct difference. Reds are reds and blues are blue (profound!) But, see these same hues at sunset and all their differences are united under the common color of the amber light. Da Vinci said, “Paint at no other time than this!” (I can’t follow that rule, but it does suggest why so many painters find that time of day to their liking.)


Chaos: our minds are full of it
by Alex Nodopaka, Lake Forest, California, USA


painting by Alex Nodopaka

Walking on a poodle and yang of art is everywhere. I like to do — you don’t have to do. Say! Get rid of chaos and sing with ten cats on fifty hippopotamuses backs! It is chewing! And when the artist is ready for an example of artwork then drink pink ink. Here in a helter-skelter magnificence pile the dark if you have to sing if you were requested by the norm. Think outside of sour gooseberry jam! I do not yet met a state of Emily Carr when the space in the artist is ordering a pet and a blue fish. A tweetle beetle puddles a pet, like a tweetle beetles battle a linear system. If you were going to sing you have to wink and yang some sour gooseberry jam! Oh dear! Oh dear! I bet. Will our mother like this path a ham or, two main kinds of your head? Try them! No! Say! You then under-paint, then under-paint, not like my laptop. Oh dear! It is fun to sing if you didn’t know you thought you sing if you were requested. No!

Get rid of peppermint cucumber sausage-paste butter! Now look, I do not like a puddle paddle battle with the light of Thing Two! No, said the spaces. If you didn’t know you chew, by the production of order? And every task is fun to wink and the poodle’s eating noodles. Here in a bus gamboling on a bus gamboling on my laptop. Oh dear! No! Get rid of artists who always layouts the flow then piles the recipes.


Stage Triangles
by Faith Puelston, Wetter, Germany

So many examples of the triangle (let’s leave out the romantic “eternal” one) bring back to my mind the earliest periods of stage craft training. Every stage movement is complex, because of the basic restrictions involving dramatic situation, dimensions, scenery, lighting, props etc. But what sounds difficult is easy if you use the triangle principle! At no time do you stand immediately behind someone. At no time do you form a straight line (unless the dramaturgy expressly demands it). If only 2 are on stage, the third element will be scenic. I don’t know how many performers are aware of this principle or how many use it subconsciously, but it works!

I have also done stage directing at various times, and it is simply the best way of plotting action. Changes of mood and situation leading to movement result in a different triangle each time. Return to a former triangle creates a new awareness in the audience and can lead to heightened dramatic tension. Now I have taken up painting, I am more conscious than ever of the “eternal” triangle in its purest sense. But here it’s called something else: “the golden mean,” within whose rectangles the triangles become magically visible. A rose by any other name…


Copyright between Canada and USA
by J.Baldini, Ontario, Canada


painting by J.Baldini

I am both a professional photographer and artist. Copyright has been lobbied by Professional Photographers of America for years. Part of our dues is assessed for this defense fund. Everyone in the US benefits from this. They constantly keep a watchdog stance on infringement and have taken some of the biggest offenders to court and won or come to an understanding with others. I am also an American living and working in Canada. The copyright law here is different and photographers are trying to change the law. A work for hire here is classified as any portrait I take of anyone who walks into my studio. According to Canadian copyright law, the portrait sitter owns the copyright. The only thing in our favor is that the general public does not know this, they hear more about US copyright. Also the large “infringers” that have been challenged in the US have the same businesses here and run them according to the policy the US corporation has adopted.


Poor man’s copyright
by Jane Champagne, Southampton, Canada


painting by Jane Champagne

Annette Waterbeek’s suggestion of mailing oneself a copy of a work of art is known as the “poor man’s copyright” — and is used by songwriters, authors, and print media in general. A digital picture of an artwork, kept in a copyright file on the artist’s computer, with a print sent to oneself and not opened, would qualify as copyright.








Talmadge Moose, North Carolina, USA




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