One of the things I’ve been wondering about lately is how we make decisions.
Actually, one of the big questions for me is how we decide what we’re going to believe, but that’s way too big for me to take up here.
The much smaller, but still very interesting, question I’ve been thinking about when I’m in the studio is how we – make that ‘I’ – make decisions in a piece of art. So here I’ll try to go through the decision-making process for what I’ve been working on lately, which are collages.
I refer to these as ‘water collages’ – because they’re about water, and they’re collages. Simple enough.
The reasons I decided to start making them are:
- I like making collages, and I like water.
- I have a small indoor studio space and I like to make small art and collages are not very messy and the weather has gotten cold so I’m not using the space outside these days.
- I had a lot of extra paper lying around that I wanted to use up for reasons of ecology and obsessive-compulsivity.
- One day while I was making some collages I must have gotten tired of concentrating on juxtaposing images and also probably noticed I had a lot of blue paper, so I thought I could use up the extra paper faster if I just concentrated on making blue collages – and hence water.
Water Collage No.4 (25x25cm – about 10″)
Water Collage No.5 (25x25cm – about 10″)
OK, so that explains why the ‘water collages’ in general, but what about the process of making decisions for each collage? That’s a much tougher question – deciding what should go where. I suppose the first reason is:
Because it looks good. That means ‘composition’. I’m paying attention to how the image is balanced – which directions lines are moving, where the darks and lights are – stuff like that – and then if it’s not just abstract color and shape, but a more defined image (looks like an island, looks like a tree, for example), then the ‘meaning’ that comes out of the relationships between the objects (tree on island, tree floating over island, etc.). Sometimes, in fact, it comes down to expediency – i.e., laziness (‘Got a big piece of blue paper cluttering up the worktable? ‘Glue it down!’)
But as far as all that goes, there’s always more than one possibility – always ‘more than one right answer’ – so this really hasn’t explained anything – why decide on one thing from all among all the other possibilities?. Thinking about this reminded me of my favorite art writer – who in fact happens to be a sociologist.
Howard ‘Howie’ Becker, author of ‘Art Worlds’, is one of the editors of ‘Art From Start to Finish’, a lovely book filled with essays about things that get made by artists.
Basically, a lot of decisions just comes down to ‘what feels right’. But why they feel right is a whole ‘nother question…
(By the way, pictures of the Water Collages 1 and 2 are in an earlier post here)