|Percy Principles of Art and
#1 - Avoid a sore thumb.
in the composition should be so strong that the rest of the composition
neglected. When you have a sore thumb, you do not
the rest of your hand. Avoid the SORE THUMB. I study my
composition to see if anything looks too
important, I change that part to make it less important, OR I find
else in the composition and make it more important. However, even scars add interest, emphasis, and expression if they are integrated into the whole.
#2 - Keep everything connected.
Connect each part of the composition to something else in the composition. I think of this as Theme with Variation. If I
big red circle, perhaps I need another circle or another red or another
thing. I probably should not have another big red circle.
I use a black and white cow, I may need another animal or organic
or I may need another instance of black and white spots, etc., and so
#3 - Include Secrets. Artwork is more
and expressive if it has hidden features and ideas that it only reveals
diligent observers. The popular
arts, by contrast with fine art,
everything obvious at first glance.
#4 - Challenge common assumptions.
Strong artwork often makes
the viewer question prior assumptions about the world. Is my artwork
What does my artwork have to offer that the viewer may find
incomprehensible, disagreeable, or contentious? By contrast,
popular arts tend to support popular ideas and assumptions
in simple straightforward ways.
#5 - Cherish Mistakes. Mistakes are
gifts, and what we do with them makes all the difference.
It is hard to plan creative work, but when a mistake happens, I am
a gift. When I respond to the mistake and make a new thing from
it, I do not have to borrow other artist's ideas to be creative.
It has emerged as my solution.
the other hand, when the mistake is an obvious failure, it means that I
to get to work, do research, experiment, or simply PRACTICE MORE. These are all
outcomes. Percy Principle #1 was about sore thumbs. Mistakes are sometimes like sores that make something less boring and more fun to see. I leave enough scars to keep the story interesting and expressive.
Also see - Dennett, Daniel C. (1995) "How
to Make Mistakes." In: J. Brockman, K. Matson (eds.) How
Things Are. New York: William Morrow and Company: 137-144.
Principle #6 - Be Accident Prone.
Accidents in art are tragic or happy - depending on the artist's
to respond. The benefits of accidents and mistakes are very
They both present unexpected problems or opportunities. If
of my soft clay pieces accidentally falls off a ware board, it presents
to me as an idea for a wall plaque, wall vase, mirror frame, or
else not yet imagined. If a large bowl form falls flat
becomes a platter, it may not be functional, but it can be transformed
relief sculpture. This particular piece of clay can be thrown in
rework, but the images presented to me are filed in my mental hard
A series of wall pieces or platters may emerge from
ideas presented by the accident. Creative people prize accidents and mistakes precisely
because accidents move the mind to places it does not voluntarily go.
is not simply problem solving. Experts may be good at problem
but the highly creative also love the art of "problem finding".
Accidents and mistakes are such useful problem finding techniques that
need to practice them. Some lessons can
"intentional accidents" as part of the lesson. It is a way to
how to generate problems and ideas.
#7 - Never borrow other artist's
ideas. Steal 'em! Ideas
for the taking. Ideas are all around us in the vapor of existence.
Images and particular arrangements of words, on the other hand,
copyrighted. Inventions are patented. Copyrights and patents are
property", but ideas and concepts belong to everybody. They are in the
domain - always have been. If I find a good idea, a truth, I do not
to borrow it. I do not want to return it. I want to appropriate it,
test it, and
it my own. I own it. Like the thief, I want to steal it so I can
it, and fling it in clay and glaze. Ideas are free. The
ability to express a good idea is a valuable artistic ability.
Source: I was introduced to this Principle by Nick
Lindsay, poet and
son of Vachel Lindsay, poet. In 1972, as he was helping me build
house, I asked Nick if he felt like borrowing another poet's
ideas. He said, "Never borrow 'em. STEAL 'EM.
Make 'em your own.
Don't plan to give 'em back."
#8 - Make it memorable. Strong and authentic artwork
is hard to forget. Does it imprint on the viewers' brains? When they see it again, do they know they have seen it? Does it still make an impression? Does something make it unique? Does it have a fragment of truth not seen in other work? Is it primal? Does it spark a response? It is like an earworm--a song that gets stuck in their brains?
This list of principles is a "work in progress". I make no claim
originality here but neither are they copied or simply borrowed.
I make no claims of infallibility. However, I offer these ideas,
for what they are worth, because they are ideas that I own and find
useful to consider as I work. You may also find them worth owning
- not just borrowing. If you are an artist who has another
important principle, I would love to hear from you. If you find
flaws or question any of these principles, I would be pleased to hear
written by Marvin Percy Bartel
updated October 6, 2012
All rights reserved, Marvin Bartel © 2004. You are invited
link this page to your page. For permission to reproduce or place this
on your site or to make printed copies, contact me. Author bio
Marvin Bartel, Ed.D., Emeritus Professor of Art, Adjunct in Art Education
Goshen College, 1700 South Main St., Goshen IN
HOME page on Teaching Artistic
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can check this one to see if
my plans are similar to what I want you to do)
www.bartelart.com to see
an art teacher's artwork
Archive of Courses
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