Sunday, April 7, 2013

Conceptual Blending

The path of my career has often elicited surprise from people: the fact that I went from working as a software programmer for several years, before striking out to pursue art full time. And contrary to what some might suppose, I don't dislike programming.  In truth, I enjoy the challenges of working with computer languages and designing program structures quite a bit. Not as much as I love (and need) to create art, mind you, but it's a part of me as well. 

Recently, while reading an article about author (and Physics PhD) Catherine Asaro, I came across the theory of "conceptual blending", which illuminates how elements from very different spheres can be  combined in the human mind, often in reference to sciences and arts, in creative thinking.
And it got me thinking about how these two seemingly disparate elements of my mind are combined, because I don't feel at odds with them. In fact, I feel like the programmer, and the visual artist versions of me are very similar, and function in much the same way (not to mention many other facets of my personality and habits). 

My art is known for being very detail-oriented. Many elements that a viewer can come to and see for the first time with each successive impression of a piece. I spend a lot of time working out the flow of these individual elements, and in how they can merge together to make a cohesive whole. In a way, when I brainstorm and figure out compositions, it is the same part of my brain that designs programs and the architectural structure of code. They are both a form of problem solving, followed by close attention to detail and smaller components.

Artwork has a logic to it. From the mechanical nature of application of paint, and the determination of how exactly and in what order to layer colors to achieve desired effect, to the observation of life references that is required for knowledge of how to represent and depict something. Process is a meticulous thing. More intense in some mediums than others (intaglio printmaking, which I did over a decade ago, for example, is notorious as a very process-heavy technique), but present for all mediums.

And on the other hand, software has a very creative aspect to it as well. Yes, there are algorithms, and well known structures for various optimal implementations, but how you choose to pull all those disparate elements together into a program can be the difference in a clunky hack piece of code, or a wonder of flowing design.

I'm a detail and logic person, as well as being very focused on overall structural design. These elements are evident in my approach to programming, in my art, in my dancing, and even in the way I deal with scheduling and deadlines. It's all wound up together in a multidisciplinary knot, and it all comes from the same place.

How do your underlying traits dictate your creativity?


  1. What a wonderful posting. I love the way you describe it. As someone with a background in technology who also started as a software developer and loves art, I can relate to every word you said.
    I love your work and I am awed by its beauty and dept. I've started painting as well. Can you tell me how did you start getting involved in watercolor and how did you develop your skills?
    Who were the artists that you looked up to and inspired you?
    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and art with us.

    1. Hi Ana! Check out this post a while back, where I talked about that in depth:

      As for how I painting at a time!

  2. I really admire your art and your technical skills with watercolor. Your tarot deck is among my favorites. I was struck by your title of this post, since I have started reading "The Way We Think: Conceptual Blending And The Mind's Hidden Complexities" by Turner and Fauconnier. I am comfortable with metaphoric thinking as well as scientific and detailed approaches. I have always enjoyed being creative and it is my primary urge. My background is Psychology and Quality Improvement in Healthcare settings. I express myself through digital art, writing, and some music composition. My driving force is my inner journeys which provide a rich reservoir of images, a personal mythology in the highest sense, as well as spiritual growth. It is my impression that my art is a blend of all the factors that make up who I am at the moment and each perception and choice, as each creation proceeds, is automatically guided from within that framework.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, influences, and approaches.

    1. Hi Clyde! I saw mention of that book and was interested in checking it out as well! Thank you for sharing where your own creativity stems from. I am finding that peoples' responses to this have been very inspirational. So many combinations that aren't traditionally thought of because they are stereotypes that are at odds.

  3. Yes. It dictate too much. I was in surgery (plastic reconstractive surgery) many years. And, for example, I cannot to do too much freedom extra dashes in picture. I try to pic with my pencil and I catch that it looks for me like radiowave blade of scalpel. Or, on other hand, I am reeding now the book "The materials and techniques of medieval painting" by Daniel V. Tompson and I see the text like the surgeon too much than like painter. I can ask: "OK, but how they conservated the powder from bones". It is the question of organic pigment :) It is sounds like biochemistry for me. And, may be, I can`t believed that my works can be saled one day :)I cannot to give them a price. :) May be, the painters, by their education in painting, always sure that they are painters - no doubt!

  4. May be, I need to say that there was a cause why I`ve bought your book in bookshop in Moscow. I think, I can explain... mm... how to say... once upon a time, I`ve tried to exchange my profession into Egyptology, but they told me that no, I am not egyptologist. But I spent too much time with books on this subject. So, this ancient egiptians were sure that there is one rule of right or wrong decision. If it looks aesthetically - it is right. And your book looks too much aestetically than others. As the surgeon I know very well this difference between plastic and aestetic :) It helps me in drawing. I can make a copy (just a little bit) in ancient painting techniques and understanding why.