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Artistic Accidents Can Lead to Great Art

By Ed McCormick 3 years ago 17 Views No comments

Bidsque Torso Richard Tilliston

Bisque Torso

Richard Tilliston


Laura Fitzpatrick in Time Magazine wrote. “Sometimes it can be tough to tell the difference between an accident and art. That was the lesson learned when a visitor at London's Royal Academy stumbled into the 9-ft.-tall ceramic sculpture at the heart of a 2008 exhibition by Costa Rican artist Tatiana Echeverri Fernandez. Initially, an eyewitness reported, museumgoers seemed to think the hundreds of pieces of broken pottery were part of the exhibition. "They were taking pictures," said the witness, Claire San Martin, at the time. "It was quite funny." Fernandez likely thought otherwise.

During my workshops I always emphasize to my students that there are really no accidents in art. That is, if an art casting does meet an expectation – don’t despair as your audience will never know that. Often the most perfect casting, though it may be admired for its technical perfection, really provides a very bland message to its viewer. On the other hand, a casting that

is flawed will invite the curiously of the viewer. “What does the sculptor mean by that?” or “What message is the artist trying to convey?” The viewer is more apt to tarry over a flawed piece (the viewer being convinced the flaw being purposeful) far longer than one of perfection to try to puzzle out the message.

Richard Tilliston, a fine UK ceramic artist, once confided in me of his “happy accident.” He was forming a ceramic torso which he had meticulously engraved. He planned to create a bisque wall hanging from it. But try as he might, no matter what he did, he couldn’t find the proper angle to fit it whole, into his kiln. It his quest to persevere, he accidently snapped the torso in half. He told me that he had spent so much time in its preparation, that he didn’t have the heart to throw it out. Instead he went ahead and fired the two broken pieces. He then set it on his work bench for further cooling next to strips of copper bands he had lying around. Then the idea struck him. Why not knit the two pieces together using the copper bands to lace it through holes. The results were a far better art piece then he had previously planned for monolithic torso. Yet the viewer would never think that the beautiful result was an artistic accident.

In summary, don’t fear accidents. Use them to advantage in your art, even if you make a simple collage out of broken pieces. Those accidents will provide you valuable inspiration . . . and provoke your viewer with a challenging mystery of the message that you were trying to convey and that will have them standing an puzzling over your artwork far longer than normal. After all, isn’t that one of the prime purposes of our art – to attract our viewers and hold their attention?