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Accidents of Unexpected Creation

Sometimes accidents or unexpected patterns help create visual art or produce plot twists in a story. But can this sort of accident apply to the entire universe?
| Aug 23, 2018 | 9 comments |

An event has happened to me is leading me to comment on accidents that happen to produce art. Examples, a brief explanation, and an application to the universe as we know it, follow below.

Note the new series I just launched is on hold for this week, because Travis Chapman and I are discussing joining forces and combining his ideas and mine concerning a guide to warfare into one book. (Perhaps if we do work together, we ought to call ourselves “Travis Squared” 🙂 )

Klecksographie by Kerner

But on the topic of accidents in art, I found a quotation on this topic from Leonardo da Vinci, in which he advised budding artists with creative block to leave behind a blank canvas and stare at the stains on walls: ‘If you look upon an old wall covered with dirt, or the odd appearance of some streaked stones, you may discover several things like landscapes, battles, clouds, uncommon attitudes, humorous faces, draperies, etc. Out of this confused mass of objects, the mind will be furnished with an abundance of designs and subjects perfectly new.” (I found this quote from an edition of Tate online, which has a very interesting article on this subject.)

A specific example of this kind of thing is found in ink blot art, as in the work by Justinus Kerner in 1890. Kerner added faces to random inkblots, making them into bizarre little fairies–or tiny demonic figures.

Victor Hugo’s V octopus

An example I like better is in Victor Hugo’s “Octupus With the Initials V.” Hugo took a piece of paper that he’d written on by hand, with an ink pen of his day, and looked at the back of the page. In some places, ink had soaked into the page from the front enough that it was visible in traces in the back. Hugo saw a pattern in the blotches and created a octopus figure out of it–and octopus with one of its tentacles shaped in the form of a letter V (from “V”ictor Hugo’s own name, it seems).

You might think perhaps Hugo only created a rather interesting doodle out of this. But in fact, both this octopus and Kerner’s work and many other examples of this kind of thing are considered serious art. (It seems Surrealists in particular were impressed with Hugo’s work.)

My own example of accidental creation came from a pair of book covers. One was for the book Mythic Orbits 2016 (a book I’ve published at Bear Publications), in which a real photo taken from the International Space Station formed the backdrop. On the front cover, the reflection of a castle in space is visible in an astronaut’s visor, but on the back, a robotic camera with an arm is present.

For the front of Mythic Orbits Volume 2 (Amazon site linked here) I asked Arpit Mehta (his Facebook page “Visuals by Arpit” is linked here) to continue the story of the astronaut by having him turn back, revealing the reflection of a dragon in his visor. (I plan to continue the story through future Mythic Orbits covers, the astronaut trying to escape the dragon, then riding it, taking it to the castle in space, etc.)

I had the original idea that the astronaut would not necessarily be turned 180 degrees backwards and that the robot would still be there somewhere, but unimportant and therefore off camera because the dragon would fly up through space to where the astronaut was. What actually happened was that Arpit picked an image of the dragon that occupies roughly the same shape and position as the robot. He didn’t do that on purpose.

So when I looked at the two covers, side by side, I realized what had happened. The backstory for the creation of the covers I’d imagined changed in my mind, so that the dragon didn’t replace the robot–the robot transformed into a dragon!

Being who I am, I wasn’t content to just go, “That’s cool!” and move on with my life. No, I had to think about what this means, what it implies about the nature not only of creation, but of the Creation, the universe itself.

You see, there are many people in the world who with straight faces regard the creation of the universe as what would in effect be a piece of self-generating artwork. They would say that serendipity does in fact happen at times–that beauty at times emerges out of chaos–and that given enough time and the right circumstances, the random churning of the universe creates occasional useful order out of chaos. Which happened to make you and me and everything else of value, they would say.

To this point of view I agree that randomness (or apparent randomness) can produce unexpected beauty or unexpected usefulness at times–but notice that Kerner and Hugo took a piece of randomness, saw a pattern in it, and made artwork. Their minds, their ability to see a pattern and make something out of it, was an essential part of the process.

And I created a story in my mind, which I modified when I noticed an unexpected commonality between two images.

But without any mind at all, there would be no recognition of art, no transformation of randomness into images or in my case, into a plot twist. In fact, without mind, there’s no art at all.

Are we really supposed to believe that creation–what I could call here, “useful art”–came first? And then minds who could appreciate the useful art which generated them came later? Isn’t it so much more straightforward to say that Mind (as in the Divine Mind) appeared first and the artwork came second? Artist first, then art?

But to return to the original topic after having made that point–since this post is going out to a group that includes many writers: What examples do you have of the unexpected events, accidents, which transformed your stories? And have you had examples of this sort of thing happen in other situations other than your stories?

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Autumn Grayson
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These accidents happen a lot for me. Sometimes I’ve greatly mispronounced names I’ve read, only to find out later that the names were actually said way differently than I thought. But I liked the way I mispronounced the name, so that mispronounciation would be come the name for one of my characters instead.

A lot of ideas also come while listening to music or watching amvs. This amv has given me one or two ideas recently, for instance: