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The absence of expectation is the beginning of discovery

So much of what we do in a peaceful civil society hinges upon expectations. Meanwhile the absence of expectation is the beginning of discovery. Perhaps then, the ability to move back-and-forth from the realm of concrete expectations and goals to the realm of judgement and expectation-free open mindedness, is the key to productive creativity.

Expectations are a critically important part of this world. People who take the time to clarify expectations, and meet or exceed them consistently, standout as beacons of success, reliability and accomplishment. Expectations are useful tools in nearly every aspect of life. Like most tools they have their place. Conversely, there are times when they need to set aside. Simply put, expectations are not the right tool for every job. Perhaps the ability to open ones mind in a way that removes all expectations is equally as valuable a tool to possess.

The absence of expectation is the beginning of discovery -Stuart Shils

Much like how a hammer may not be the best tool to to use when replacing an oil filter in our cars, expectations are not the best tool to leverage when trying to discover new things. Expectations, like goals and targets give us something to aim at. This is usually very helpful. A second-order effect of the focus required to hit a target is the increased possibility that we'll miss other targets - Maybe more valuable targets in some cases.

Perhaps this is one the more hidden positive developments of our social distancing lives during this COVID-19 Pandemic. Despite all of the disappointments and grief that we are experiencing collectively at this time, we do have more opportunity than normal to practice the use of discovery, unbound by expectation.

This thought surfaced as this painting of the Kittatinny Mountains from New Jersey came together this past Saturday. I've painted more in the past eight weeks than I have in nearly ten years. Most of the paintings I've completed during this time have been very intentionally constructed. Most came as requests from friends and family. Most involved a process of thinking through the composition, completing a values sketch prior to painting. The structured process has helped me through the learning curve more quickly than I would have moved without it. However, I had come to a place where I simply wanted to have fun and explore a different approach.

The approach to this Kittatinny Mountain Painting involved looking at two reference photos and the building of a complete vision of the painting through my imagination. I certainly was aided by the thousands of drives I've taken while looking at similar scenes but the process of incorporating my imaginary world into a larger scale oil painting for the first time, felt really good. More importantly I learned quite a bit about sky and atmospheric effects. I made some mistakes but I am very happy with how this has come out so far.

My hope is that I can continue to benefit, as a learning artist, from opportunities for both more structured projects full of expectation and less structured, fun projects that allow some more free flowing discovery. My intuition tells me a healthy balance between the two types of painting opportunities can help me grow faster as a painter.

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