Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Process of Discovery for the Scientist, Artist and Animator

Thomas R. Chech, in his essay, overturning the Dogma: Catalytic RNA discusses the evolution of his creative experience in researching RNA. Elaborating on how the creative process is enacted for the scientist, Chech mentions, that in the sciences he is familiar with (chemistry and biology), problems are rarely solved with a linear set of experiments. Hypotheses are proven to fail and lead scientists to other hypothesis. In Chech's research, the Hypothesis was that RNA is not pure. A protein enzyme should be responsible for replicating the catalyzed RNA. But experiments lead to new discoveries, and it was found that RNA is indeed self-replicating - a breakthrough discovery that has foundations for the origins of life.

Artists, he believes, also follow non-linear paths in their creative workflows. For example, Pollock tried to become a proficient draftsman as young artist. His attempts to created representational and symbolic paintings inspired by Diego Rivera and Picasso were often not well received. His action paintings, which made him famous, happened by accident. In preparations to paint a mural, several drips of paint fell to floor, and Pollock's love of the resulting drippy design evolved into one of the most influential periods in Modern American Art.

Both of these processes of discovery exemplify what Chech calls "progress that is not linear with time." He discusses how both artists and scientists have periods of belaboring frustration (i.e. struggling with draftsmanship of reoccurring failing hypothesis) and periods of rapid insight (i.e. is self replicating and the drips are aesthetically pleasing).

On a personal, as an animator, I can relate to Chech's notion that progress is not linear with time. Most of us go about our work in a very linear way. First we come up with a story, then we write the script, then visual development, then the story board, then the animatic, then the casting, then the ADR session, then animation which replaces the still images in the animatic, then post-production, etc. But when the animation begins, I often find myself revisiting the story and making changes. This can be especially true for areas of "dynamic animation." For example, two characters are fighting on the edge of the cliff, in the script there is heavy dialog explaining a crucial part of the story. But the animation must be dynamic and quick. It must be suspenseful and gripping. At this stage the dialog has to be cut, maybe edited. What, I have to do another ADR session and call back the actor?! Oh dear. But wait. I can cut the dialog out entirely. The scene is more suspenseful, even better. Egads! What a great discovery.

works cited:
Overturing the Dogma: Catalytic RNA, Thomas R. Cech
from The Origins of Creativity, Edited by Karl. H. Pfenninger

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