Fireworks in the Garden…and some thoughts on Science and Art

Even though I planted them years ago, these flowers in my garden always manage to surprise me when they bloom.

Somehow, I never remember that big, bursting, blue fireworks are going to appear, and I’m always delighted.  This is a big, blue fireworks sort of post…because some ideas in life and writing show up that way, I find.

I’ve been kind of quiet about my current work-in-progress because it’s different than anything else I’ve written. It’s a new genre for me —  upper-MG dystopian — and the draft is happening faster than most.  I think that’s partly because of my excitement for the project, partly because the proposal is already with my editor, and partly because using Scrivener for planning and note-taking along the way makes things move along more quickly.

Anyway, I got to a point this weekend where the characters and the plot and the themes were all pushing me to stop for a little while and think…about science and art and where the two intersect.  Should they intersect?  And when we insist on separating the two, do we lose some of the potential for each?

Since I live with a scientist (my husband’s a meteorologist), I asked him what he thought, and his initial reaction was no…art has no place in the science of forecasting.  But what about those times when two or three meteorologists look at the exact same set of data, the exact same numbers and models, and come to different conclusions about what a storm will do?  Might some of that intuitive stuff be considered art?  (He didn’t like this idea much.)  Eventually, we got to the thought that even though there probably is an artistic element at work, scientists always feel safer discussing the numbers.

And then…I was reading a few more pages of ART AND FEAR by Bayles and Orland (thank you, all of you who recommended that recently!) and there in the middle of a paragraph about artists writing about process is a mention of Watson and Crick, the scientists who discovered the structure of DNA and kept detailed journals of their process.  Just dropped into the middle of a bunch of photographers and painters as if it were a foregone conclusion that scientists are artists, too.  Of course they are.

I am still thinking about all of this.   And have requested this book from my library….

…hoping for more fireworks.

13 Replies on “Fireworks in the Garden…and some thoughts on Science and Art

  1. I’d love to hear more about that book when you read it, Kate.

    I definitely think there is an art to science. To my (somewhat scientific) mind, art is a way of looking at the world, wondering about it, evaluating it, and expressing the results of those experiences. Science is pretty much the same thing. The expression bit tends to be, um, shall we say … dryer, for the traditional mainstream scientist. But there are scientists who lean more toward a creative approach to their work, just as there are artists who lean toward a more formulaic approach. At least that’s how I see it!


  2. I’m no expert, but my impression is that it wasn’t really until the twentieth century, and particle physics and such, that there was a split. Think Leonardo da Vinci. Up through the 1800s art was a big part of a scientist’s training because of the way it forces you to observe closely. Maria Merian was a good example — she trained as a painter in the Netherlands in the 1600s, but noting the way insects ate leaves on the flowers she painted, and how they transformed, led her to submit scientific theories on metamorphosis. I wrote about her in Girls Who Looked Under Rocks, in which close observation is a recurrent and binding theme.

    Glad your project is going so well!

  3. Wonderful questions, Kate! And not only do we have those same flowers blooming in our garden, too, but I nearly bought the Holmes book this week, too — must be something in the air!

  4. I think this quote might help convince your husband:

    “After a certain high level of technical skill is achieved, science and art tend to coalesce in esthetics, plasticity, and form. The greatest scientists are artists as well.” (Albert Einstein)

    It’s no coincidence that so many of the early scientists were artists as well – either drawing what they saw or dreamed, or daring to use that same imagination that fuels art to ask questions that led to breakthroughs and discoveries. Here’s another quote from Einstein:

    “I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination.”

  5. How perfect that you were the first person to respond, my artist-scientist friend. I like the way you explain the connection as a common wondering…

  6. I was also going to mention Einstein. It was his dreamy imagination that got him thinking of the universe in new and different ways. Then it took him years to prove it mathematically.

  7. I love the flowers. I used to have that type in my gardens–when we owned our several houses and weren’t overseas living in apartments.
    The photo makes me homesick.

    Good luck with your WIP.
    (There are GREAT visiting authors this coming rez. I’ll let you know the reading schedule as soon as I find out.)

  8. I think Art and Science are like best friends who live far away from each other. I don’t think science should be judged in artistic terms, nor should art be judged in scientific terms (which is the awful thing that happens when I try to analyze my poems too much!). But I think if you can bring them both together, letting each retain its best qualities, you have magic.

    It makes me think of the Science and Religion debate, too. Madeleine L’Engle is one of my all-time favorite authors, and I love her writings on Science and Religion and why they are not at odds with each other.