The artistic cycle

2019-05-09

Ed Catmull, who was president of Pixar back in the Toy Story days, has a background in physics and computer science. It seems like an odd fit for one of the most creative movie studios around.

He has observed that what most people think of as creative is too limiting. All different kinds of art, he suggests, are essentially ways of practicing your ability to observe. Music, literature, sculpture, and painting all get better as you learn to see the world for what it really is instead of what you expected. Practicing them teaches you to be open to the world.

Science also trains you to see things for what they are instead of what you expected. In that sense science basically is art. And yet we think of the two as not just unrelated, but incompatible.

I’ve always said that writing code and writing prose have a lot more in common than people think. I love to do both. They scratch the same itch for me. They use a lot of the same basic skills.

Maybe we can define art as anything that follows this cycle: Look, See, Make, Repeat.