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A Most Amazing Toy – by Robert Genn

A Most Amazing Toy - by Robert Genn

Some recent experiments with four and five year olds have confirmed what we have always known. A strange new toy was presented individually to 85 children. It was a conglomeration of coloured pipes and knobs specifically designed to do a lot of things--squeak, transform, etc. The children were all separately videotaped playing with the toy. The time they played with it and the number of iterations discovered was also recorded.

Here's the fun part: Some of the children were shown in advance a couple of things the toy could do, others were just given the toy and told something like, "Wow, see this toy. Play with this!"

You guessed it. The children who were not shown how to use the toy played with it longer and discovered a larger number of things it could do.

If you accept the idea that our work as artists is play, and that good art often arises from experiment, here's a little exercise where the instructor says only, "Wow, see this toy. Play with this!"

Squeeze out onto a clean palette the six colours included in the Golden Open Acrylic "Modern" sample set, or other similar, limited but comprehensive set. The colours in the Golden set are Hansa Yellow Opaque, Pyrrole Red, Quinacridone Magenta, Phthalo Blue (green shade), Phthalo Green (blue shade) and Titanium White. You can call me Mr. Mute. I'm not even going to demo. I'm not going to tell you in advance how to mix the green you need to paint weeping willows, and I'm not going to talk percentages, warm and cool, hue and chroma, analogous, complementary, or any of that stuff. All I want you to do is to pick up on my enthusiasm for play.

If I'm guessing right, you'll fill acres with your play.

This simple experiment brings us to one of the hinges of creative growth. Recipes are found, not given. Instructors need only set up the environment for individual discovery. Instructors need also to be givers of permission. Then the penny drops that potential lies within and that personal optimism is way ahead of trained formula. Unleash natural curiosity and the path to creative flourishing appears more clearly ahead.

Best regards,


PS: "Prior explanation inhibits exploration and discovery." (Dr. Elizabeth Bonawitz, UC, Berkeley, CA and Dr. Patrick Shafto, U of Louisville, KY)

Esoterica: The best way to perform my experiment is... well I'm not going to tell you the best way. If you catch my drift, there are many best ways. But needless to say you have six elements which directly played can result in 36 varietals. By playing them with one another it's thought you can make an additional 360 distinguishable varietals. Computer science tells us that starting with a factor of six the potential varietals are closer to 1,290,229,399,300 or some such impossible figure. Lotsa luck! In the current clickback we've included a picture of the 'most amazing toy' as well as my own start to my fundamental and fun exercise

Robert Genn has given ARTAZINE permission to publish from his twice-weekly newsletter. For more of Robert's artistic insight, visit his blog at www.painterspost.com.

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