Chance Image by Ellen Glasgow (above) Marks made with a shell.
I first discovered the phrase Chance Images in Brice Marden's book called "Letters". He is a contemporary painter influenced by Asian calligraphy. He discovered chance images in Leonardo da Vinci's Notebooks. Leonardo describes his practice of contemplating abstract forms– in the changing surface of water, the pattern on an old wall, the markings on a shell- and how formlessness can become a trigger for imagery, for renewal of creativity.
From rubbings (above by Janet Eto) we worked with various tools to make marks (J. Eto):
It is curious to me that even a few hundred years ago Leonardo felt awkward suggesting an approach that he feared could be dismissed as "trivial" or "ludicrous". He continues, apologetically:
Do not despise my opinion, when I remind you that is should not be hard
for you to stop sometimes and look into the stains of wall, or ashes of a
fire, or clouds, or mud...in which, if you consider them well, you may find
A contemplative approach to being a maker is ages old, and how one naturally begins, by opening up to what is ordinary, to what is in front of us.
Our experimentation with Chance Images was documented in a small book– here is a photo from our most recent class, with books by: Jean Lopez, Marsha Cobb, Kelly Larson, Bonnie Taylor, Terri Goslin-Jones, Lyn Magee, Barbara Simon, Joanne Kluba, Janet Eto, Catherine Williamson and Suzy Farren.
Photo by Catherine Williamson
Perhaps it is some consolation that even before the internet, TV, telephone, automobiles, etc. Leonardo felt the urgency to stop and allow images to rise up from our inner world.