Q&A: On Graffiti

Q: What do you think about graffiti? Do you approve of it? Do you regard graffiti as an art? I would appreciate if you could answer! I’m a big fan of your artwork and I am an aspiring graffiti artist. 



This example of graffiti is really fun and it would be difficult to assert that it damaged its environment. It uses the anamorphic perspective made popular in 3D pavement art.

A: I am often asked my point of view on Graffiti and its relationship to pavement art. For me, the difference is in the intention of the artists. Graffiti artists work in isolation to impose their vision on an unwelcoming environment. Pavement artists interact with the public and seek to gain their interest and support. Pavement artists do not seek to permanently alter the environment, but hope to enliven it for a moment. The word graffiti comes from sgraffito, which literally means to scratch the message into a surface. In Europe you can see examples of this scratching that have defaced artworks and monuments for centuries and perhaps millennia. This historical version of graffiti was certainly an imposition on history and culture especially because the damage was permanent and defaced beautiful things.

To me, art is nature’s way of expressing its creativity through human beings.  If graffiti is creative, it is art. The real question to pose is about the relationship between the artist, the art and the public. I believe that a work of art exists only in relationship to its public. It is absurd to assert that a work is important outside of that relationship. A work may be potentially important if a sector of the public will eventually embrace it, but most works do not survive long in a cultural vacuum.

Pavement art is aligned to graffiti because it allows artists to express themselves directly to the public without an intermediary, (such as a gallery or cultural institution). It is different from graffiti in the sense that pavement artists seek to entertain, amaze and challenge their public in the hopes of financial compensation. In general, graffiti is focused on the artists’ intense need for self-expression. Graffiti pretends not to be dependent on the public’s approval.

I think it is vital for humans to express themselves in the context of their culture without an intermediary. At the same time, individual self-expressions in public places that are unconcerned with their audience are egotistical and antisocial. These expressions may be valid if the goal is for social reform; (to undermine, criticize or protest the evils of society), but the artist must then be prepared to accept the inevitable consequences and limitations of these actions.

Graffiti is an art form that has largely been created by young people working independent of social structures, and this is its strength. Becoming fashionable, it has been embraced by some galleries and official venues. Context and audience changes every work, therefore no work in a gallery can claim to be entirely independent of public approval.  It is an irony of our time that we attempt this.

Aesthetically, I rarely “like” graffiti in the sense of wanting to live with it.  I can admire the vigor of the calligraphic expression and the virtuosity when it is present. I also truly appreciate the need for artists to work outside of conventional venues.  Graffiti is in fact a form of “outsider art” sometimes called “art brut”.  It represents the human need to create in its most powerful and fundamental form.  Outsider art reinvigorates all of the arts when they lapse into convention and repetition.

Graffiti as an art form has all of the challenges and problems of any other movement.  It constantly risks lapsing into conventions and creating venues that are at odds with its primary message.  Artists eventually seek some sort of acceptance or approval from some group of people.  It is a contradiction when part of the artists’ message is that they don’t care about acceptance.

The first question any artist needs to ask is, “Who is my audience, and what am I trying to say to them?” When the relationship between the artist and the public is compassionate, everything functions well. When it is antagonistic, there needs to be a good reason for the strife. If the graffiti expression is done in a closed venue for a specific and appreciative audience, then there is no reason to judge it at all.


Classical Drawing

Pediment 600Classical Drawing

 The formal structure of classicism is rooted in the ancient principles of sacred geometry and the physical nature of human perception. No other artistic language has surpassed classicism in the ability to communicate form and space to a viewer, or to recount a narrative. Wenner will demonstrate how a classical drawing is both “abstract” in its formal structure and “pure” in design. He will show that the classical tradition is not a style, but a language of form based on a profound knowledge and appreciation of the physical universe and man’s participation in it.

On Time

Q: What is time?

A: This was not a question posed directly to me. It is a question posed by the 2013 “Flame Challenge,” an international kid-judged science contest sponsored by Stony Brook University on Long Island, N.Y., and actor Alan Alda. More information is here: http://www.centerforcommunicatingscience.org/

In my own studies of creativity, I came to the conclusion that creativity, along with time, space and energy, is one of the four fundamental attributes of the physical world. It was important for me to define time, space and energy in order to give substance to my ideas on creativity. I feel that most of the published definitions we find do not correspond with our current knowledge, and therefore wrote the following description. The contest called for 300 words, but I found I needed over 400. Partly, this is because I found it necessary to define space, energy, physics and even reality in order to describe time. The contest also called for being a scientist or science teacher, so I did not need to worry about the length of my description for the contest.


Time, along with space and energy is one of the three measurable attributes of the physical world. Measurement, in turn, is a mathematical language based on predictable patterns and changes observed in space, time and energy. These three measurable attributes are not themselves part of the physical world. It is the patterns they form together that give the appearance of reality, and it is these patterns and their transformations that can be measured. The measured description of these patterns is important for working in the physical world and understanding it, but it is important not to confuse the mathematical description with reality itself.

time- blog

Allegorical Figure of “Time”

Physics, which is the quantitative study of energy, space and time, defines each attribute by comparing it to the other two. Energy is described in terms of its patterns and actions in space and time. Space is measured by light years, which are movements of energy in time. Time is a measure of changes in energy and space. Historically, time was measured by the rotation of the earth and its path around the sun. Today, the measurement of time is based on the radiation emitted by a particular atom. Both of these methods use predictable changes in energy and space to measure time.

In the physical world, time has only one dimension. We think of time as being composed of the past, present and future, but only the present exists in the physical world, the past and future do not. Albert Einstein said, “The distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion”. When we listen to music, we have the sensation that it is travelling continually through time, but in reality we are remembering the sounds that came earlier and anticipating the sounds that will follow.

Nature, like music, creates patterns in time. The seasons, the beating of the heart and the hours of the day repeat themselves like rhythm in music. Cause and effect move nature forward with variations that are forever new and surprising, like the melody line of a symphony. When we look at nature we can see an infinite number of causes and effects impressed upon the face of the physical world. On a beach pebble we see the actions of a million waves. In the mountains we see the grand movements of the earth and in the evening stars we see the effects of untold millennia. In the eyes of a child we see the whole history of life along with its future possibilities. In this sense, time is the mark of eternity upon the moment.

Kurt Wenner

Here, by the way, is the winning entry by Nicholas Williams of Livermore, CA.

What is time?

Have you ever heard your parents say to you that it’s time to go to bed or time to get up, time to go to school, time to clean your room, time to do this, time to do that, and on and on. Our world runs on a time schedule, and the schedule is so tight that there are schedules for everything we do throughout the day and clocks that tell you what time it is so we can do those things at the correct time. Time is so obvious in our lives that no one questions it. It’s just there, we have to live with it, and so we accept it. All activity on earth is based on time, and this time is what happened a second ago, a minute ago, an hour ago, days ago, and years ago. Well, now we have an important question. What is it?
Time has a lot of definitions; like time is history or time is age. But, have we ever considered a good definition? I have. Here’s my definition. And no, I did not get this from some book or online. It’s just something that makes sense to me. I think of time as Forward Movement. Think about it! Everything moves forward, from the universe to every second of your life. And because everything moves forward, man developed a way to keep track of this Forward Movement and called it time. Man also invented clocks to keep a precise log of this Forward Movement in years, days, hours, minutes, seconds, and even parts of seconds. I’ll always continue to think of time as Forward Motion. I’ll also think of it as a Forward Motion that will never change, will never stop, and can never be reversed.

Q&A: What Is Not Creativity?

Many people who speak or write on the subject of creativity refer to standard definitions of the term that are found in many different dictionaries and encyclopedia. The Wikipedia, for instance, states:

Is Nature Creative?

Is Nature Creative?

Creativity refers to the phenomenon whereby a person creates something new (a product, solution, artwork, literary work, joke, etc.) that has some kind of value.

I first saw this definition of creativity in a book by Sir Ken Robinson. At a certain point he seemed to get fed up with the lousy definition and substituted the term “divergent thinking” for the word “creativity” to describe the human creative mental process. This begs the question of understanding creativity itself, as it is possible to be a divergent thinker without actually creating anything. The Wikipedia definition struck me as so shockingly bad that any discussion of creativity would need to start by completely redefining the word. I was also curious as to how a word that has so much importance had degraded so badly. By analyzing the definition we can in fact uncover many of the misconceptions about creativity that prevent us from understanding it.

1. Creativity is a process, not a “phenomenon”.

The phrase, “Creativity is the phenomenon whereby a person creates something new…” uses the word, “create” to define “creativity”. This is like saying that: “Baking refers to the phenomenon whereby a person bakes something.”In addition, the word “phenomenon” does not apply to the verb “to create”. Creating, like baking, is a process not a phenomenon.

2. No objective observer exists to judge the result of a creative process and the result cannot define the process or agent.

The phrase, “ has some kind of value” is also absurd. During Van Gogh’s lifetime he was not able to sell enough paintings to live on the income. After he was dead the paintings became worth millions of dollars. Did Van Gogh become creative after he was dead? In fact, anything that is truly innovative is likely to encounter difficulty in being accepted. For this reason, the word “value” would be applied in retrospect. Other creative actions, such as imaginative play, make no attempt at financial success. The level of creativity that goes into play certainly cannot be judged by remuneration.

3. Creativity is not a specialization.

The phrase: “something new…a product, solution, artwork, literary work, joke, etc…” implies that creativity is useful in a limited, specialized and exceptional area of life and not a universally vital necessity. This narrow definition is in stark contrast to the universal need for creativity in education, business and society that is being proposed today. The term, “something new,” is also problematic. “New to whom?” we may ask.

4. Creativity does not describe a human psychological condition.

The definition indicates that creativity is a purely human enterprise and does not exist anywhere else in the universe. The primary reason for the failure of the definition is rooted in the futile attempt to describe creativity in terms of human psychology. Theodule Armand Ribot in his “Essay on the Creative Imagination”, (1900) attempted to describe imagination at the service of creativity. While imagination is a feature of human psychology, creativity describes a process, not a mental condition.

The current definition of creativity not only fails to shed any light on its nature, but also actively obfuscates the term. Creativity is viewed as a pastime for a small set of individuals sitting off in a corner and tinkering with things in the hope that some mysterious “phenomenon” will yield a marketable product. Such a distorted view makes it impossible to understand or develop creativity within our educational system, corporate environments, or society as a whole. It is necessary to completely rethink our ideas about creativity in order to even begin to insert it into our cultural worldview.

My own definitions of creativity are these:

Creativity in nature is the fourth feature of the physical world.

The physical world has four attributes: time space, energy, and creativity. Creativity is the tendency for the other three attributes, (time, space and energy), to form increasingly complex patterns.

Human Creativity is the process of manifesting an idea in the physical world.

To me, it is absurd to propose that human creativity arose from nothing and is a unique phenomenon in the universe. Human creativity is distinct from nature because all human knowledge is fundamentally symbolic. Humans must translate experience into some form of language, (this includes mathematics, musical notation and design as well as written or spoken languages), before manipulating it into new combinations. These new combinations of symbols are then expressed as actions or artifacts.

By correctly defining creativity, we can better understand our relationship with the universe and with basic reality. We can then begin to redefine other terms such as imagination, intelligence and language. All of these terms are connected to creativity and cannot be understood as separate mental processes.

Geometry and Design

Three different workshops are offered in geometry and design. Workshops can also be customized and combined to fit the needs of a particular group.

1. The Geometry of Creation

Divine perspective 600Creativity is the manifestation of an idea in the physical world and geometry is a symbolic representation of the forces that are used in nature and by humans in order to make ideas become “real”. This workshop explores the essence of duality, symmetry and proportion in order to gain a better understanding of the fundamental nature of design. The workshop will demonstrate the most fundamental historical geometrical constructions and show how they were used to solve design problems. Participants will gain a more thorough knowledge of how to design and proportion an original work to achieve a graceful, natural and harmonious effect.

2. Creating Pattern and Design 

http://kurtwenner.com/blog/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Hallcoffer-600.jpgHumans have created intricate and enthralling patterns and designs since the dawning of culture. Aided by powerful computer graphics tools, it has never been easier to design original patterns, and there have never been as many ways to produce them. At the same time, contemporary culture has a poverty of expression in pattern and design that has never existed in history. This workshop examines the geometric foundation of pattern and its relationship to creativity in the natural world and in human culture. It will demonstrate the geometry of the most fundamental forms of pattern, such as tiling, weaving, frieze patterns and wallpaper patterns.   Participants will learn contemporary, (digital), methods of designing, proportioning and propagating patterns as well as traditional methods for producing patterns as two and three-dimensional decorative works.

Entablature Design3. Proportioning

Proportion in art and architecture has been a topic of artistic discussions for millennia. The use of proportion in classical Greece has been held as the supreme example of beauty, but the neither the Renaissance nor later neoclassical periods were able to unlock the mystery of its method. The reason for this was the introduction in the 12th century of the Arabic system of numeration and calculation using the concept of zero. From that time on, Western Europe began to think and calculate in “rational” numbers that could be expressed by integers. The system of proportion in ancient Greece and Rome was based on irrational numbers that could be expressed easily enough in drawings and diagrams, but never in numbers. This workshop uncovers and explains the methodology of classical proportion. Participants will learn different approaches to proportioning any design from an architectural façade to a vase to an electronic keyboard using the classical technique.

The Nature of Creativity

Folded Spiral 600Introduction

The world is calling out for more creativity in education, business and society. With so much depending on this fundamental aspect of human intelligence, it’s imperative to understand that our current definition of creativity is so flawed that we are not able to grasp it’s meaning, and are therefore hindered to make effective changes.

Our lack of clarity regarding creativity is caused by historical shifts in the understanding and defining of basic reality. Classical Greek philosophy envisioned the natural world as the physical expression of a greater ideal reality. In order to align their artistic, scientific, and philosophical ideas with the natural world, they sought to understand the formal structure that lay beneath material appearances. The Age of Reason took us on a path of separating observations of the physical world from any abstract notion of form or idea. In our own century, scientists have rediscovered that reality is actually made of pattern and form rather than substance and presents us with relative rather than absolute truths. Given this history, it’s no wonder we are confused as to the meaning of creativity and its role in nature.

Kurt Wenner proposes a profound and all-encompassing insight about the source of creativity and its great power to transform the world and our relationship to it. He will explain how a clear and incisive understanding of the creative process is essential in order to understand our historical misconceptions so that we can construct a new paradigm. Because creativity is what enables ideas to become manifest in the physical world, it is an essential component both of nature and of human experience. Only through understanding the essential structure of creativity can we make meaningful and effective changes in contemporary thought.

Kurt Wenner has spent a lifetime working within the arts and education. His artwork has been seen in more than 30 countries and he travels the globe for exhibits and talks. Wenner received the Kennedy Center Medallion for his work in arts education.


Part 1- Creativity in Nature

Artist Kurt Wenner, will talk about the meaning of creativity, not as an anomalous function of the human brain, but as an all-encompassing feature of the universe. In the same way that we can describe physical entities in terms of finite mathematical relationships between time, space, and energy, we can also describe them in terms of pattern. Predictability, which is the foundation of science, is pattern, and pattern is intelligence. Because any pattern of energy embodies universal creative principles it also has innate creative potential. Patterns of energy accumulate, transform and influence each other.

If we set aside the phrase laws of nature and Euclid’s postulates, then everything in the universe has meaning. The laws of nature should in fact be called the creative principles of nature and geometry should be understood as a diagrammatic expression of energetic relationships. Geometry is what allows us to see nature think.

Creativity is the manifestation of an idea in the physical world and the creative process of the universe is as predictable and rational as any natural law. When atomic elements form molecules or life alters its environment to create a balance, or when life becomes self-aware and creates its own reality, it is all part of the vast creative potential of the universe.

By understanding the creative principles within nature we can align our own works with the formal structure and patterns that are at play in the universe. This releases us from struggling with random and ill-informed designs, products, and structures that strive for novelty, but fight against the greater energetic flow that is all around us.

Part 2- The Structure of Creativity

A leading speaker in the field of arts education, Kurt Wenner, understands creativity like no other. He knows that when creativity is discussed it is treated as an ethereal, intuitive quality, which is impossible to understand. In reality, there are two aspects of creativity, the creative idea and the creative process. The creative idea is not a part of the physical world and therefore defies verbal definition. The creative process, however, is very clear and straightforward. The properties of duality, relationship, proportion and symmetry form the basis for all natural and human creative activity. The musical scale, the proportions of architecture, the attributes of color and sound, along with the structure of seashells and crystals are all defined by the same formal qualities.

It is the formal and organizational qualities in an entity that contain the essence of further creative development. Crystals can grow, organisms can reproduce and humans can think because patterns of energy are ectropic. This means that when energy is patterned, it attains the potential to accumulate and pattern “loose” energy. A pattern of energy can absorb more loose energy than it consumes, which enables growth or transformation. Ultimately it is the recognition of our kinship with other patterns of energy in the natural world that inspires empathy, aesthetics, and even love.

The 21st century has given us amazing new tools with which we can create radically innovative works of art, music, entertainment and architecture. By understanding the structure of creativity itself, we can make better use of computer graphics, digital technology, 3D modeling and printing, as well as a host of other new technologies that are underused because of our limited conceptual abilities.


Part 3- Human Creativity

In this talk, Kurt Wenner will compare the qualities of human creativity to those of the natural world. Human creativity is tied to creativity in the natural world by the formal qualities of duality, relationship, proportion and symmetry. But human creativity also has a distinctive quality not seen in the natural world. This uniqueness is due to the metaphorical nature of human thought. We see the world in terms of symbols and we organize great hierarchies of symbols to develop languages.

Language encompasses not only oral and written conventions, but includes music, drawing, dance, mathematics, and scientific notation. Because symbols have a metaphorical relationship to what they describe, all human thought expressed in any form of language is metaphorical. The symbol cannot be the object described, but only have a conceptual link to it. We can therefore observe reality in a pure state as in meditation, but the moment we describe our experience we are working with symbols and therefore creating a metaphor.

Often a linguistic representation is the most important part of the human creative process. A musical score is not a symphony, a blueprint is not a house, and a written play is not a performance, but all of them are creations. They already belong to the physical world because ideas have been expressed in terms of language. Symbols have an immense power for us, which causes us to forget their origin and thereby confuse our representations with reality.

When we forget the metaphorical nature of our creations, our discoveries become rules and conventions; fixed and static decrees of society that prevent further exploration. When this happens, creativity must reassert itself, awakening the direct connection between humanity, nature, and reality. Creativity can then strip away convention and allow us to regain our roles as protagonists in the drama of existence.