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Art vs Science in Army, Painting, and Life


     I’ve reading quite a bit on art and science lately.  It’s become apparent to me that science includes principles and knowledge.  Art is the arrangement of those principles in a creative way, with forethought, to reach the spectacular, novel, and innovative.  It is the ability to play with the arrangement of scientific principles – both using and ignoring them as best fits the end goal.  Most people aren’t artists (and never will be), so they learn the science of a particular subject, and then apply the principles in an imitative way that they’ve seen in the past, or in a manner without forethought toward the spectacular.

     As an example, let’s look at painting.  The student will learn about line, color, shade, form, balance, proportion and scale, contrast, repetition and pattern, unity, and harmony.  He’ll then apply these principles when painting.  But the application of these principles does not make him an artist.  It makes him a scientist of art’s principles.  Over time (Gladwell said 10,000 hours) he may become an artist, but it is not likely.  Most painters will remain scientists in practice.  They may appear to amateurs and other scientists to be artists, but this isn’t the truth.

     As another example, let’s look at the Army.  The officer will learn about the characteristics of the offense, of defense, stability operations, tactics, logistics, anticipation, and decisive points.  He’ll apply these principles in his planning an operation to defeat, destroy, or neutralize an enemy.  He might even win the battle.  But the winning and the application of principles do not make him an artist.  The true artist in war sees the enemy’s move before the enemy sees it.  He recognizes second and third order effects.  He uses the principles of doctrine and ignores them when arranging operations for the greatest success.  As with the scientific painter, the scientific general may appear to his subordinates as an artist, but most of the time he is imitating actions from past battles and copying doctrine.

     I’m not certain if everyone can reach the point of becoming an artist.  I think it requires knowledge and careful study of science.  I think it also involves practicing as a scientist for a long time.  Maybe we become artists gradually over time.  Maybe we’re never complete artists.  Have you ever been so good at something that you are an artist – that you’re 50 moves ahead of everyone else – that you’re as fast as Neo from the Matrix?  I hope to get there some day.  -Carl Miller  

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