Scientific Method / Artistic Method

This is a joint work done in 1617 by Peter Paul Rubens and Jan Brueghel showing the first telescope ever depicted in a painting.

Very relevant to discussions appearing in this blog are the scientific method, the artistic method, what similarities they may have, and how they are different. I thought it would be good, early on to describe each and compare the two.

 The Scientific Method

There are many websites that give a good description of the scientific method. The Wikipedia entry for the scientific method is very thorough, showing many of the intricate details and complexities of the subject. I have written a concise summary of the important aspects of the scientific method and posted it to this page for future reference for our readers.

 The Artistic Method

In contrast, doing a search on Google for the “Artistic Method” does not yield many useful results. Maybe this is because art is so individually based that there can be no one method that is conducive to good art. Possibly art, unlike science, does not have any sort of universal agreement among its best practitioners with regard to a generally accepted method.

 By changing the search term to Art Methodology there were more hits. The Art Methodology article in Wikipedia states that:

 An art methodology differs from a science methodology, perhaps mainly insofar as the artist is not always after the same goal as the scientist. In art it is not necessarily all about establishing the exact truth so much as making the most effective form (painting, drawing, poem, novel, performance, sculpture, video, etc.) through which ideas, feelings, perceptions can be communicated to a public.

Also it states that different methodologies produce different results which is part of the process in art.

Painters Palette photo by Wendy Harmon (

In this context “Art Methodology” seems to be referring to a specific procedure to produce a specific piece of art for a specific purpose. This is similar in science to developing a specific test procedure to determine if a hypothesis is true or not. What we are looking for in our search for the Artistic Method is an overall approach or framework that could apply to the approach of all good artists in creating art.

 Science and Art

After trying many different search terms and browsing around for several hours, I did find some very good information that will eventually help form a basis for coming up with at least a general framework that describes the Artistic Method. For now I would like to discuss some highlights of what I found regarding Art and Science, how they are similar and how they are different.

Early in my search I found a paper written by Robert Wittig on his website.  Robert, is an artist and art dealer in Chicago. Apparently finding similar results with regard to searching the Internet for information on the Artistic Method, he says that:

“Science and art are methods for examining ‘what is’.  Science uses the ‘scientific method’ which is an extremely well defined method, on which much has been written, and most scientists agree on exactly what is meant, by ‘scientific method’.   Art, at the moment, does not have any widely accepted ‘artistic method’, for examining ‘what is’.”

 He goes on to say:

Science’s method is one well adapted to observing objective reality, using the intellect as the primary tool seeking results that approach ‘truth’, as nearly as possible.

Art’s method is one well adapted to observing subjective reality, using the emotions as the primary tool, seeking results that approach ‘honesty’, as nearly as possible.

I also discovered an very good talk on the TED website by Mae Jemeson who is an astronaut, a medical doctor, an art collector, and a dancer. This talk gives a good description of the important relationship between art and science. Mae is on a crusade to establish a new vision of learning that combines arts and sciences, intuition and logic. In her speech at TED in 2002 she said the following:

Science provides an understanding of a universal experience. It is our attempt to share our understanding and our experience of the universe as experienced by everyone.

Art provides a universal understanding of a personal experience. It is our attempt to share our understanding and our experience of the universe that is peculiar to us as individuals.

Both are our attempt as humans to build an understanding of the universe both internal and external to us. Thus they are manifestations of the same thing. Traditionally, we have thought of art and science as separate things. By accepting this we diminish the potential of the future.

This is a definition of science and art that reveals that the approach is different although the goal is the same – to observe and share our understanding and our experience of the universe.

It is true that science can be done without the influence of art and art can be done without the influence of science. Nevertheless, I believe strongly that each is elevated by the influence of the other. This is historically the case. During the Renaissance, mathematical relationships found in nature such as perspective and beliefs leading to the questioning of ideas that were previously accepted as truth led to one of the most productive periods in the history of both science and art. This new integrated way of thinking led to amazing progress in almost every field of human endeavor over the next 500 years. We should keep this in mind as we deal with the monumental problems we are facing at the beginning of the 21st century.


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