“Work—It’s a Chain Reaction…”

Charles and Ray Eames were two very significant and prominent designers and aestheticians during the post-WWII era and into the waining years at the end of the 20th century. Charles and Ray Eames helped to clarify, through their design, the evolution of culture within the Post Modern world during the Age of Choices! Charles had a unique vision, supported and furthered by his spouse Ray, about creativity, self-expression, work ethic, and the process of making art. Charles was fond of saying:

“We work because it’s a chain reaction, each subject leads to the next…It is impossible to reconcile self-expression with the creative act…In architecture, the idea degenerated. The design allows a more direct and pleasurable route…Design is a plan for arranging elements in such a way as best to accomplish a particular purpose…The most important thing is that you love what you are doing, and the second that you are not afraid of where your next idea will lead.”

As you confront Art or Architecture Design in your studios this Fall 2020 semester, the Act of DOING is where the ART is thought/said to reside. Charles and Ray Eames felt Art not only resided in the quality of Doing but the Doing was also Functional! What are your thoughts on engaging in, developing and maintaining the Act of Doing?

Photograph of Charles and Ray Eames

Eames Case Study House #8

Published by: roberttracyphd

Academic professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. I teach theory courses in Art and Architecture History. In addition, I also curate exhibitions on campus as well as in other venues nationally and internationally.

33 Comments

33 thoughts on ““Work—It’s a Chain Reaction…””

  1. As an architecture student, we have been constantly encouraged to engage in an iterative process. We often find ourselves getting preoccupied with planning our intent, leading to a struggle within the process. Through my undergraduate studies, I found massing models to be effective. By engaging in the unknown, new ideas were generated, leading to new directions. I think this is the idea Charles and Ray Eames alluded to, stating how one subject can lead up to the next. I think engaging in, developing and maintaining the Act of Doing is crucial, allowing you to constantly evaluate. Through the process of developing, you’re able to lay these ideas on the table and weigh the pros and cons. Strong connections and clear ideas are the results of this process. Effectively altering the original intent, you now have a refined project. At times, this process will solidify your original concept, with other options proving to be less sufficient in some areas. Quoted from the Museum of Modern Art “Central to their work was the idea that design was primarily about process, not a final product or outcome. They applied this philosophy to all their projects, often revisiting ideas and refining them over time” (moma.org) Both designers understood the meaning behind quality craftsmanship and end product. The key take away is nothing is ever final, thus the Act of Doing.

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  2. The section of the quote by Charles that I find interesting is, “ The most important thing is that you love what you are doing, and the second that you are not afraid of where your next idea will lead.” In my years of experience as an architecture student, the Act of Doing is often expressed to be the most important process of developing a complete design that fully conveys a concept. Professors will encourage students to develop multiple design iterations quickly as a way of generating your initial ideas into physical elements that can be analyzed such as drawings or models. As the semester advances an architecture student is constantly in the Act of Doing which can involve producing multiple sketches, models, renderings, and presentations to continue developing their ideas. Students who are afraid to try new things or those who cease to evolve their ideas create an interruption in the continuous process of doing preventing them from leading them to the next idea. Eames Case Study House serves as a primary example of the act of continuously rearranging parts of the project as new conflicts arise to construct a house that goes beyond the characteristics of a standard residence. Charles and Ray never interrupted the process of continuously modifying the design to assemble a case study home. In the end, creative artistic ideas may become lost if we do not find functionality and value in the act of doing as a repetitive procedure.

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  3. I’ve always thought about art and architecture as being parallels in a creative function that must work hand and hand in order to provide the Act of Doing. It develops a process of iteration where through exploration one can figure new ideas that change the scope and scale of Doing. Through work and school I’ve come to develop a greater understanding of this Act of Doing that Charles and Ray were so fond of. It’s the creative process of repetition that allows you to continually explore and modify functions and processes as you gain a better understanding of your work. This is why Charles and Ray are so well known for their case study house involvement, because they were never afraid of the iterative process, and in fact lived by it. Architecture studios allow us as perspective architecture students to perform the Act of Doing as the Eames did. Through sketching, massing explorations, and visual studies we are able to continuously explore endless possibilities that will go as far as we take them. Similarly to how Charles stated., ““We work because it’s a chain reaction, each subject leads to the next…It is impossible to reconcile self-expression with the creative act.” Each new exploration can lead to a brand new idea that feeds a new creative function which can become as grandiose as we allow it to be. Thus, repetition becomes the key and why we must never be afraid of chasing the new idea, because that new idea may be your next greatest Act of Doing.

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  4. The engaging in, developing and maintaining the Act of Doing is essential to reach a potential solution from Art and Architectural process. Throughout my career as an Architecture Student, I have learned the importance of the process to which will lead to the next idea and to what it will be in the end. The time spent on acquiring information, analyzing and designing various iterations are all part of the act of doing in which will help further the ideas and thoughts into reality. The quote that really supports the process to further ideas are, “We work because it’s a chain reaction, each subject leads to the next” and “The most important thing is that you love what you are doing, and the second that you are not afraid of where your next idea will lead.” As an architecture student we are always involved in the act of doing, we must first summon the idea and design through which relate to the topic. Then gather information to create design iterations with drawing and sketching and creating models and renderings to present the potential final design or to continue with the furtherment of the ideas. The Act of doing is vital within art and architecture because it will result in something grandeur. It creates vast possibilities to which will help the chain reaction to acquire the next great idea.

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  5. Maria Dos Santos
    Week 10 Response

    In architecture school, a large emphasis has always been put in the process of design. Through my studies, I have been continuously encouraged to explore as many options as I can before settling with one idea. A lot of value goes into engaging in, developing and maintaining the act of doing. While it can be much easier to put all of this aside and just think about the end goal, a lot of opportunities are missed through this. As stated in the quote above, “The most important thing is that you love what you are doing, and the second that you are not afraid of where your next idea will lead.” This is absolutely correct and can only be achieved through the act of doing. When multiple ideas are thoughtfully explored, we are able to learn more and branch out into other ideas that we would’ve never thought of, had we simply been looking for the end goal of a project. Students of the arts and architecture need to be aware of the act of doing because it really is a “chain reaction” that leads artists and architects to continue to explore within their mediums.

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  6. As an art student, the Act of Doing can get lost in just working on the goal of finishing a certain piece; starting and finishing a piece. But, the Act of Doing involves more than just the physical process of creating a piece. Ideas and concepts come at anytime, sometimes while we’re in the middle of working on another piece. Many artists are working on multiple pieces at the same time. Stopping their work on one piece as they form and develop new ideas for another. This is a part of the Act of Doing. Sometimes it is best to stop the physical act of “doing” and allow ourselves to explore new ideas and thoughts. Not only does this allow our mind to explore new ideas, but pausing the work of a piece allows us to come back to it with a new set of eyes which can improve our piece.

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  7. As an architecture student I’ve learned that its very easy to get stuck in your process of developing your concept. We get fixated on really pushing one concept forwards sometimes that we end up missing some potential directions that we could’ve gone through. A big thing this semester i’ve been trying to do is to think less. It sounds crazy to say you should think less when you’re in the process of development but this is more so to allow you to develop more. The process really does kind of follow the Eames’ idea of the act of doing. Keep drawing and keep developing options, explore the options and as you’re able to expend all of your options you’ll have a bank of possibilities and concepts to really look at and learn from.

    I think something I found interesting about Charles and Ray Eames was that they really considered the needs of living within a place that you can also work in while also taking into consideration of the environment that surrounds them. There’s nothing too crazy flashy or complex about the Eames residences, and it really just focuses on the person thats being designed for. The idea of what can you do and how can it be done is kinda the art of the project and thats how the Eames’ were able to make something so incredible

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  8. The act of doing something/anything is sometimes difficult to encourage or engage. I think it is important to start the idea of progress and not procrastination off young. To encourage the act of doing, maybe by engaging the youth community to design and learn in a way that Charles describes as a chain reaction. Academics should not be a bore. If taught correctly, one should be more and more curious about a subject and the subjects affected by the prior. Design and arts should not be any different. If we create or develop a curriculum for the younger generation that teaches them that work/design is more than just finishing a job. But also exploration to learn or create, they can unconsciously create more and more. I liked Charles’s quote, “Just as a good host tries to anticipate the needs of his guest, so a good architect or a designer or a city planner tries to anticipate the needs of those who will live in or use the thing being designed.” because it shows how much thought and learning can go into each design. It was more than just finishing the job for CSH #8 but also an opportunity to explore.

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  9. As an Art History student, my thoughts on the Act of DOING are that an artist or architect must be consistent in their work no matter what project or idea they are doing. Consistency is a key to success. First, there is an idea, before everything. Later on, there is hard work, before the final work is done. For example in college, before getting a degree, the student must be consistent in their studies, otherwise, it won’t work, and the student won’t finish their degree. It is the same with Art and Architecture. The person must be serious, and consistent with their ideas and workflow.

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  10. I think the idea of acting on one’s desire to create is a very admirable trait. Many people possess artistic talent in this world, however often times their position in society or overall lack of drive prevents them from creating the art they have envisioned. Someone’s drive to achieve their goals can allow them to overcome disadvantageous situations and attain greater fame because of it, although I personally dream of a world where everyone is given the opportunity to express themselves artistically even if they do not have that drive.

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  11. To me, Charles and Ray Eames’ idea of The Act of Doing is epitomized by their film House: After Five Years of Living from 1955. The short is made up of nothing more than still photographs of their home which they designed and a soundtrack by Elmer Bernstein. Exploring their home, focusing on details both small (knick-knacks, leaves, a dead fly on a table) and large (wide shots of their home and studio framed by tall trees), the Eames turn their domestic and work space into an entire world, filled with wonders and moments of beauty. A frequent technique is matching shapes, colors, or objects from shot to shot, so that we watch while scenery rapidly changes around a burst of flowers in the middle of the frame or while window frames and square objects echo each other. The film encourages the viewer to look around them, to consider the space they live in, and approach their surroundings with a sense of possibility. Your moment to moment life can be filled with creativity if you allow yourself to approach it with fresh eyes. Your home can be turned into a kaleidoscope of excitement. To me, this is where the freedom to Do comes from.

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  12. “We work because it’s a chain reaction, each subject leads to the next << That part I understand very well. I am a huge procrastinator so DOING gets very tough. As an art history student who has been focused on lots of essays and the visuals of art I always realize that once I start with one topic I always end up finishing everything else! Charles and Ray did what they wanted to do no matter the difficult obstacles and was able to have their beautiful home.
    The Act of Doing for me is not only with art and creating pieces, but about life it self. In order for you to get to the next level you have to move.

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  13. The Act of Doing is essential in any creative practice. Theorizing and planning are necessary steps for any project, but without the act of doing there is no project at all. In my practice as an artist, the process informs and sometimes changes the plans that I started out with. The “doing” can significantly alter the end result, and being open to that change is one of my favorite parts of making art. “Doing” shows you exactly how your materials and ideas work together. I think that spending too much time in your head about a project can be damaging, and stepping out of the mental and into the physical is really beneficial. Acknowledging the cerebral and physical aspects of an artistic practise are both important, and finding the right balance probably depends on the artists themselves.

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  14. The sole purpose of art is to create and act. It is a process, and in that process lies the true essence of art. Many people think that art is about the end result, when it is more about the creation of work and what you feel and accomplish as you create. I’ve found that the best work created by myself and other artists is when one acts rather than tries to plan out in detail the essence of their work. With the momentum you start with your subconscious is able to create beautiful pieces that reflect the mind.

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  15. Charles and Ray Eames are a married couple of interior designers, who are most known for their designs in modern architecture with their case study #8 Eames house and their famous furniture design of the Eames Chair. Charles and Ray Eames believed art not only resided in the quality of doing but the doing was also Functional! I agree with Charles and Ray Eames beliefs on the act of doing, that art lives, it resides, and that it is functional. My thoughts on art is that it’s a way for artists to express their emotion and communicate with the world. So yes, I believe art is the act of engaging with the world, developing a narrative, and maintaining creativity. One of my all-time favorite Charles Eames quotes is “the details are not just the details; they make the design.” The reason why I like this quote so much and find it relatable is because anyone can be an artist, everything is art, and that the details are often overlooked. When confronting my architectural design in studio, I always take this quote into my design process because it helps me create details that make the design act of engaging, developing, and maintaining.

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  16. I think Charles and Ray Eames were really onto something. The part of the quote referencing a “chain reaction” really hits home. Charles’s statement, “It is impossible to reconcile self-expression with the creative act…” is such a true statement! The process of constantly “doing” definitely has an effect on art. As an aspiring storyteller, I have to say that practicing or engaging in the creation process consistently is key. If I am not writing every day, even just a little, I hit writer’s block and need more help with ideas from outside sources compared to when I am “in it,” persistently. If I am creating too often, the burn out creates a block as well. I believe that the process of “doing” and how it is “done” is very important to what type of work comes out of an artist. At least, this is the case for myself. As an artist, when I allow myself to engage in the process regularly, new ideas emerge out of basic thought processes, words flow out more naturally, and the art is born organically and with ease. Ideas can be inspired by other creations unintentionally. It becomes easier to move on to a new work when one has gotten the creative juices flowing. Without the “doing” part of art, there wouldn’t be a work of art at all! Experimentation as seen in Charles and Ray Eames’s career, such as the splints or using techniques from their war experiences, show the work ethic and continual progression that takes place when an artist practices and continues to hone their skills. Similarly the more time I spend writing and reflecting each day, the better I will get at storytelling in the future.

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  17. The whole point of art is to do something. Sure there is a lot of thought and planning that goes into art, but at the end of the day, one must act to create. You could spend all day thinking about how you want this project to go and what it means; however all that thought is meaningless if you fail to actually create your project.You must pick up a pencil and start. Without doing, not only do you not have a finished project, but you’re missing all the little imperfections that come from doing. The things that give it life, that make it human. Momentum is so important to my creative process. Once you start doing, it is hard to stop. As I work I often find myself coming up with more and more ideas of what I want to do next, what can I do differently, what went well. I get excited for what comes next. “We work because it’s a chain reaction, each subject leads to the next.” That reaction does not start if you don’t.

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  18. Never stop doing ! When momentum is lost, it takes a lot of energy to pick it back up. Live in a state of doing. Easier said than done ! There is definitely a fine balance to living that way, but I think the state of doing is the state of being truly alive. I would say that when I am creating, I feel the most lively, the most present, the most excited, and I never want to lose that feeling ! In order to develop the Act of Doing, you must engage and to stay engaged, you must do what you love + have no fear.

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  19. I understand the Act of Doing as the creative process. I think it is definitely a non linear process in which the artist goes back and forth through periods of observation, experimentation, sketching, working, producing, critique and hopefully, exhibition. Charles and Ray Eames were certainly correct in the fact that the Act of Doing is functional. I find that in my practice my work often consumes my life and time for the major periods I am working with it. As far as engaging in the Act of Doing, I require myself to constantly view other’s work, engage in social activities, and sketch before I can develop my ideas. After spending time developing my ideas, I start working, and it is often while sculpting and creating a project, I get more comfortable with it and really find my way and can maintaining doing. I think that creatives need to contribute and devote a lot of their time to their practice to be successful.

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  20. As an artist and designer, the act of doing is, to me, the most important part of art. You can do all of the research and learn all of the things you need to know in order to create something but if you aren’t able to physically, mentally, and emotionally do the creating and enjoy it at the same time then the product not only won’t come out the way it should but you’ll end up hating every moment of what it is you’ve decided to do in this career path. When I’m creating something I tend to immerse myself in it fully in as many aspects as possible. It’s almost like existing in a different realm of reality. The finished product, to me, is the summation of my experience in that frame of thinking.

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  21. Every step is vital when creating and producing art. The Act of Doing can lead to new possibilities and opportunities that one may have not expected or anticipated, which can result in positive and unexpected outcomes. In order to engage, develop, and maintain in the act of doing, the artist needs to be motivated and consistent. If one does not have the motivation or drive to continue with the process than they will lose out on many opportunities that the Act of Doing can provide artists.

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  22. The Acts of doing is the absolute best part of a creative process for the unfolding possibilities. When I work on a new piece, it is sometimes difficult for me to have detailed sketches. I would rather have writings of my thoughts and inspiration. Truthfully it is even hard to have a complete idea but it always becomes better as I work through my piece. Then eventually i get into the zone and don’t want to stop! Usually in this process I ask for a critique or any kind of thoughts from my peers. This also works like Charles and Ray Eames team work by feeding each other ideas and motivation.Being a “chain reaction” for ideas functions into becoming a better artist. Being passionate of your own work creates this process naturally.

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  23. If I am understanding correctly, the Art of Doing is essentially not just the end result of our art being important, but also the process itself. And that focusing on and nurturing the process in any and all of our work is functional to the art itself. Of course in addition to that, it is also important to consider the ways in which we work towards completing our art I suppose. I really like what the Eames’ mention above, “The most important thing is that you love what you are doing, and the second that you are not afraid of where your next idea will lead.” It is a very honest and realistic sentiment to have about art, in fact I think it is very important to adopt this kind of mindset when creating one’s own art. However, I will admit that I often struggle with fear about where any idea will take me, and whether its’ audience and viewers will take to it. I have experienced myself though, whenever I have had an idea in the past, as I am working on it I tend to think of other ways to branch out from said piece or pieces and while I have not had the motivation or time to follow them, I do write them down. So it does happen, and I believe the Art of Doing should be adopted by any and all artists, no matter their experience or skill level. Despite the fear that may come with creating art, there is always that chance that it can grow into something larger and evolved, or even if it does not, as long as it is enjoyable and loved, it will still be a success regardless.

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  24. The Art of Doing is definitely a relatable thing to many artists. It’s nice to actually find out a term to describe such a thing now as I’ve always thought about the Art of Doing as an artist and designer. One thing that I’ve always loved about being a artist is the fact that we get into so many things such as subjects and focuses, whatever our current project is related to. I’ve learned a lot from just doing art where I’ve learned new materials, or a new type of clothing or even how to best tell a visual narrative. It may all be scary to try to dive into something new but being open with your next idea and being in love with just what you’re doing, such as creating, is key to artistic success surely.

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  25. Harles Eames and his wife Ray Rames are 20th-century design geniuses. They have been the creators of low cost, functional, and Bauhaus-centered furniture designs. I perceive this functionality that Charles and Ray Eames have pursued as producing sustainable and innovative ideas and designs. The design idea generation phase is a creative and exciting process. At this stage, we will give direction to very new ideas, the goal to be completed. Thus, application and innovative application can be realized for the project that being worked on. The main thing here is to add innovation to an innovative product or service that is new and original, solves the problem, or meets the need. A word is the making of knowledge economically or socially useful sustainably.

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  26. Arron Adams
    Art 473-1001
    What exactly the act of doing entails seems to vary greatly from person to person, but for my part, I have long struggled with actually getting going, actually starting the doing in the first place. However, once I do get going, I often find that things actually get progressively easier to do and I can keep doing for a long while – sometimes entirely too long to the point where I will forget to take breaks. I often compare my act of doing with a train, it takes a lot of effort to get it going – to pick up steam, as they say – but once it is going, it can keep going for a long time and is difficult to stop.

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  27. I find that in the act of doing, you progress. It sounds simple but in the idea of practice makes proficient. Specialization is created by doing something and creating individuality that becomes so precise that not many can do. So by actively and non stop doing one progresses in their skills and can create masterpieces within their specialization if they apply enough self discipline in the act of doing. In other majors such as architecture you are forced in getting into the rhythm of act of doing and trying your best. Half baked work wouldn’t cut it since there are standards. Where this idea fails is in “Fine Arts” majors of application. The act of doing is encouraged though most skate by and learn to talk better than doing. This creates a weak foundation and a degree that is useless since there really is no quality standards on such a subject. This may be controversial to some, though this is why the major doesn’t produce quality. The act of doing is something that should be enforced in all programs in academia to progress the students and get them on the right track, though in return it is the individual’s responsibility as well to hold themselves to the same standards if not higher.
    Without reminding yourself persistence and continuous education within your specialty, you can fall stagnant and weak. In the end the act of doing comes easy enough if you train yourself and stay passionate, by being your own worst critic the act of doing becomes a strength.

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  28. As an artist, I would wonder where would art be without an act of doing. An artist has to do lots of things in fact, from drafting concepts to figuring out the best way to go about bringing ideas to life, and then executing projects. We would have to repetition of various tasks to make different outcomes. We have to be able to explore new ideas and commit to them, be it that they exceed or dont meet expectations. Many would go from project to project, the cycle of creating new connections and ideas in the process, and seeing them with new or refreshed eyes.

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  29. I think this is an accurate description of the process behind making art, whether it is a painting, drawing, a piece of music, or writing. There is a jump that must be made from when a thought or idea comes to mind to when it comes into the physical world in whatever form. If that jump is never made – the work never happens. Personally I have a tendency to get “stuck in my head” when I am working, so I find it useful to try to focus on the physicality of creating – the DOING. But, at the same time, without the thinking the doing will also wear thin after a while, so there needs to be a balance.

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  30. The Act of Doing is what makes art itself. The journey is always what matters most. What did you do and how did you act to get to where you are now? Therefore, engaging in, developing and maintaining the Act of Doing is beneficial to any artists. There is always thinking and planning, however, once you get into the zone of action, you can only go up from there. It will extend into things beyond your imagination.

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  31. I would say as an artist the act of doing is only about 50% of where art resides for me. personally I want to achieve and end state and the end result to me is no less significant that of in the midst of its creation. I thinks this however can vary from artist to artist depending on what is important to them in art. For example even though I am primarily a visual artist I also play instruments , mainly drums for a band I formed with a close friend In this context the art resides in the performance. For Even though we may make recordings the experience of art for both the artist and observer is only made during the act of creation. So in this case I would say that art is more than half made up of the experience and only a small amount of art is felt when experienced in a different light. and so it it to this notion that I say it varies from artist to artist and form to form.

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  32. Engaging, developing and maintaining the Act of Doing could be thought of as another way to be in the moment, or the now. If the artist cannot be present in their current moment, then the art may seem distracted. I also see the importance of functionality as well since it just makes sense to give art a dual purpose if it is possible. Art is meant to be whatever the artist wants, as long as its inspired then the artist will usually be satisfied with the finished piece.

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  33. As an art student, I believe that the Act of Doing is an integral part of making art, at least for me. I agree with Charles Eames when he said that “we work because it’s a chain reaction, each subject leads to the next”, as I believe that this is what makes art so engaging. Specifically, I think that the act of doing can lead to a chain reaction, especially if each subject is in some kind of sequence–for example, if multiple things are designed similarly, as in designed with similar materials, or if multiple images are meant to tell a story. Developing the act of doing is also essential for artists since, as Charles Eames said, “The design allows a more direct and pleasurable route.” I take this to mean that going on a good design route can help one develop their Act of Doing easier and make their work go by faster and more efficiently. Maintaining the Act of Doing is also good for artists as it can help them evolve and gain more and better ideas. As Charles Eames says, “The most important thing is that you love what you are doing, and the second that you are not afraid of where your next idea will lead.” I take this to mean that love and passion for what one does can lead them to innovation and reaching new heights. I also believe that the Act of Doing is where the art resides as an entire sequence of art can lead to a successful image and/or story.

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