The Artist’s Journey: The “Adjacent Possible”

Trailer for My NEW Book: The Artist’s Journey: Bold Strokes To Spark Creativity

The Adjacent Possible

The Artist’s Journey-The Adjacent Possible by Nancy Hillis, M.D.
The sine qua non of being an artist is experimentation- it’s about continually evolving your art.
-Nancy Hillis, M.D.

Every move you make on your canvas creates the next possibility.

The evolutionary concept of the adjacent possible is analogous to what happens to you on your artist’s journey.

Another way to think of this is to imagine that the act of moving forward creates a new set of next steps that would’ve been difficult or impossible to predict beforehand.

Like a sequence of treasure maps where each map guides you to a place where a new map is hidden.

Now imagine that your act of searching not only allows you to find the next map, it creates it!

It’s the next step- the adjacent possible- to your emerging work and it’s vital to you as an artist.

Just as in reading a book, what keeps you reading is not knowing what’s coming next and wanting to find out how it all turns out.

Searching & Finding Your Way In Your Painting

One way to think about being an artist is that you’re exploring and experimenting continuously. You’re stepping into the place of not knowing, into the terra incognita.

You’re searching and finding your way as you create.

You don’t know ahead of time what’s going to happen in your painting.

If I already know what’s going to happen, it’s all over.
-Michael Cutlip

This is not about following a recipe for your art. It’s not about laying a Cartesian grid over your work.

This approach is the antithesis of formulaic, predictable art.

Experimentation is about embracing uncertainty.

It’s a wondrous thing when you trust yourself enough to experiment, to explore, to search and find your way and to not know what’s going to emerge in your art.

This is where the magic happens.

Astonishing art will not bend to your will

You can’t force a painting to wow you.

But here’s the secret: if you continuously explore and experiment, creating many painting “starts” and allow for “ugly” paintings to emerge in the process- you will begin to create more paintings that surprise you, paintings that bring you closer and closer to your deepest self expression, paintings you love.

If this is something you’d like to explore further with me, be on the lookout for my new book The Artist’s Journey: Bold Strokes To Spark Creativity which will be available beginning January 27. See book trailer above.

With gratitude,


P.S. The release of The Artist’s Journey is around the corner! Many of you are on my book launch team which we’ll be starting soon. If you want to be a part of our book launch, you can still join us. Leave me a comment below and let me know if you’d like to be part of the team. I’ll be in touch with everyone on the team soon.

Originally published at Nancy Hillis.