Which Came First: The Painting or the Artist?

It probably seems pretty obvious that the following evolution occurs:

  • The artist first conceives of the idea, perhaps in the artist’s mind’s eye.
  • The artist selects a suitable medium.
  • The artist creates the masterpiece.

In the previous ordering of events, the artist clearly came before the painting.

How can it possibly be any other way?

Please allow me to present a fascinating alternative. I’m not asking you to change your beliefs. You may consider this to be just for entertainment purposes, if you will. (However, if you want to incorporate this into your own philosophy, feel free.)

Consider this possibility (or impossibility, or whatever you may prefer to call it):

  • The Mona Lisa is transcendental. It always has been and always will be.
  • The Mona Lisa selected Leonardo Da Vinci as a suitable medium.
  • The Mona Lisa channeled itself through Leonardo Da Vinci, bringing the artist to life.

Is it really such a stretch?

Perhaps I worded it the wrong way. Using the word ‘channeled’ probably wasn’t the best idea. Let’s consider something simpler for a moment.

How about a triangle or a dodecahedron? These geometric shapes have always existed, right? They weren’t ‘invented’ by the first human to draw them.


A painting consists of shapes, colors, and textures put together. Can you insist that a triangle existed before geometricians, but that a painting doesn’t exist until the artist paints it? What if the artist paints a cube?

Another point to consider is that every artist has human experience. The ideas and visions that we have are very much shaped by our experience. So a painting is not a totally brand new vision, but a product of the artist’s human experience. Even if we paint something that seems out of this world, it’s inherently affected by our experience in this world. In a sense, the art has been developing within the painter for many years before it ever touches the canvas.

If I could paint, I would try to paint a picture of a Klein bottle in an Escher-like fashion such that it looks like both a chicken and an egg transforming into one another. It would have been the perfect image for this post. Instead, you’ll just have to envision that in your mind. Perhaps someday an artist will paint this picture. If so, remember that I already gave birth to the idea. Or has it always been there?

Chris McMullen, author of The Visual Guide to Extra Dimensions and A Visual Introduction to the Fourth Dimension (ironically, perhaps, these are conceptual geometry books, not philosophy books)

Formatting the Book’s Blurb

You can include boldface, italics, and bullets (with dots or numbers) in your book’s description on Amazon.

If you publish a paperback book with CreateSpace, you can include this formatting in your description when you publish. There is an advantage of using CreateSpace for this if you enable the expanded distribution channel: Online booksellers may preserve this formatting. For example, Julie Harper has a CreateSpace published handwriting book at Barnes & Noble with such formatting (click the link below if you want to check it out, then scroll down to the Overview). The caveat is that you must use basic HTML. But don’t worry: Even if you don’t know anything about HTML, the only HTML that is allowed is so simple that you can do it easily. Hold your objection further: There is even an easy way out of the HTML all together, if you really must. You can find this solution at the end of this blog post.


If you have an eBook or didn’t publish your physical book with CreateSpace, you can still format your blurb using AuthorCentral. When you login to AuthorCentral, click the Books tab. Then click on your book to edit the description. You can format the boldface, italics, and bullets yourself, or you can choose to write the description with HTML, if you prefer. Use <b> for bold, as in <b>bold</b>, <i> for italics, as in <i>italics</i>, and <br /> to force a new line (the Enter key won’t have any effect on the output text in HTML mode; the <br/> command basically has the same effect as the Enter usually has). If you want to create a blank line, use the <br /> command twice. Strangely, the <br /> command has a funny space between the ‘br’ and slash in AuthorCentral’s HTML.

To create bullets, use <ul> for dots (unordered list) and <ol> for numbers (ordered list). Place <ul> at the beginning and </ul> at the end. For each bullet, place the text for that bullet between <li> and </li>.


<b>Here</b> is an <i>example</i>. <ul><li>This is the first point.</li><li>This is the second point.</li></ul>

The HTML above produces the following effect at AuthorCentral.

Here is an example.

  • This is the first point.
  • This is the second point.

Unfortunately, (almost all) fancier HTML won’t work in AuthorCentral.

I recommend formatting your blurb in three stages:

  1. First, type the blurb in Microsoft Word as just basic text (no formatting). Use Word’s built-in spellcheck and grammar-check tools to ensure that you didn’t make any obvious booboos. It’s probably easiest to edit your text in Word. Typos in the blurb tend to kill sales.
  2. Copy and paste the blurb from Word to Notepad. This will strip it of unwanted formatting. If you omit this step, you might get a nest of extra stuff that you didn’t even know was there in Step 3 (you might be able to see it by clicking on the HTML option afterward).
  3. Copy and paste the blurb from Notepad to the description at AuthorCentral. Toggle back and forth between the Compose and Edit HTML modes a couple of times to ensure that everything looks okay (if not, you should notice something ‘funny’ when you go back to Compose).

How to format the blurb at CreateSpace without knowing HTML:

Follow the three steps outlined above. Then copy and paste the text from the Edit HTML window at AuthorCentral into your description at CreateSpace. You’ll need to remove the space from every <br /> to make it look like <br/>, otherwise you’ll get an error message. After saving your description at CreateSpace, open your book’s project page and click the Channels link in Distribute, then click the tiny link for eStore Setup. Now click the link for Title URL to view your CreateSpace eStore. This will show you how the formatting looks. Preview this carefully and correct any mistakes.

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)