Hackers and Painters, Re-Read

Project 52 : Week 5
If you haven’t read Paul Graham’s essay “Hackers and Painters” yet, and you are a maker / creator / creative, go read it.
I read it about 4 or 5 years ago for the first time and reread it this morning. Today it resounded as I have been frustrated at myself for what I perceive to be my failure at software engineering, as I when I code, I think of how I would apply paint. When I get stuck with trying to code in Python or PHP, I draw in my sketch book until I can get unstuck. Many times if I can’t solve a problem, I do something else or go to bed and my brain will serve me the answer or solution while in the other activity or when I wake up.
Much like Mr. Graham describes in the essay, I build web apps and web sites much like I would build a painting or a whole dinner, I think about the whole idea, I get the ingredients or supplies ready, and then I start to make | code | create | sketch | paint. Scrub out what does not work and repaint | recode. I don’t plan it the app out extensively before hand, I code in the browser. I am not the type who writes out pseudo code beforehand, or does wire frames, or designs in photoshop.
For a couple of years now, I have jokingly called myself a ‘Professional Art Weirdo’ whenever someone asks what I do for the living. This title always confuses other web professionals who know that I am a web / mobile developer. In 2007, I found myself at a programmer’s conference full of Java folk, while in a small group setting everyone said their names and very detailed descriptions of their Java skill sets, when it was my turn, I cheekily said, “Hi, I am Jen and I am a painter.” Then I passed on to the next person.
All jokes aside, I was delighted and relieved to read this essay this morning, as Mr. Graham quite nicely makes a defense for the intersection of programming and art as creative | maker disciplines rather than programming as engineering or science. I would love to see more artists learning to program and more programmers learning to paint.
Go read it.