Archive for March 1st, 2009

Solitary Crossing

Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it.

     -Henry David Thoreau

I have always had a problem with adhering to rules, in practically all aspects of my life.  It’s as though when a rule is presented, a part of me automatically starts figuring out an exception to the rule, a way to go around it.  In everyday life this not always a desirable trait, often putting one at odds with the law and one’s own conscience. But, as luck would have it, this trait is indispensable in art.

It’s always amazing to me how many artists are tied to their own set of rules and nothing can deter this adherence, even if straying a bit might actually cause their work to really blossom. For instance, I know a painter who can only paint what is before him and will not add or subtract any detail from the scene. He once showed me a painting that was really painted beautifully, rich and bold. Everything worked well and the piece was really eye-catching except for a telephone pole that bisected, in a very intrusive fashion,  the very middle of the canvas. It was a real distraction that threw off the whole weight of the composition

Why is this pole here?” I asked.

He gave me a quizzical look and explained that it was in the scene as he had photographed it. When I asked if it had any purpose in the painting he said that it didn’t but it was part of the original scene.

There was a certain realization that came from this brief exchange. I realized that there were truly talented artists who would always be shackled by their own rules and that absolute adherence to any arbitrary rule can be the death of creative expression.

Now, I’m sure there will be those who would argue this point and would be able to point out any number of examples that might contradict this statement. So what? They are mere exceptions to this loosely formed rule.

So, kids, the moral of this story : In art, keep the rules around as guidelines, but when you need to paint outside the lines, just do it.

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