Archive for October 7th, 2022

That Little Sign

no rules 001

I do what I can to convey what I experience before nature and most often, in order to succeed in conveying what I feel, I totally forget the most elementary rules of painting, if they exist that is.  In short, I allow faults to appear, the better to fix my sensations.

–Claude Monet, 1912

I’ve been in this studio for 15 years now and it has gotten to the point that I now look past certain things. They begin to barely register so I try to periodically stop and take things in. This morning I decide to look at the things on a built-in nook on a wall in my studio kitchen. A couple of shelves of art books, books of essays and poetry and odds and ends. Two small early favorite paintings on the top shelf. A stained-glass experiment and a piece of pottery from a late friend. An agate with a polished face. A couple of other small things but my gaze stopped when it fell upon this little sign.

It’s a little stained now. It’s been with me for what seems like forever, in my house, in my old studio and now here, in this place. It’s not much but its meaning has meant a lot to me over the past quarter century.

I realized in that moment this morning that I hadn’t fully looked at it for quite some time. And that I needed to heed its advice now. 

I thought it was worth a replay of the post that I wrote about this sign back in 2012.

I have had this little sign hanging in my studio for the last 16 years [over 25 years now], a rough reminder to myself when I begin to feel like my work is bending to the rules and judgments of others. It reminds me that I am working in my own realm, my world beyond the reach of others. I control the parameters of what is possible, of what defines reality in my work. The rules of others mean nothing in my little painted world.

Over the years I have glimpsed this small sign at times when I have been feeling that my work is stagnating or beginning to adhere to accepted conventions. At those times I have been spurred to push my work in some new direction. It might come in the form of heightening the intensity of color or introducing new hues that seems incompatible with nature, for example.

It’s as though these two words are prods that constantly tell me that nobody can control me when I am here in my created world. There’s a great liberation in this realization and I find myself trusting my own judgment of my work more and more. Because I have created my own criteria for its reality, criticism from others means little now.

I think that’s what I am trying to get at here, that an artist must fully believe that they are the sole voice of authority in their work, that they, not others, determine its validity. Maybe that’s why I am so drawn to Outsider artists, those untrained artists who maintain this firm belief in their personal vision and create a personal inner world of art in which it can live and prosper.  Rules mean nothing to them- only the expression of their inner self matters.

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