Our Art History has filled us up with Art Rules to live by. For example, one of the rules I got from my mom was that “Art takes time.” Does it?
A rule that my siblings subconsciously developed was that each art could only belong to one of us. There could be only one dancer, one writer, one artist, one musician, one photographer. What the heck?! This isn’t Highlander! There can be more than one! All of us are multidimensional creatives and need to explore and express ourselves through whichever art(s) call our names. My brother and sisters and I have talked about it and have consciously decided to let this particular “rule” go.
A lot of the Art Rules that we’ve made up or absorbed over time live in our unconscious. It takes a little nudging (from inside or outside) for them to reveal themselves. Once we can see them, we can choose whether to own them or release them.
I had an unconscious Art Rule rear its head in a mixed media class that I’m taking. The instructor told us to use tracing paper to create our figures. My first reaction was “You can do that?” My second reaction was, “You can’t do that!” In my mind, using tracing paper was cheating. Where did I get that rule? Clearly for the teacher, who is a professional artist, tracing paper is a tool to be used.
I decided to really look at this rule and consciously decide how I felt about it. I looked for the belief that fueled this rule and realized that I was holding the idea that if you trace a figure you won’t learn to draw a figure. Is that true? There’s only one way to really find out! I went and bought some tracing paper and started tracing figures. First of all, it was so much fun!! I honestly could spend hours tracing and that alone is a gift to my creative practice. Secondly, I could literally feel the learning. I was getting the opportunity to experience the curve of a shoulder, to feel out the proportion of the body. Tracing bypassed my brain and let my body have the experience and for a visual-art-fearful kinesthetic learner like me, that was perfect! I am officially adopting the new rule that tracing paper is an art tool.
What Art Rules are you living by? Here are a few to look at. See if any (or all) of them are familiar.
- Real art takes time.
- Real art is totally original. It must spring fully formed exclusively from your own heart and mind.
- Each art form can only belong to one member of the family.
- You have to be born with talent to be an artist.
- Art is a hobby.
- You can’t make a living as an artist.
- You’re only a real artist if someone buys your work.
- If it’s been done, why bother?
- If someone else is better at it, why bother?
- I can’t ______ (Fill in the blank e.g. dance, sing, write, draw, sew, bake…)
- Art has to _______ in order to be taken seriously. (Fill in the blank e.g. take time, be beautiful, be serious)
- It’s too late for me to pursue my art
- Artists have to suffer in order to be great.
- Artists are the “cool kids”.
Please help me add to this list of Art Rules.
Clearing the rules that aren’t supporting us creatively is powerful and important work – for ourselves and for the others we impact in our lives. We will pass along the rules that we are living, whether we know it or not. Let’s make sure that what we pass on is what we truly believe in.