Breaking Rules is Good Once in a While…or Every Day

“Holding Pattern” Craig Shillam, colored pencil, 11 3/8″ x 19 3/8″


Sometimes you need to play it safe, and other times breaking rules is absolutely necessary. There are some basic guidelines in our everyday life and in creating art, but doesn’t it feel good to be a little defiant once in a while?

Feeling Good about Breaking Rules

 Breaking rules for this article isn’t about jay walking, robbing a bank or burning down a building. It’s not about creating a totally new form of art, or a new “ism.” It’s about questioning conventional wisdom, and seeing for yourself if what you have been told or what you think you know is actually true, doing some experimentation, and taking a chance.

I wrote a post “20 Great Oil Painting Tips” a few months ago in which master painter Neil Patterson stated in a painting demonstration that “there are no rules.” In that case you wouldn’t be breaking rules if there were none to break. When I was in college however, it seemed like there were lots of rules. Do it this way, that way, do this, don’t do that, etc., etc., etc.

When drawing and painting, just as in your everyday life, there are certain guidelines that will help you along your way. But, there may come a time when you won’t be able to stop yourself from taking a chance and rejecting an idea, a rule, or a theory.   

In the piece above, “Holding Pattern”, I was intrigued by the thought of placing that tree almost dead center in the composition. Well everybody knows you are not supposed to do that. I did many sketches of different alternatives, but I couldn’t help but wondering if I could pull it off. The rest of the piece is pretty much traditional and standard fare for me. Breaking rules – it was almost like a dare to myself.  Once I got going, I couldn’t talk myself out of it.

You can judge for yourself whether this little experiment in breaking rules was a success or not. The fact that I went through with it and didn’t wimp out is good enough for me. (“Holding Pattern” did receive a modest award from a very enlightened juror at an exhibit some time back.) 😉

Have Fun & Experiment by Breaking Rules

 That is just one small example of doing something different and not being afraid to step outside your “comfort zone.” Certainly breaking rules can mean something totally different to you. Maybe your idea of breaking rules is so big and so different it would blow everybody’s mind. Or maybe it’s a small thought that could develop into something great.

One of my teachers told me one time, “don’t crop a corner diagonally.” I don’t remember when, who, or why. Sometime later I remember seeing a full-page ad in a magazine of a painting by American Artist Fritz Scholder.  There, right in front of my eyes was a modern painting of a cowboy on a horse, and the lower right corner was cropped, and it looked great. It worked! I put my hand over that corner and then removed it over and over again  to see the difference. Bloody Hell. I still have that ad somewhere…I tried to find a copy of that particular painting to show you, but no dice.

So the point of all this is to try something different once in awhile…or every day. Breaking rules could be in your art, or in just living your everyday life. Break your own rules or somebody elses, it doesn’t matter. Take a chance. Just know why and what you’re trying to accomplish. Whether you succeed or fail is beside the point, it’s the personal growth that will matter.

If taking chances and breaking rules is appealing to you…keep this saying in mind. “Learning from your own mistakes is experience. Learning from somebody elses mistakes is wisdom.”  I picked that up somewhere along the way, and I think it’s valid. Maybe you will want to be selective in the chances you take and the rules you break. But if there’s something you really want to do, but you have always been told not to, don’t let somebody else’s rule hold you back.

Thanks for reading…You won’t be breaking any rules if you want to subscribe to this blog!!



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