Monday Art Observations: Rules Smooles

When you go to school for art your professors tell you about all the stuff you are supposed to do, you know, the all important rules for making art that lasts forever. And then there are the rules of composition, color, design and everything else. Every professor has a set of rules that vary slightly from the other professors and of course their rules are the “right” rules. It’s all this hogwash that makes art school tiring and yet fun.

It’s good to learn rules about safety, like, don’t smoke while painting with oils. Holding your brush in your mouth is a bad idea, and generally speaking pointing your watercolor brush with your mouth is both grotesque and unsafe.

then there are the rules that my professor used to bark at me (with love) “Herger, preserve the white of the page!” “Watercolors should shine!” “Adding white to watercolor makes it gouache!” “Letting your gouache dry out turns it into crappy watercolors!” “Work bigger, fill the page with color, but for god’s sake preserve the white of the page.”

Sometimes the rules contradict one another.

Sometimes you have to ignore the rules.

Sometimes following the rules makes great art.

Conversely sometimes ignoring the rules makes great art.

That brings me to my Monday observations about my art making over the weekend. Jim’s barked rules have stuck with me. granted I ignore a good deal of what he said, after all I don’t approach a watercolor with a clear outline of color, order, and direction; instead I focus on light and dark and the colors I feel at that moment. I had a 40% off coupon to AC Moore and wandered in, planning to buy a depleted color and found myself not liking their selection, when I saw the Liquid Mask. I figured what the hell, I may as well try it. I haven’t used liquid mask since college, when I borrowed a friends for an assignment.

Dutifully I sketched out my subjects and then filled the areas of white with mask. I proceeded with my paintings as normal. I applied my washes and layered on colors. I applied indigo heavily and loads of payne’s gray. I let them completely dry…

Then peeled off the mask.

I hate the pristine white. It seems out of place with my messy watercolor technique to have these sharply white areas among pools of wet into wet color and layered colors. So I’m going to put pale washes of color over them, so they fit in.

See, sometimes the rules just don’t work.