art, career, creativity, fine arts, painting, psychology

Other people and their rules ;)

I think I’ve been learning some stuff about myself, particularly through the observation of workplace dynamics; and getting into both Cataloging and watercolors — and realizing what strengths each draw off of. It’s kind of instructive, actually, getting to know where people are coming from, which gives insight into why they say what they do.

One of these people is an artist, and the other is very focused on rules and propriety. Though they’re both very social, the tension between them is hard to ignore. In turn, I can see this as an outward reflection of my own tendencies (especially where it has been obvious they have each connected with and encouraged me in areas in which they specialize, or want to specialize).

I recently signed up for a Watercolor class in order to invest some time in my right-hemispherical thinking. I mean: I’ve done this for work. Why wouldn’t I do it for myself? (As a side note, it was much easier to get back to work on the Cataloging homework, after I had done this.)

A large issue I’m dealing with in my Art is the perceived need to plan, and killing spontaneity. I’m pretty sure this has to do with trying to pigeonhole and rationalize everything and make it methodical and rule-bound and systematic, which is a tendency encouraged by my study and my work. I’m trying to get away from it, though it’s difficult.

It may be made more difficult by medication which brings the rational part of my mind forward. When I was younger, unmedicated, and dealing with a couple of different diagnoses, it was much easier to be creative. Right now, though, I’m trying to work through a block, which makes it hard to even sit down to paint. I know I could be doing other things with my time, on which I would get more of a monetary return…but then the question is, does everything in life have to be directly about money? Or business? Or survival?

I guess that’s what a semester of Microeconomics will get you. That, in turn, descends from a dream of being able to make a living doing what you love. Making money off of what you love means monetizing it; meaning either you’ve gotta get creative and you’ve gotta have a lot of hope, (or be married or independently wealthy,) or it’s probably not going to happen.

Or, I could just be negative on this point. What I see is that being a professional artist entails a lot of risk — more risk than I’m willing to bear. From what I hear, it’s also hard to repay art-school loans, because of low returns after graduation.

Then there’s the question of why I wouldn’t invest in myself and my own happiness, and what I want to do in my life, besides work. It’s kind of obvious why I would want to take a watercolor class, because I could use assistance in restarting. However, I don’t think that community college is the way to go, this time.

For one thing, I’ve already gotten an AA in Art…though I could take higher levels of Watercolor and get back into Drawing, I’m not sure of the use of that without access to upper-division and Master’s levels of work. There’s also the question of where or how I would use the skills, which makes the cost of tuition seem unreasonable. In addition to that, I haven’t heard anyone say how much they appreciated art school (not community college, but art school); the ones I’ve known (college instructors) seem to think that it put in too many barriers between them and what they wanted to create.

I know that in my case, there were a lot of personal preferences passed down from my instructors’ instructors, that got emplaced as gospel for the entire class…which started as just one person’s personal preference. I mean, I heard a lot of stuff (I’m paraphrasing, here) like, “paint from life, not from a photograph,” “always paint the edges of your canvas,” “loosen up,” “what are you afraid of,” “don’t make sketchy marks, find a line and commit to it,” “don’t draw anime in that teacher’s class,” “don’t use opaque white in watercolors,” “draw the entire image at once, not one section at a time,” etc.

To people who know what the art-speak above means, it might be seen as helpful, even if just because it’s culturally ingrained; however, what is unhelpful is the fact that your students (especially at community-college/lower-division undergraduate level) may not understand that art-speak; and all these rules that you’re giving them, should they take them to heart while not understanding them; why you said them; what you meant; what the history is behind what you meant; or how to do what you’re asking them to do; are likely to impede what would otherwise be their natural growth. Growing on their own may cause them to shed what you see as bad habits, in the future, by themselves. But your discouragement and insistence that they be masters now, risks freezing their process so they never reach that point.

This is in addition to all the would-be teachers on the Internet who have their own opinions and angles and judgments of other peoples’ work and process and why theirs is better (and, likely fortunately, I can’t remember what I was referencing, here — other than minor incidents). The issue is that if you take everyone’s opinions to heart, you just basically can’t do jack without doing it in some way that someone will call wrong, and you would accept it as wrong, because you’ve already decided to let those peoples’ self-serving opinions override your own judgments of quality. So then, taken to an extreme: if you internalized every criticism someone leveled on process online, you couldn’t ever do anything “right.”

Giving a list of forbidden practices instills a sense of inferiority in someone who is just trying to help themselves develop. There is a case for pruning back bad habits, but you don’t prune a sapling back until it’s a stick and expect it to flourish (though sometimes it happens, if you get one with enough life force).

And doing things, “right,” or, “according to the rules,” makes some people feel safer. As in Cataloging, which is an extremely regimented method of making sense out of content, with the dual aims of access, and uniformity. My coworker who is apparently into Cataloging has expressed a fondness for rules which I don’t share, except when they allow me to shift the blame of enforcing a rule (which I didn’t make) off of myself, onto Library policy. (Bureaucracy at work…)

An example — an easy one — is the question of whether motor vehicle accidents would still happen if everyone followed the rules of the road. Most people do, most of the time, which is probably why the roads aren’t more full of carnage. But there’s an assumption that if everyone followed the rules, no one would get hurt. Is it true? I’m not sure. (What I can be sure of is that it’s a good thing that most people follow most of the rules, most of the time, because it makes things largely predictable, except for the errant vehicles which pop up on a daily basis…)

Then there’s the question of whether some rules are justified, or impact certain groups more than others. For example, the question of whether two people of the same sex can marry, which disproportionately affects non-straight people; or the question of whether abortion is ever a morally justifiable option, which almost exclusively affects women (I say, “almost,” because there are female people who do not consider themselves women, and there are men who were born with female anatomy, who can still carry children).

In other words…questions of right and wrong are being brought up in my life, right now, I suppose. It’s clear to me that I do consider myself a very ethically integral person, but I also know that sometimes ethical integrity means breaking rules (as rules aren’t always neutral, beneficial, or morally justifiable; they’re just rules). Dealing with the Art, and the avoidance of the Art, along with observing the psychologies of my co-workers, and dealing with the possibility of becoming a Librarian, is bringing this up for me.

Though I’m pretty sure that systematizing my thought isn’t something that I want to aim for, at this point. After all, I’m not a machine…

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