Thursday, November 19, 2009
The Pirates Code: A Tale of the Red Crayon
Mark Making Experiments
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Elizabeth: Wait! You have to take me to shore. According to the Code of the Order of the Brethren...
Captain Barbossa : First, your return to shore was not part of our negotiations nor our agreement so I must do nothing. And secondly, you must be a pirate for the pirate's code to apply and you're not. And thirdly, the code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.
This dialog from the movie has always stuck with me. Pirates have some short comings, certainly, but the attitude that the Pirates Code “is more what you’d call guidelines” is fabulous!
The scene: 2nd grade classroom
Teacher, smile on her face: “Class you have an assignment…”
Me: Hey, we had been given an art assignment! How fun! We had choices of what to draw and color! Much better than math, or one of those other subjects. So I made a choice to draw my church. I drew the building and the small town streets around it. And I colored the streets red. Yes red. Because I wanted to and I liked it! I liked my red crayon.
Teacher, stern look on her face: Class – I’m terribly disappointed. Your work is all wrong! And I wanted to hang it proudly in the hall for Parents Night. It would make me look like a Good Teacher. And you have not done what I envisioned. So now you will do it over.
Teacher, passing back the student’s work: Leslie, you know roads aren’t red. I want you to do this over again and do it right!
So, glad to have yet another opportunity to create art, I side stepped the issue. I changed my drawing and found another great subject. I carefully drew a family of deer, brown beings in the green woods. The Daddy deer had a massive set of antlers. The Mommy deer was beautiful with her shinny black hooves, and her smart black crayon outlined form. And the baby had as many spots as I could possibly fit in. And I had done two drawings and I liked both of them.
And the deer family drawing was hung on the bulletin board for Parents Night. Because I followed the rules.
There are so, so many rules developed about art – design principals, design elements, rules of particular artistic societies, rules about what you can and can not use, rules about framing, archiving, you name it- there is a rule about it! And you know what all those rules are about? They are about thinking about your art.
I want to Express myself through art. I want my art to be an expression that includes my Soul. I want to be as Authentic as I can be and I want to feel I am giving my all. Art is a dialog and a dance, a poem and a symphony – and I am only part of the conversation. The Work has a Voice and the Viewer has a Voice.
A perfectly executed set of applied rules does not interest me. Coloring within the lines earns a smile from the teacher, but it is boring! The soulfulness of the expression is what grabs me.
Do I think it’s helpful to know the guidelines – yes! Do I think it’s helpful to be a slave to them? No! The rules can get in your way, and cause paralysis. I think more art is stymied by fear and internalized judgment than any other block! Be brave – break a rule, or not. It’s your choice. Its only ART!
And of course that is why there are so many encouraging words, quotes, and teachers out there. Because there are so many lovers of rules, so many ready to offer a judgment – from their head, not their soul. Side step them, summersault away, but get out from under all that.
Know that you already know the rules. Know your soul knows what to do. And just get in there and find your flow. Make art. See what happens.
You are only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t loose it.