Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The need to RTFM

My husband is an engineer and his favorite saying when something isn't going right is: RTFM (read the .... manual).

I'm often asked to teach according to a step by step, or follow along manual, and I always refuse. It just seems to me that instructions of that sort kill any individual creativity, or ability to think outside the box and come to an unexpected, yet original solution. My motto has been to demonstrate the use of materials, give some background art history on the project, and see where imagination can take one as an artist.

Yet, with this latest painting I feel like I did what I preach against, and I can't say I'm happy with the outcome. I took an old watercolor from 1999 as inspiration, from the time when I loved the combination of nature and architecture. I thought that even if a rigid structure is there, I can let myself get to a point where I use it sufficiently, and then be able to let it go by melting it away.

But apparently this need for a manual has a strong hold even on me, not just on the engineer types. Every time I tried to lose a column or a window, or have the trees or grass spill over onto the existing planes- something within me rebelled. No matter how hard I tried, I proceeded as I'd been taught with as correct a perspective as possible, the shapes of the original building in the watercolor, and the forms of the initial trees.

So the question I guess is perhaps we as humans are programmed to follow instructions and I'm wrong to confuse myself and others with too much freedom? Perhaps creativity can succeed even within the confines of a manual?