Friday, July 20, 2012

The Truth about Rules

The other day while in a theatre class, my fellow teacher was attempting to teach about costume design. She gave them a little grid and told them that we were going to draw people. One little boy, excited, proclaimed just how good he was at making humans. The project, however, was to do it proportionally, as in, how a real human body should look.

It was hard. To transfer from free handing it to an exercise like that, it required switching from the right side of the brain to the left, and all of us, me included, had to adjust.

Needless to say, the little braggart immediately grew disappointed, hoping to impress us, I think, with his talents. Not only was he discouraged, he refused to participate, flipping the paper over and sitting there staring in the distance.

I remember, being a child, hearing pieces of advice and suggestions and just not getting it. I wasn’t aware that I didn’t get it, it’s in retrospect that I realized the problem. I remember that I thought these things were a lot of effort and thinking they were ridiculous. What I didn’t understand is that, though teachers do lie and can be wrong, they do have a reason for thinking these things.

We are taught early on that art shouldn’t be confined by rules and regulations. There is also the tendency to be drawn towards it because it is “easy.” Combine the two and it makes sense as to why a child would brace against any sort of technique that tells him how to do something and requires more work.

On that note, I don’t think that there are rules in creation. Obeying arbitrary rules just helps the person willing to break them. But I do think it’s important to understand the motivation behind making these instructions.

Upon opening a book on how to draw, the first image a reader will come across are those strange little manikins with the t’s across the face. I used to look at those and think, who draws like that? It seemed like a lot of extra effort, and, more importantly, it felt like something meant for amateurs only.

And, before I go on, I think that’s a big part of it. Whenever expressed the “rules” for something, it felt more like it was the rules for “the people who sucked.”

So, yeah, it’s hard to listen to.

My conclusion, over the years, having actual experience in the field and really beginning to get it, is that it is harder and it isn’t something everyone does. It’s not meant to be done all of the time. The point is not to add a few extra steps to ensure talent for the untalented, but to give a technique that will help solve future problems when needed.

These sorts of suggestions, preplanning, outlining, doing all this extra work, isn’t intended for daily use. That’s what I didn’t realize. It’s not that there’s separate rules for amateurs and experts like I believed, it’s that it is something to use so that the creator is experienced enough that when he needs it, such as when the proportions won’t turn out right, he can use it.