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I paint, make collages and mixed media work. I write poetry. I reflect on the Tao.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Picasso Rules, OK?

On Twitter, I pointed out that Pablo Picasso did NOT say 
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”
Apart from the fact that no-one on the Internet ever cites a source for the supposed quote, the phrasing is so unlike Picasso (a turn-of-the-last-century Spaniard). It is, however, very much the sort of pithy one-liner favoured by motivational speakers from the united States.

In replying to my tweet, @revrvpark tweeted

You are saying it is a bogus quote. Would you also, as an artist, say it is bad advice? Isn't it better to have a deeper well to draw from?

That provoked me to think some more about the matter and here is an extended version of my reply.
It essential to understand thoroughly the methodology of your art form, but not to be constrained by established practice. As for rules, rules are made when people have lost sense of the essence of the practice. Rules are irrelevant to good art. A good artist will make art regardless of the "rules". The rules may be broken or not, but the artist doesn't care either way. What matters is the art. If the artist tries to just follow the rules, the art work will probably end up deadly dull and predictable, if perhaps technically competent. If the artist breaks the rules just for the sake of it or for the sake of controversy, the work will probably end up being a mess, without any depth to it. In both cases, the problem is that the artist has focused on the rules, rather than on the essence of art making.
In any case, I don’t think that whoever said this was actually giving advice to artists. Rather, I think that what was intended by this is something like: learn the rules thoroughly, so that you can break them with elegance and skill when and if you need to.
Personally, my inclination is toward the Taoist approach. Understand the essence and forget the rules.
And just to round things off, here is the master Pablo Picasso In His Own Words 

(from Picasso: In His Words  Hiro Clark, Editor)

“A picture is not thought out and settled beforehand. While it is being done it changes as one's thoughts change. And when it is finished, it still goes on changing, according to the state of mind of whoever is looking at it. A picture lives a life like a living creature, undergoing the changes imposed on us by our life from day to day. This is natural enough, as the picture lives only through the man who is looking at it.”
"Painting isn't an aesthetic operation; it's a form of magic designed as mediator between this strange hostile world and us."

And my favourite 
"Everyone wants to understand art. Why not try to understand the song of a bird?"

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