I'm an enneagram 4w5, wearing a 6 cape. An INFP. I am quite creative and philosophical and go with the flow, I love to learn and study, but I like structure. I like knowing perimeters, and resent boxes. Rules make me feel safe and capable... like I know how to work well and satisfy both myself and others.... if I agree with them.
The stereotypes go like this: one can be one or the other: The artist is a bohemian who is messy, irresponsible, eccentric, and defies all boxes society attempts to place around them. They're a rebel. And this is me. Those who like rules are probably tidy and strict and inflexible. This is not me, and I'd argue that if this is, you could use some therapy, as we all could. Stereotypes have grains of truth, but we know they aren't whole. I am actually both, a person who resents boxes but loves some perimeters. For example, I believe artists are some of the most rule following folks around, even if they feel free flowing. There's dedication, knowledge, and routine. You can be both. It's healthy.
Perhaps the most asked question of artists just starting out, after "Where do you get ideas" is simply, "How?" Lucky for us, everyone works slightly differently, enabling us to seek out those we most closely resonate with, and most like to talk about it. The result is a healthy stack of books and lists about "rules" folks follow, and how they allow for creative freedom.
Corita Kent's Art Department Rules
If you don't know about Corita Kent, you should. Kent was a nun who made brilliant, bright, thoughtful, poetic, bold art. She played with shape, color, and typeset in a way that in part reflects advertising, and in part embodies poetry. She's glorious.
Following is her ruleset for the Immaculate Heart College Art Department:
Jack Kerouac's 30 Beliefs and Techniques for Writing and Life
Of all people, Kerouac lived out his writing, thus it makes sense that his list applies to both writing and life. I love that. That is how I want to go about things.
1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house
4. Be in love with yr life
5. Something that you feel will find its own form
6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
7. Blow as deep as you want to blow
8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
9. The unspeakable visions of the individual
10. No time for poetry but exactly what is
11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest
12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time
15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
19. Accept loss forever
20. Believe in the holy contour of life
21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
22. Dont think of words when you stop but to see picture better
23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
29. You’re a Genius all the time
30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven
Kanye's Studio Rules
Set aside whatever you think about Kanye to appreciate the signs he keeps taped up on his studio walls, as described by Rick Ross. I like the idea of creating a space separate from the rest of the world for creating, a place where I don't feel pressured to prove to anyone else that I am creating by speaking or posting about it.
NO HIPSTER HATS
ALL LAPTOPS ON MUTE
JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP SOMETIMES
NO TWEETING PLEASE THANK YOU
NO NEGATIVE BLOG VIEWING
DON’T TELL ANYONE ANYTHING ABOUT ANYTHING WE’RE DOING!
NO RACKING FOCUS WHILE MUSIC IS BEING PLAYED OR MUSIC IS BEING MADE
TOTAL FOCUS ON THIS PROJECT IN ALL STUDIOS
NO ACOUSTIC GUITAR IN THE STUDIO
Austin Kleon's Rules of the Studio
The first artist I turned to for this post was Austin Kleon, patron saint of creativity and creative working. He created this set of rules for himself and his sons, who love to visit the studio. I also recommend his book Keep Going.
Ten Bullets by Tom Sachs
I love visual artist Sachs' emphasis on space.
1. SACRED SPACE: KEEP TOOL KIT AT THE READY SO WHEN INSPIRATION STRIKES THERE IS NO DELAY, EXCUSE OR HINDERANCE BETWEEN YOU, YOUR THOUGHT, AND IT’S REALIZATION
8. RESET. AT THE END OF THE DAY: KNOLL YOUR WORKSPACE, SWEEP + EMPTY TRASH, PRE SET YOUR WORK STATION WITH SOMETHING PLEASURABLE TO COMPLETE. BEGIN YOUR DAY WITH A SENSE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT…
9. PROCRASTINATE. IF AT FIRST YOU DONT SUCCEED GIVE UP IMMEDIATELY, MOVE ON TO SOME OTHER TASK UNTIL THAT BECOMES UNBEARABLE, THEN MOVE ON AGAIN CIRCLING BACK AROUND TO THE FIRST PROBLEM. BY NOW, YOUR SUBCONSCIOUS WILL HAVE WORKED ON IT, SORT OF LIKE SLEEP, ONLY CHEAPER
How to Feel Miserable as an Artist by Keri Smith
Keri Smith's anti-rule list is practical as can be. We love Keri Smith in this house.
Seth Godin's Rules for Working in a Studio
Who better to turn to than a teacher and author? Gobin's list feels both simple and extensive.
Don’t hide your work
Ask for help
Tell the truth
Upgrade your tools
Don’t hide your mistakes
Add energy, don’t subtract it
If you’re not proud of it, don’t ship it
Know the rules of your craft
Break the rules of your craft with intention
Make big promises
Let others run, ever faster
Learn something new
Criticize the work, not the artist
Power isn’t as important as productivity
Honor the schedule
You are not your work, embrace criticism
Sign your work
Obsess about appropriate quality, ignore perfection
A studio isn’t a factory. It’s when peers come together to do creative work, to amplify each other and to make change happen. That can happen in any organization, but it takes commitment.
Two Books of Lists
I get hungry for The Secret, yanno? The one sentence that will change my whole life. I search for it, and following are two books about this exact subject that I highly suggest. You will be inspired. But you will also find that there are no secrets... there is just persistence and listening to yourself and how you work best. You got this. Just trust how you feel and what you've learned. Experiment.
Ways of Being: Advice for Artists by Artists, edited by James Cahill
How do you be an artist? Is art a 'career', or a vocation? Do you need a studio or a dealer, and how do you find one? Are artists too competitive? How do they come up with ideas, and what is the point of the private view? Does financial success—or the lack of it—change an artist? What are the advantages of getting older?
Based upon advice from a huge roster of artists, dealers and curators; and encompassing every stage of an artist's life—from early works, to debut shows and mid and late-career—this book answers all the key questions that every artist has at some point asked themselves.
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work edited by Mason Currey
161 inspired—and inspiring—minds,... novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians, who describe how they subtly maneuver the many (self-inflicted) obstacles and (self-imposed) daily rituals to get done the work they love to do, whether by waking early or staying up late; whether by self-medicating with doughnuts or bathing, drinking vast quantities of coffee, or taking long daily walks.
Here's the thing...
Rules are made to change. Rules are made to develop. Rules are made to give you more freedom and ability. Study others' rules. Be open to the prospect that each project may require a new set of rules. Figure out how your body, mind, and soul work best under different conditions. Map them out. Make your own list of rules... or guidelines, if you will. We're always interested to hear what you think, so feel free to send your list our way.
Go in peace,
a small collective dedicated to personal, creative, and communal growths.