There Are No Rules in the Art World

Ignore the critics. There are only preferences and opinions.

I used to be the type of person that listened to everyone’s opinions. I didn’t know what I wanted from my life or my art, and I would ask for advice from those around me expecting them to have the answers, but I made the mistake too many times of seeking counsel from people who were nothing like me. It was a terrible idea and a great way to make myself even more confused about what I should do. When it came to art, everyone seemed to have their own rules.

I’m here to tell you, you should ignore the rules and the critics.

Trust your gut.

It took a lot of time, but eventually, I learned to trust my own gut when it came to the art world. By getting annoyed and frustrated with the advice I was receiving that just felt wrong, I figured out that I actually knew deep down what my direction was. I had to learn to ignore and even break the rules that others put before me.

How many times have you heard things like this?

  • “You’re not supposed to do it like that”
  • “That’s not real art.”
  • “Professional artists don’t do that.”
  • “You have to frame your work.”
  • “You have to go to art school.”
  • “Art isn’t supposed to just be pretty.”
  • “Your art should have meaning.”
  • “Those colors don’t go together”
  • “You need to price your work differently.”

And the list goes on and on. Some people mean well when giving advice, and some people are just opinionated and are living by a set of arbitrary rules that keep them limited and boxed up. Well, I am here to say: F*$& the rules. They only exist if you let them.

What kind of art do you want to make?

Do you want to make pretty oil paintings of flowers with ornate gold leaf frames? Go for it!

Do you want to explore the temporary quality of art by using dissolvable paper and placing finished pieces in a tray of water at the start of a gallery show so all of your work is gone by the time people finish their expensive glasses of wine? Heck yes! Make that art! (I was only joking when I thought of this idea, but now I kind of want to do it.)

Do you want to paint portraits of famous people, or express yourself with color through abstract work? How about you want to explore geometry and create precise mathematical masterpieces? Or do you want to make resin casts of bird bones? Or maybe you want to create conceptual commentary on the state of the world? Do you just want to have fun and splatter paint on cardboard?

Go ahead! Do it all. Do whatever you want.

Go to art school. Don’t go to art school. Use cheap supplies. Use professional quality supplies. Paint on canvas, paint on rocks, paint with whatever substance you can find.

There are no rules.

Follow your gut, your intuition, your muse, or whatever. Make the art you want to make.

Everyone is a critic.

You’ll encounter a lot of people that want to tell you what to do. Some people wholeheartedly believe in the rules. I tend to want to break those rules.

Recently, I stopped by a frame shop to check out the art displayed in their front gallery and I struck up a conversation with the owner. I made the mistake of sharing that, for my own art, I like to paint the sides of my canvases instead of framing them, because I like a nice clean edge.

He did not like that. His response: “I’ve NEVER seen a piece of art that looked better without a frame. Frames make art look better. Artists are lazy and cutting corners when they don’t frame their canvases.”

In his defense, he owns a frame shop. It’s good for his business if he insists upon all canvases being framed, but all I could think was “Dude. That’s your opinion.”

Do your thing. Do it with intention, and do it proudly. You don’t have to listen to what other people say.

To Follow or To Break the Rules

Culture will always follow fads. There will always be trendsetters that make us question what art really is. Those people are the rule breakers. There will always be elitist people who stick their noses up at what was once considered ‘fine art’ because it doesn’t fit the current theme of the art world. Those people are the new rule followers.

Be a rule breaker or a follower. I don’t care.

Art is whatever you want it to be. That’s the beauty of it.

You don’t have to follow anyone’s rules when making art but don’t be an a**hole.

Now that I told you there are no rules, I’m going to give you my list of rules for being an artist in a community. You don’t have to follow them, but they treat me pretty well.

  • Don’t declare your artistic preferences as superior to others. They are your preferences. They are not universal facts.
  • Don’t tell another creator how to make their art if they are operating contrary to your preferences. Do you want all artists to make things like you? That’s dumb. You should encourage diversity.
  • Don’t try to invalidate the work of another artist just because you don’t see the value in it.
  • Don’t let your ego dictate how you see another artist’s work.
  • Be a nice human.
  • Make art whenever and however you can.

Now go get messy and break all the rules if you want to.

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P.S. You probably know by now that I am here to help artists with these posts. If you need help with your online branding, Instagram account, or just want a creative accountability coach, then check out my consulting services. You can easily add a session to my online calendar now.


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