This week we’re looking at rules and seeing whether we’ve absorbed some that are holding us back. Thinking of this has been quite revealing for me. I don’t have a lot of “shoulds” or “shouldn’ts” about composition or settings. But when it comes to subject matter there is one big constraint. All my creative efforts have been constrained (and at times crippled) by the rule that the subject has to be important or relevant. The question the trips me up time after time is this one: What is a worthy subject?
When I was a teenager I went through a phase where I was concerned about the worthiness of my conversation. I decided I didn’t want to participate in small talk and I would only speak when the subject was relevant and worthwhile. Needless to day, there wasn’t much to talk about most of the time!
Later on when I took on the study of painting I ran into the same dilemma. I couldn’t paint just any old thing. I had to find a worthwhile subject. Still life? Too many people did that! Landscapes? Boring. Portraits? Too conventional. You see where this is leading, I’m sure. I was unable to choose an appropriate and worthwhile subject for my artwork. For a time I did abstract art but even that was tough because I kept finding reality creeping in. This rule had the effect of stopping me from painting for many years.
Photography is turning out be a way out of this box for me. I can use the camera to snap a photo of something that catches my eye. It doesn’t have to be a worthy subject—just something I see and like.
This photograph is an example. It’s a plastic wine glass on the bathroom windowsill. The subject is mundane but something drew my eye and so I went for my camera and took a picture of it. It's very exciting for me to be finding my way beyond my self-imposed rule about relevant subject matter.