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Musings on Design


Ocean Bottega Interiors

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Break it​!


​​How many times have we heard, the only reason worth knowing the rules is so you can turn around and break them? In every aspect of our lives rules dictate most of what we do or don’t do including the kind of designs we create. As a newbie to art and design I knew nothing except what I liked and didn’t like. I’m not one to be told what to do so the apparent lawlessness of art really appealed to me. While I had an eye I didn’t have consistent results or a voice of my own. 

I became the classic country music cliche { Nashville is my new favourite COVID-19 Netflix binge! }. I had a big break up and found something to fill the long and empty hours. I walked the city endlessly and then one day stepped into an art store. I bought some pencils, a pad of paper and a book on how to draw. A running joke between me and my Mom is that you can learn anything from a book. I know I’m dating myself. That’s what we did before Google!

It wasn’t long after I was enrolled in an art class and then another and another. I realized I could put myself through art school if I really put my mind to it. I love a challenge and that’s what I did. In the process it dawned on me I knew nothing about art. The truth was I didn’t understand it. I couldn’t see why more knowledgable people thought something was great or even interesting. I had no language for why something was good or not because I was unschooled in processes, theory and the rules of art.

My first stop at the library was to gather books on Art Therapy. An interesting choice I know. I’m sure my degree in Psychology led me there first. As it turned out it was a great place to start. It helped me understand the intuitive nature and meaning every person brings to their art whether they realize it or not. Wow! It changed how I looked at everything. 

I hate doing anything badly so it wasn’t long before that wasn’t enough. More importantly my art was bad. More trips to the library later I realized I really needed to learn the rules of art. My art got better and so did my life. A marriage and a family and the realization drawing and painting were not for me

It turns out I’m not good a being still. From an early grade I was the kid who had their desk placed beside the teacher. Not just beside but touching the side of her desk where she could keep an eye on me full time. No chance to roam the classroom and distract everyone in it. Interior design seemed the perfect solution. Everyday is different, you need lots of energy and you can use your design skills in 3D. I’m living the dream! Turns out the rules of art are a superb foundation for interior design.

Every artist, at some point in their journey, will ask, Is this any good? How do I separate myself from the pack? How do I break out of my rut? The answer to that might be connected to your willingness to break those hard learned rules. Back to the library where I read many books on creativity. It turns out there are lots of ways to break the rules and have great designs. Interestingly I read that one of the more prevalent ways genuine innovation occurs is from an industry outsider. This is because that person has no sense of the conventions that govern the chosen industry and is able to think in ways free of influence. If you don’t know what the rules are you can’t follow them. If you want to break out from under try something different. If you’re a photographer try to draw your subject. If you draw try painting. If you paint try to build something. If you have a burning interest pursue it. The bonus is you’ll find new creative connections and insights as well as breakthroughs. 

I had an art teacher who used to say if you aren’t happy with your art change your medium. Each medium has it’s own characteristics and it’s important to understand what they are and whether they’re a match for your personality { I make my case! }. An example of this is the difference between water colours and acrylics. Water colours require some planning because once laid resist change. Acrylics dry quickly and can be painted over making them perfect for the impulsive. To inspire innovation you might choose a medium that suits your personality better or break that rule and choose one that’s contrary forcing you to think differently or adapt in a fresh way.

Sometimes breaking a rule can be as simple as doing the exact opposite. My hair dresser used to say, to keep fresh and ahead of the curve she would do the opposite of what all the other stylist were doing. Do the opposite of what ever you are doing now. Using soft and harmonious colours? Try discordant and aggressive colour. Painting small? Try huge canvases. If formal is your style try something playful. If you’re used to having a vision and prepping everything in advance try to let your project evolve in a natural way by deciding on materials as you find them. 

If there is a rule that drives you crazy embrace your crazy and look for a work around. Pick a rule at random and explore all the ways you can break it. If you don’t typically follow the rules change your game up and follow the rules! Being willing to break rules can help you defy conventions and create something entirely new. Having a good understanding of the rules can then help you evaluate whether or not your new works are getting you where you want to go. 

Thought for food

Make a list of all the rules that you feel the most restricted by in your creative life. Use this list as a spring board for change. Document your journey by setting up befores and afters. How do you feel about the change? How do you feel about the rule you broke? More respect? or Never needed ya! 

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