“Puzzled”, 6×6, oil on gessoboard, $75 Buy Now

Started this one yesterday after trying (unsuccessfully) to finish a commissioned piece.  This is my “taking a break” painting, and I gave myself rules for it.  This is what my inner voice sounds like:

Ok, so, I’ll let you paint ANOTHER kingfisher IF

1.  You use only the colors already on your palette

2.  You use only one brush.  No little brush at the end.

3.  Start with the background

It was going okay, and I was feeling good about my self-imposed limits.  But I abandoned the painting until today when I revisited it and broke both rules 1 and 2 (only very slightly).  Even though I broke them eventually, I found my rules more freeing than limiting.  When I told my students to paint whatever they wanted, they often struggled or were lazy in their choices.  When I gave them an assignment, they quite often pushed it past its own limits.

In my creative writing class, we  played a game in which each student was given a limited number of notecards with random words on them (the words were all pulled from poetry books, so there is that.)  Students had to arrange the words into a line or lines of poetry.  This exercise generated some of their most beautiful verse.  When you have all the words you know available to you, it is difficult to choose the best ones and to position them in an interesting and compelling relationship.

For a couple years now, I’ve been contemplating creating a kind of on-line community where art students who find themselves out of school and without the burden/joy/frustration/possibility of assignments come to receive assignments and look at each other’s interpretations of them.  I wonder if one can be compelled to complete an assignment that involves no incentive other than the good feeling of creating and a few guidelines to make it possible?



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