The limitations and parameters we place for ourselves in the studio can have both positive and negative effects on our work. Like so many aspects of art practice, the challenge is to find a personal balance that suits us—in this case somewhere between being too rigid and too scattered. What rules do we set for ourselves and how well do they serve us? Are there rules that we accept from other people that don’t suit us, personally? Can our own helpful boundaries shift over time?
We use many words to describe these boundaries, including focus, intentions, parameters, focus, and rules. When we speak about giving ourselves "permission" to go beyond these boundaries it is a recognition that sometimes they can be too limiting. But if we don't sometimes break through what we regard as our own rules, we may not take important creative risks that would be beneficial. At the same time, a narrow focus leads to mastery and depth. So, in the end, the balance between risk taking and staying with a particular focus is an individual balance, and one that changes with our current situations.
It's useful to take a close look at what rules we set for ourselves, where they originated, and how much value they have for you. Some are ideas passed along to us by parents or teachers and represent a one-size-fits-all, narrow point of view, while others from your mentors may be wise and worth following, A lot of rules from others are so integrated into our thought processes that we never even think to question them. Good rules will not feel like heavy restrictions, but instead offer ways forward.
Our personalities also create limitations, and we may rely on them to stay in a narrow comfort zone. For example, we may believe that we need to keep our work to ourselves or that we should not stretch in terms of exhibiting or approaching galleries. Some artists inhabit the other end of the self-esteem spectrum and believe that they need to charge high prices or do not ever need input from others on their work. There are also perfectionistic tendencies many artists struggle with that tell them they are not allowed to fail, to experiment, or spend time at things other than their art.
Which rules that you follow might better be regarded as guidelines or general advice rather than rigid facts? Which ones are helpful and practical?
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