There are no rules in art

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connection

Making art is about getting curious, experimenting, having fun and seeing where your ideas, mistakes and practice takes you. There is no one set way for how things should look. You don’t have to make a thing that others will think is ‘good.’ We’ve been taught we should always aim to be the best, get the highest grade, gain praise or approval from our peers, teachers or bosses. But you can let go of all of that when you start making art.

You can bend, move and break any rules that you think exist. The artist Helen Frankenthaler argues “There are no rules. That is how art is born, how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules. That is what invention is about.” Invent your own way of making art, draw whatever you like and pay no attention to any invisible rules you’ve been unknowingly following. There’s no ‘best’ award for making art for fun, no one-was-fits-all approach and nobody needs to like what you do.

No rules means more creativity and if you’re looking for permission to do whatever you like, this it it right here.

The strange pull of curiosities

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connection

“Let yourself be silently drawn to the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” — Rumi

How can you use your strange curiosities as inspiration for your art? Find robots fascinating? Draw them. Obsessed with a song? Play it while you make something. Got a favourite colour? Use only that colour. Hooked on a tv show? Draw while you watch.

If you don’t want to draw fruit in a bowl (because you’ve decided that’s what you should be drawing) then draw your passions. Make things that interest you. Don’t believe you have to draw or make art a certain way.

Whatever your loves, let them help pull you closer to your creativity.

How to make patterns with everyday objects

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connection
Created using a circular piece of metal

We love to feel prepared before trying something new because it’s not easy putting ourselves in an unknown situation. It’s uncomfortable. When making art you may think you need to go out and buy lots of ‘good’ art supplies but what if you used what was already in your cupboards at home?

In The Runaway Species, Anthony Brandt and David Eagleman talk about raw materials used for creativity “Human creativity does not emerge from a vacuum. We draw on our experience and the raw materials around us to refashion the world.” What if part of the fun was exploring everyday objects to see what marks they could make? In this experiment you do just that and because you don’t need to buy anything new, you can get started straight away.

You will need: paper, paint, a plate and household objects of your choice. Ideas to start you off: cutlery, rubber bands, corks, cardboard, sponges, string etc. The list is endless. Use one paint colour to keep things simple. If you don’t have any paint, use coffee. You can experiment with adding more or less water make it lighter or darker. Use a plate to mix your chosen paint and allow you space to dip your objects onto.

  1. Take your chosen object, dip it in your paint
  2. Experiment making marks!
The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connection
Left: Created using a small piece of plastic. Right: Created using a fork.

Different objects with create completely different marks. The marks made above by a fork required it to be dipped more frequently into the paint so a slower mark-making approach was created. This experimental approach to making marks creates an intuitive way of working as you test making different sizes, shapes and how much paint to use. There is no right or wrong way to make marks, just make them and see what turns up. By using unorthodox painting tools, you lower your expectations around how ‘good’ the marks are. So if you use a fork to paint, you instantly have lower expectations compared to when using a paintbrush.

Flora Bowley
 in Creative Revolution talks about creating in a kind of “ambiguous territory,” when creating work without a firm plan of where you’re headed. That you will be rewarded for your bravery to “create with no map” and “opening yourself up to the unknown can also be invigorating and deeply revealing. By experimenting using tools where the markmaking results are unpredictable, it allows you to safely let go of outcomes so you can focus on the playful nature of exploring. As Bowley suggests, “the more you flex your brave intuitive muscles, the easier letting go becomes.” Have a look around your home and see what you could use to experiment making your own patterns and marks.

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connection
Created using a small piece of plastic

“Good scientists, like good artists, must let their minds roam playfully or they will not discover new facts, new patterns, new relationships.” By allowing yourself to playfully create new patterns using what exists around, you opens yourself up to other unknown possibilities.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Creativity: The Psychology of Discovery and Invention

In defense of not taking action

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connction

What if not taking action in the form of forced decisions and ‘busy-work’ for the sake of feeling productive, is actually the best thing you could do right now? Instead of the hustle and forced striving, you went with the flow and followed your curiosities gently, with no sense of rush?

Reading, dreaming, talking about your area of interest is all focus and holds so much power. We underestimate the value in thinking more consciously about how you want to show up in the world and what you want to create. It’s enough to be present and gently focusing. When it’s time to take action, it will feel exciting and you’ll do it naturally.

What could we create is there were no limits or rules and the goal was to follow your joy and pass that message onto others?

“You might spend your whole life following your curiosity and have absolutely nothing to show for it at the end – except one thing. You will have the satisfaction of knowing that you passed your entire existence in devotion to the noble virtue of inquisitiveness. And that should be more than enough for anyone to say that they lived a rich and splendid life.” – Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic.