Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Coloring Outside the Lines

My business partner Lisa has two nephews and a niece who like to come visit her when she's at Roadhouse Arts. I think they are captivated by the idea of art and a special place in which to make it. (So am I!!)

On one of the cabinets in the teaching space, we painted the doors with a chalkboard paint and they have featured a variety of things from class notes and instructions to a simple welcome. For the past several weeks, though, we've all been working around two important messages the kids left for us last time they visited.

Lisa asked Carson to explain this one to her. "It's where we're all supposed to color inside the lines, Aunt Lisa!" Lisa said she didn't particularly care for that message. Carson looked at her square in the eye and said, "Aunt Lisa, art happens outSIDE the lines."


At the point, his younger sister decided it was time to explain the "real" rules from her art class at school.

For "good" art:

1. Make sense. Blue suns don't make sense. Red suns are better. Yellow suns are best.
2. Take your time. Sloppy trees aren't good trees. The middle one is better but the clean, straight, plain one is best.
3. Color in the lines. (This one is self-explanatory.)

I suspect there are a lot of us out there sticking to some version of these rules and trying to figure out the "formula" that will make us successful or bring us some kind of validation, when we are longing to just color outside the lines and find our own voice.

So here's a challenge: what two things in the "rules" category of your creative life could you just kick to the curb in favor of adding two things that involve coloring outside the lines? Yes, yes, we run small businesses and there are some mandatory things that go along with that. I'm not suggesting you stop filing your sales tax returns or abandon the idea of having a marketing strategy. But are there things you're doing just because it's what everyone else is doing? Are there things you dream of making or trying that make your heart lift? Are there ways you could just... stop striving and start creating?

Pick two. Then start.

Until next time -


  1. Oh my word, how I needed this message today, Miss Francesca! I have longed to write a book. I stop myself because I don't have the time to devote to it. About 3 years ago I was even asked by editors to submit proposals. Then a lot of messy life happened. It seems to flare up every time I try to pull that special file out. And then I get asked to make things that really are not 'me'. I need to get past this and claw my way back to the path that I was forging. I am doing a bit of that right now for a huge gallery exhibit that I am the host artist for. My desire all along was to bring these art jewelry pieces to life using metal, flame, patina, etc. But the messiness of these past three months got in the way of any time in the studio. So I am going back to the simplest basics - wire forming - inspired by one of my favorite artists, Alexander Calder. Made a prototype last month. Working on refining the process (quite quickly, I might add, as it is due for the professional photographer before I leave for Bead & Button). I need to finish at least the largest piece this week and can add more when I return. My fingers are numb just thinking about it! There will be a lot of coffee infusing my veins as I work into the wee hours tonight. I might not be any closer to writing that book (actually, books) that is in me, but I am one step closer to following my artistic heart. Thank you for sharing this message, and for helping your young ones to erase that negative notion of what art is. Hopefully you will have her coloring outside the lines and making blue suns soon! Enjoy the day. Erin

  2. Two very bright children. :)
    I must confess that I used to a fanatic about staying within the lines . . . meaning that my jewelry was extremely traditional and honestly a bit boring. When I began to toss the rules aside, using colors that I might not normally employ, not trying to make everything so symmetrical, so dull and uninspiring, I discovered that jewelry can indeed be lively, fun and unexpected.

  3. Great post Francesca! The older I get the less I worry about "perfection" and the more freely I express myself. Smooshing clay is my current dream come true.

  4. I do not stick to rules unless it is needed for thread path in my work. I have to say that because I get inspiration from an artist component the "lines" don't apply although I will have to admit that when I am forced to follow all the steps I get frustrated.


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