Oil and water do not mix because, well, they are oil and water. This is a rule. We made a cliché out of it, so it must be a rule.
And yet, it is not a rule.
Oil and water can mix. You just have to screw around with it by adding another component to the mix…an emulsifier. True, this isn’t the same kind of mixture as blue Kool-Aid plus red Kool-Aid makes purple Kool-Aid, but the colloidal suspension of oil droplets in water is still a mixture.
So what about combining oil painting with water colour painting? Anathema, you say. They are two distinct media, you cry.
So what, I respond.
Because we’ve never seen it done (or at least, I haven’t), doesn’t mean that it cannot be.
Each medium offers its own strengths and limitations, and magnificent works have been created with either. Is there a way, however, to enhance those strengths, moderate those limitations by combining the media within a single work?
Every day, new rules are created, new schools of thought founded that try to define a panoply of Art forms. This is good, as these institutions form the parameters in which new Artists learn and understand their craft.
Can you imagine the panic of being told to go make art and being given nothing to do so: no instruction, no media, no resources?
And yet, those very institutions can strait-jacket the unwary and the unthinking, as rules become commandments rather than guidelines. When any attempt to step outside of the school is med with derision, contempt and blinkered exclusion.
The very congresses and champions established to support the growth and evolution of Art can easily become the prison wardens of that Art, confining aberrant Artists in an attempt to petrify the one true form.
(By the way: The same is true for Science, where journals and textbooks are rife with examples of explorers being squashed for daring to suggest something that didn’t fit within scientific canon.)
It would be naïve and harmful to suggest that rules should not only be broken, they should be shattered. If you wrote a novel using numbers rather than letters, you might find a very small audience for your work and little understanding from peers. There is much to be said, however, for grazing, nicking or wounding the rules.
Rules should be constantly questioned, viciously challenged if Art is to evolve. Without such a challenge to the nucleotides that comprise our genetic material, we would not exist and the planet would be lifeless.
But just as we demand mutation and adaptation to facilitate Artistic evolution, so must we accept the other half of the Darwinian equation. Only those most fit to survive will. The majority of mutations and adaptations will be for naught and that Art will perish.
It is a harsh reality, but look at what it has wrought in just 40,000 years since humans first applied colour to walls.
All this to say, break some rules. Test the limits. It is your evolutionary destiny as an Artist.
(Images are property of owners and are used here without permission and against the rules.)