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Rule-breakers rule art world

As I write this column each week, I think a lot about what is going on in the arts community and how to get the word out. I also think about what it means to be an artist and how artists relate to others in their communities.

What makes an artist an artist?

Well I think that is an interesting question and one I have contemplated often in the last few years.

I had never considered myself an artist. My art teachers would probably have never called me an artist. I did not take naturally to paint and drawing per se. It was hard for me to make things look realistically when I drew or painted, and I always wondered how artists could render people and landscapes so accurately when I struggled to master basic drawing skills.

I did not attend art school. I was a theater student who longed to be a professional in my chosen field of costume design. That apparently meant learning how to draw.

What I had in my favor was that I could sew. Since I was 14 I was sewing and dabbling in crafts and needlework for several years before that time. Fabric was my chosen medium, and I was obsessed. It inspired me and drove me to create.

Landing a scholarship in theater put me in Louisiana State University Department of Theatre’s work study program. I got to choose between working in the lighting department, scene shop or the costume shop. The costume shop was a natural fit. Six months in, and I had chosen my path.

Thus began college classes in art where I floundered. I did not excel. I made it through, but some of the teachers seemed flummoxed by my technique or lack of it. However, there was one teacher who figured me out.

While the others were mastering pencil and charcoal, he handed me sharpie markers and let me do my thing. When he discovered I sewed he asked why I never incorporated that into my projects. I said, “I did not know I was allowed to do that.” He replied, “You could have asked me.”

I was so timid and afraid to break the rules because I did not realize the rules were meant to be broken. And for me that is one of the characteristics of an artist: someone who is not afraid to break the rules.

As I look at artists whom I admire, it is clear that they either purposely broke tradition or did not know the traditions in the first place. Thinking outside of the box has always been how I viewed things. I just did not think I was supposed to view them that way.

I spent most of my life until recently trying to fit myself into a prescribed manner of seeing. I am now allowing myself to see the way I naturally view things. And so did Van Gogh, Picasso, Klee, Kandinsky and many others. Rule-breakers … all of them.

ANDI BEDSWORTH is owner of Art To Go, which brings free art opportunities to children in the community.