• Ren Behan

A Method to the Madness

Updated: Aug 1, 2019

I often hear the statement that art has no rules.

Unfortunately, I have to disagree.


Oil paints cannot mix with acrylics, and graphite cannot cross over wax-based colored pencils.


But even when there are rules to how we use mediums, they can still be manipulated or modified.


Give actions purpose.


When it comes to painting, one thing is certain: Oil and water cannot mix.

But if I'm intent on using oil paints with acrylics, I should first plan to paint with the acrylic layers and then paint over them with oils. If I instead paint with oils and then the acrylics, my layers will dry improperly resulting in a flaking mess.


The Lost Optimist


If I want to use both graphite and colored pencils in my piece, I should plan my composition to include the two without having them cross one-another.


The Jay

Grammar is a medium too.


Just as an artist decides where to brush the paint on the canvas, a writer must decide what words to write on the paper - and how.






There are many styles and art forms to explore. Some art may appear chaotic and others may appear clean - some may be a combination of both.



Daisy Butt

However, even in chaotic pieces, there is actually a method in the madness.

Artists approach a canvas with tools, colors, mediums, and compositions in mind. While some may literally throw paint at the canvas, they are still doing so with intention:


What direction? How high and with how much splatter? How much spread? Do I want more of this color...less?


When we brainstorm, plan, or even just fly by the seat of our pants, we are imagining a connection between our ideas and the body of the book, and hopefully, with our readers.


Is there a such thing as too much paint on a single canvas? Commas? Repeating words? Maybe there is a flaw in the composition where the eye leaves the canvas, breaking focus. Perhaps a comma splice or a run-on is distracting the reader and severing immersion.

These results are not intentional and we strive to avoid them.


But with the right intent, rules can be broken.


Just as mediums, styles, and techniques can be mixed, a comma splice can create tone, sentence fragments can create emphasis, and passive voice can show importance.


But there is a method to the madness.


Yes, I say art has rules: but to make art, we need those rules, and to break rules, we need to understand why they are there. Rules are guides, but we are here to make something from them.

All art featured in post are original works of Ren (Lauren) Behan and cannot be reproduced without prior written consent.

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Recommended Resources:


The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.


Grammar by Diagram 2nd ed. by Cindy L. Vitto

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