Breaking Rules

18th mansion: drawn & inked
Originally uploaded by anselm23

One of the things that I’m learning about the rules for laying out the pages in my notebook according to medieval rules, is that there is sometimes benefit to breaking them — as I do here on the right-hand page, with the ogival/Gothic arch that contains the snake. This isn’t the best layout I’ve ever done, but it’s in part about learning to break the rules, even though I’m just learning them.

Talking with my friend Craig’s friend Allegra over the weekend, we got into talking about margins and fonts, and she pointed out that the standard computer word-processing margins of 1″ on all sides are pretty terrible. They’re ugly, but they’ve become the norm. The margins here are not necessarily perfect, by any means, but at the same time they’re interesting, in part because they deviate from the normal rules.

So… if I follow “medieval margins” rules, and break those rules, am I breaking our rules and inventing my own, or breaking their rules and leaning towards ours? Am I playing with conventions and norms? Am I making art according to my own rules?

How much of what we teach children these days are really hard-and-fast rules, and how much of what we teach are actually rules of thumb? How much of what we teach is determined by rules laid down by computer programmers and computers?

Time was when there were a range of such rules of thumb, and people had to learn all these rules of thumb by experimenting with drawing lines on blank paper or parchment…. and as I do these exercises, I wonder what we’ve lost by moving away from this kind of training?

18th Mansion: inking the frame


  1. […] Plateaus. We all have them.  I think I’ve hit one in my tai chi practice.  Sure, I’m slowing down my form, with some difficulty, and moving through the positions with greater dignity and less speed.  It’s hard, and some of the forms are causing me to tremble a lot.  But I’ve yet to encounter a movement or a posture that makes me want to give up or give in.  I think that’s important.  But I haven’t yet found which rules I can break in this practice. […]

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