The Case of the You-Shoulds

My art is almost always black and white. Some people tell me to do more in color. Some people make it clear they would like my if it were in color.

I like color, but I don’t like what I do with color. Not when it comes to real paper and ink. But I’ve been playing around with my work and Photoshop Elements. Part of me feels that this is cheating, that somehow it’s not real art. But the original image is mine and the choices I make for changing the work are mine. Does that count?

I have a friend who is militantly against Photoshop.

I don’t think she’s seen what I’ve done.

But they’re fun to do, and I hope that some of them might become cards for sale by Plum Tree Books. It’s a hope. We’ll see.

Writing is similar in a way. You write a particular way. Your stories might be dark or light. They might make people cry or make people shout. And so some people might say, “You should write a story with a happy ending.” “You should write about serious topics.” And maybe the real question they’re asking is, “Why aren’t you writing for me?”

I’m reminded of when I overheard a lady say to an artist, “You should do paintings of dogs.” He nodded politely and said, “Yes, ma’am.”

I wonder if the people so filled with “you-shoulds” that they have let them spill onto other people aren’t really talking about themselves. They aren’t doing what they wish to do, so you need to do it for them.

What do people tell you to write or to draw? Does it bother you? Do you ever follow their suggestions? Or are you the person who tells others what they should do?

15 thoughts on “The Case of the You-Shoulds

  1. soziebird

    Marta, I hear this often hanging out with artist friends … at gallery receptions, the grocery store, at a movie … wherever .. people commenting on what they should, and should not do. . . they just don’t get it. There is a place in the world for black & white & color and I JUST love the places you create !!!

  2. I don’t listen to should’s and shouldnt’s, I think them destructive to art. I love your pen and ink drawings…the black and white is so brave and distinctive. Really iconic. I believe in being true to our uniqueness.

    1. Thank you, Niamh. I love black and white and will always work in black and white. It is fun to step out with Photoshop and play with color, but black and white is what I love.

  3. I’ve hear a few ‘you should’s over the years. Once, when an acquaintance heard I was writing historical fantasy, she blurted, “Do you think you’ll ever try to write some ‘real’ stories?” Funny, they feel like real stories to me.

    I was so stunned, I just shrugged and said, “Maybe someday.”

    1. Wow. ‘Real’ stories? I tell myself that these people miss out on so much because of their limited view. Whereas those of us who enjoy stories without worrying about what is or isn’t ‘real’ have so many more worlds to visit an explore.

  4. “Yes, ma’am.” Haha! I’ll have to remember that.

    I’ve really loved the writers’ workshops I’ve belonged to, but even in them I constantly had moments where I’d think, Wait — sure, I could do that, but then it would be the story YOU’D write! Even having published some stuff, I sometimes read negative reviews and wonder why the readers didn’t stop to think what I was trying to accomplish, and review it on that basis, as opposed to demanding that I should have tried to accomplish something completely different. Sigh…

    1. A long time ago, when I had written only a few chapters of my first novel, someone in my writing group (a group that is no longer around) made a comment about a character that went something like, “Oh, I really hope this character isn’t going to do ______ because that would disappoint me.”

      I had actually considered that very thing, but then I couldn’t. And so that character never did. But I don’t know if perhaps she should’ve.

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