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Labels restrict function.

There's another consultant with whom I work who said to me the other day that he would never accept a permanent position with a company. He likes the people and what he does, but he doesn't want the fetters that come with a job description. He can leap corporate hierarchy and talk to managers up and down the chain about anything that he thinks worth noting.

Today, we were struggling with a problem at work that we've had for a while because it occurred to us today that we were constrained by the labels we placed upon the functions. Labels are nice. They quickly convey a complicated idea, but because they are prepackaged, they contain limits.

I'm getting a lot from Betty Edwards' book on Color. She talks of the notion of "Color Constancy," which is the idea that an orange should be, well, orange. But if you look at an orange in the light, it's white and yellow and brown in the shadows. Probably other colors too. But Color Constancy limits a painter from succeeding in their work.

It makes me think of "People Constancy," which would be the idea that people should fit into convenient buckets formed of our experience.

This Constancy thing, it's hard to scrub it from our brains. Betty mentions in the book that one painter in the 1800's would bend over and look at the subject of his painting through his legs, which made it easier for him to see the object as it was and not how he thought it should be. When I paint, I can look at the object and study it hard, but then the minute I turn my attention from it to the paper, my brain takes over and tries to convince me that red onions can't be yellow. In part, I worry about the impression that others might have, like when a child is laughed at for coloring someone's face red or purple. I wonder if that's what prevents people from painting... the impressions of others at their work.

I expect that I limit people to certain expected colors... like when my first graphic for "Left-Wingers" was a burning flag. The concept conveyed a concept, all right, but a very limited concept.

I find that painting has to be wordless. It's hard, sometimes. I wonder if I'm not wordless enough with how I view others. "Wordless" implies listening, I suppose. No labels.


Tags: relationships | betty edwards
by Brett Rogers, 3/23/2005 1:05:26 PM


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