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Natural wonders: exceptions to the rules



There is little doubt that we are a society of laws, rules, and procedures. Signs and instructions confront us at every intersection and border on earth. Written permits are pertinent to people seeking permission for public activities, or to obtain a driver’s license, or to go fishing. Paper records are involved in being born and dying, too.

However, in some cases there are exceptions to the rules, especially in the realm of art and photography. At an art exhibit I had noticed a nice landscape painting with two evenly sized shrubs rather side by side, which is usually avoided by artists for the sake of composition, but the reply I got was to the effect that “rules are made to be broken.”

You have great leeway in painting pictures, and indeed there are exceptions to the norm, at least in art, but an officer is not so tolerant with a traffic violation!

Adherence to rules applies to photography, too. “Avoid bulls-eye composing; keep red away from the edges, use the ‘thirds’ structuring.” Those are some of the general approaches, but sometimes having the subject in the middle works best. Going with what works best often works best, especially for experienced camera people.

Actually, a rule was not made to be broken, but to be modified in the name of creativity if appropriate. A rule is also mostly a direction for beginners.

One year, the Artists of River Town Co-op in Oroville featured a judged art show in August with the theme of “Crowded.” The objective was contrary to the general rule of “simplify,” and participants had to shift gears and plan accordingly.

You could say an art gallery is crowded, or a mall, or the roadways, or even a tree with a million leaves, or a murmuration of starlings. Expressing your idea in a compressed two-dimensional plane is the challenge.

I recall that Vincent Van Gogh painted a flock of black crows in a yellow wheat field with some success (a couple million dollars for that one these days — a couple hundred years after he painted it when there was not even an offer). Picasso often managed organized chaos too.

The realm of nature often seems chaotic, especially in the cosmos where asteroids, meteors, and comets are whizzing around with seemingly no guidance, yet, there is general order throughout the universe on the larger scale.

The formula for genetic continuation has exceptions, too. Human babies have been born with deformities, or two joined together in a Siamese Twin type of condition. Before surgery was advanced, two girls that were connected at their backs went on to become famous as dance performers playing accordions.


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I remember a hairy, gorilla-like man at a carnival sideshow, and of course, bearded ladies!

I made a painting of a two-headed turtle, which is contrary to what a turtle ordinarily looks like. Inspiration was gained from an article in a newspaper featuring the rarity and the story about it being a “smile ambassador” to audiences.

Exceptions to the rule of growth, such as the turtle’s extra head, seems to occur more in reptiles than other animals. Two-headed snakes occur quite often, but like the handicapped turtle and other malformed animals, they usually don’t survive long in the wild where survival is triumphed by the fittest. Those found and caught become a curious oddity when on display where they survive through care and protection from predators.

At the Oakland Nature Center, we had a two-faced cat stored in formaldehyde, and there were constant requests to see it. We know that some lizards can grow new tails and salamanders can generate a new leg if one is lost, but a frog being born with an extra leg in front was also in the archives.

Be thankful if you have two legs, two arms, and one head. That is all you need, even though it might seem appropriate to have two heads in this age of electronic complexity!

“There are no exceptions to the rule that everybody likes to be an exception to the rule.”

— Charles Osgood

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

— Pablo Picasso


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