Keys to All Creative Crafts: Rule #1
by Ross Boone
March 19th, 2015

Over the next few posts, I’m going to share with you Creatives a few rules I’ve stumbled upon for making great art. 

(I’ve made thousands of mistakes, but so that you will still listen to me for a sec I’ll tell you about a few times I actually got it right. Some of my products can be found on the shelves of retailers like Lowe's and Home Depot and have been on TV commercials (:19). I have done graphic design that has been used on national PR campaigns of Fortune 500 companies. I made a music video that has over 11,500 views for Vintage Trouble, a band that’s played on Letterman, Leno, and Conan and opened for the Rolling Stones and The Who. My friends and I did an animation that was presented to the decision makers of Atlanta. This blog got over 2,000 views in two days and I’ve written and illustrated several novels and kids books that are on store shelves!) 

So after all the mistakes and successes, here is #1 of my top 10 rules of making great art that I’ve found seem to span all creative crafts:

1. Value: Unbury gems and polish them. 

I used to think creating great art involved producing something from my head out of nothing. Since then I have discovered that the process is much less about me. It is much more akin to stumbling upon gems that touch something deep in my heart, digging them up, and then polishing them into a form that people will love, too. 

I’ve found that the gems are often the things we most longed for, or loved, or most feared when we were kids. If you cry in a movie, at church, with a counselor, in the mountains, or when you hear a song, it’s a pretty good indicator one of your gems is hidden in there. And it almost always comes back to being a glimpse of an abundance or scarcity of something beautifully transcendent within humanity. 

Do you remember Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree”? The drawings were plain and the writing was simple but something in the story is tremendously powerful for most of my friends and me. The famous priest, Brennan Manning, claims that Shel was an old friend and that that book was Shel’s attempt to describe God’s undeserved love for him. The polish on that gem could be almost transparent because the gem was so compelling. 

Wikipedia says that Modern Art is “art in which the traditions of the past have been thrown aside in a spirit of experimentation.” Of course experimentation with new methods is great for creativity but I think we miss the point if we throw aside the gems too. I think there is a reason that themes like bravery, friendship, love, sacrifice, and determination are sometimes considered cliché. It’s because those are the ones that all generations have realized reach deep and change people, and therefore they get used a lot. Let's experiment to find new ways to tell these things and deeper ones like them with more creativity and culture-savvy excellence. Let’s polish them in new ways that will make people pick up these gems and wear them close to their hearts, adopt them as part of their identity, and live a richer life that believes in the deep layers of meaning that were built into us by our maker. (Many of the following rules will help us do great polishing.) 

Sneak peek at the other rules: 

1. Value: Unbury gems and polish them 

2. Awareness: Don’t grow pot in your basement 

3. Audience: Don’t call your girlfriend fat 

4. Pure Beauty: That bird’s got bugs 

5. Passion: Feed your monster 

6. Focal Point: Give them a paper weight 

7. Patterns and Variations: If life is a series of roads, give me some windows to look in 

8. Storytelling: Give all art the guts of a joke 

9. Details: Dress your art to the T, even if it’s skateboarding clothes 

10. Brand: The singer has to be as cool as the song 

11. Bonus rule: Not gonna reveal this one yet, but it contains the lesson of Rule #8

This post and others in the series, were first published here:

I don’t have a TV, or a clue about sports, but I have a big imagination. And Jesus and I are working things out. This is my journey of rediscovering the world and reweaving it in my own words and images; this is how imagination is rescuing my faith. 

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