Restriction as a Tool for Creativity

Feb 01, 2017 at 07:07 pm by Barbara Din

I've always fought constrictions and limitations. From work schedules to dressing codes, I've always felt the need to be as free as possible. This applies to my art as well: I'm constantly trying to get out of the purist box of any medium or technique, and this has led me to interesting outcomes.

But, some years ago, I realized that as much as I was trying to bring tools and ideas from the outside of whatever I was doing, I was missing something: the thorough exploration of the inside, by adding restrictions. This can not only lead to interesting results, but can also help you get out of creative blocks while giving you new experiences.

You don't need to use this permanently. Freedom is good and fun! But exercising some restrictions every once in a while can be definitively helpful.

Here are some ideas for you to use restriction as a tool. Hopefully, these will help you and inspire you to come up with some of your own.

Only one type of line

Use only straight lines to make an artwork. If you explore this enough, you may find new ways of making the illusion of curves without using any.

Uncommon media

Try painting (or drawing) with just coffee, or wine, or Kool-Aid, or even use sand to cluster it into a picture. Better yet, try thinking of something you've never seen used before (these examples have all been used already)!

Time limits

Set a timer and make some sketches. You can go as little as 30 seconds if you want! You can also make full paintings by limiting yourself to 10 or 15 minutes. The end result is not the goal here, but what you can learn in the process. There are some artists that make this a challenge and upload it to YouTube.

Bonus: Take bad or unwanted situations as a challenge

I've been having many of these lately. Two days with no internet at all, for example. But this helped me make more art stuff and really concentrate with no distractions (I'm sure we can all relate to the distractions of social media!).

Tonight, I'm writing this on a piece of paper because there's been a blackout. At first, I was really annoyed, but then I realized that painting by candlelight was strangely interesting: with no possibility of seeing colors all that well, I started mixing and using colors that I normally wouldn't.

Challenges like this can lead to many new discoveries that could even end up as a series, or a whole new style! I read an article once about several renowned jewelers whose signature styles were developed after accidents or mistakes.

The moral of the story here is: don't let any stimulus pass you by, even those that seem bad at first glance. Use them as an opportunity to try something different and expand your horizon!

Have you consciously used some type of restriction before? Do any new ones come to mind? Let me know in the comments!

Barbara Din is a visual artist, graphic designer, painter, interior designer, crafter, musician and writer living in Argentina. You can learn more about Barbara and her work at the following links:

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