Say Goodbye to Overwhelm (The Power of Constraints) – EP 286

When the studio becomes an overwhelming place for artists, it may be time to apply some constraints to your creative process. Constraints are often viewed as things that limit options within our art practice. However, they can be the key to freedom and creativity in our work. On this episode, I’m giving you an inside look at the constraints I’ve placed on my current 100 Day Self-Portrait Challenge and my thought process behind them. I’ll also share some ideas about how to use constraints in your own art practice to get the results you want.

Outline of This Episode

  • [0:37] Finding beauty in constraints
  • [3:49] Deconstructing my 100 Day Challenge and the constraint of time
  • [11:20] Applying constraints to subject and keeping ourselves in curiosity
  • [19:35] Expanding your mind and curbing overwhelm through constraints

Time flies

As artists, the idea of having all the time in the world to paint whatever we want feels like a romantic one. I certainly thought so when I left my job at Disney to pursue art for myself. But as it turns out, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. I never realized how helpful the constraints of my previous projects helped my creative process. Putting constraints on the time we spend on our art forces us to make necessary decisions. I can’t spend forever setting up or deciding what to paint if I only have 90 minutes a day to create a self-portrait. Constraints on time force us to be intentional with our studio time. One of the most important things you can do to ensure you are growing your skills and thinking is to set intentions for your work. Making the most time consuming decisions in advance will help you get to work the moment you step into your studio.

The best offense is a good defense

Everything you create starts in your mind. Including the things you don’t want to create. The biggest thing you can do for your art, progress, and success as an artist is to cultivate and curate how you think about it. Every time we decide to do something in our studio, we should also consider what thoughts will stand in our way. The best way to “stack the deck” in your favor and get the results you want is to decide beforehand how you will respond to the things your brain will throw at you. I know that in the next 100 days, I will have days where I don’t want to paint. Where I’ll want to put it off till later or use other things going on in my life as a reason to break my commitment. Deciding my response ahead of time means my primitive brain doesn’t get to boss me around like a fussy toddler. I control the situation before it even happens, and I can gently guide my brain where I need it to go.

Opt out of boredom

Another great area to apply constraint is subject matter. When I first decided to do this daily painting challenge, I thought I would just paint whatever popped into my head. But a conversation with a fellow artist made me realize that boredom is a major pitfall of an unclearly defined subject. Placing the constraint of doing only self-portraits forces me to get increasingly curious about the subject matter and ask better questions about my art. What do I love about the paintings? What can I learn about line, texture, and shapes? What do I want to discover about myself as I create these paintings? Keeping myself curious means deciding ahead of time that I will bring fun to the project and that boredom is not an option. I only get bored when I think there is nothing to be curious about. When I think I already know the answer or have done it before. We opt out of boredom when we choose to focus on what we can do with constraints instead of what we can’t. Listen to this episode for more on how to use constraints in your art practice!

Resources Mentioned on this episode

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