Why I Like To Be Constrained

If you are into choice, western modern life is the greatest time and place in history to be alive. I am into it big time. Don’t want it taken away thank you very much Handmaid’s Tale. But for art making, if your entry point is anything it’s a bit overwhelming to figure out what would be worth doing.

Imagine you want to go swimming but just as you hit the water 13 beautiful options open up such as an infinity pool on a cliff in Malibu, a secluded ocean in Brazil, Raquette Lake in the Adirondacks and a hot tub with a hot companion. How could you choose? Even if you did choose you might ruin your good time by ruminating over the choices not taken. That is the problem with choice. It’s a time waster.

I have found I am much more productive as an artist if don’t have to think about what I am going to do during the time I’ve allotted to doing it. So I like a lot of constraint. I will only use alcohol based makers on 9 x 9 inch paper to make only abstractions. I will only draw faces in this little book. I will only draw faces with pencil in this other little book. I will only take photos of faces I make out of stuff I see while walking my dogs. And so on.

Of course at any time I really want to violate the rules I do. The muse is the most important part. If she’s pouring out than job well done. No need to play by the rules. But how to get to that elevated state on a regular basis? I find deep repetition works best, eliminating time wasting choices and getting down to making a whole lot of something similar so your style, your individual voice can emerge. It is through quantity that you can see if you are on to something.

I am writing about this because a super cool Insgramer named @trent_lindo recently commented that he was thinking of taking up painting and wanted to know if I had any tips or suggestions. I was at the doctor’s office when I texted back:

Trent Lindo text cropped 2

I never did finish.  Trent this is my finish. Thank you for inspiring me to write about this. As your photographs on Instagram show, you already know what I am taking about. I hope you have a lot of fun painting. If you listen to music while doing it, nothing is more pleasurable and you get a cool prize at the end.

2 thoughts on “Why I Like To Be Constrained

  1. I love this. Great read. When I’m plating dishes I usually have a general concept or ingredients I’ll use but it’s mostly all freestyle. Almost always I’m listening to some music, and different genres will yield a different result. Thanks for taking the time out to reply. Take care


    1. That’s great. I was thinking about your creativity with food and how you would already know exactly what I was saying. Your plating is the most artful I have seen. The food looks delicious but there is equally a measure of visual pleasure, composition and color and it all harmonizes. I am so inspired. Plating has never been my thing. I mostly make soup. But I am trying harder now. If you do start painting I would love to know how it’s going.


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