Hello Artists! I hope everyone enjoyed the holiday weekend, especially Small Business Saturday. It’s super important to support local art supply stores in your community, so please remember independent retailers during the holiday shopping season.
If you’re in the San Fernando Valley, I highly recommend Continental Art Supplies in Reseda. They carry everything for serious artists with a selection stocked full of goodies you won’t find at Michael’s. Their prices are reasonable and the knowledgeable staff will happily help you choose the right tools for your creative projects.
Speaking of creative projects, I just finished a sketch you might find inspiring. Not the illustration itself, but the concept behind it.
The benefits of creative limitations
“The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.” – Orson Welles
Right now you might be thinking, limitations? Creativity is about freedom and no restraints! And you’re right in the sense that creativity is partly about exploring and pushing boundaries. At the same time, I think it’s highly beneficial for artists to embrace self-imposed constraints. When I say constraints, I mean adhering to themes, rules, and limits in your work to stimulate your imagination.
For example, here’s a vector art piece I created as a Valentine’s Day gift for my husband a few years ago. I challenged myself to create a flat style design in Adobe Illustrator using a monochrome color palette based off Pantone’s Strawberry Ice.
Or take this mushroom illustration from my sketchbook. I drew variations on the mushroom shape to cover the page, and filled in the shrooms with patterns and line art. For the inner designs, I made sure to avoid outside inspiration, such as my Zentangle book or related websites, other artists on Instagram, etc. This method certainly requires more effort than copying patterns or practicing techniques from others. Yet I believe you’ll discover the results speak for themselves as you’ll have a highly original illustration in the end.
Now I realize these challenges may feel daunting to beginners and hobbyists. Your personal projects needn’t be as complex. In fact, my latest constrained doodle began on a whim. I opened up my sketchbook and started drawing rows of squares on the page. Then I drew spontaneous doodles inside the squares, in true Zentangle fashion.
Constrained drawing ideas and prompts
Ready to stretch your imagination and incorporate creative constraints? I’ve taken the liberty of brainstorming ideas to get you started:
- Change your drawing routine. Do you always sketch in black and white? Switch it up by drawing in color for a week. Color lovers, try the purity of black and white for a week instead.
- Create an illustration based off repeating a single shape or form. This would be like my mushroom sketch pictured above because it contains only 1 subject drawn numerous times. You’ll be amazed at what you come up with through repetition.
- Turn off your phone when you draw. I know it’s tempting to glance at your phone when you get stuck. After all, you already know your device acts as an instant cure for creative blocks. But constantly reaching for your digital device kinda trains your brain to shut down rather than engage in problem solving. If you’re not operating under time constraints, then I say unplug and let your imagination sort things out.
- Draw a photo or object from memory. A difficult task to test your realism skills as well as improve your retention.
- Give yourself time limits. I find time limits to be a fun way to focus on speed. As you know, it’s tough to draw well under pressure. Racing against the clock may motivate you to pick up the pace, but it also teaches you how to work within your means. You’re obviously not going to create an elaborate illustration in 15 minutes. Yet with a little practice, you’ll be surprised at the level of detail you’re able to produce within a short window. Personally, I prefer timed drawings on smaller, travel sized sketchbooks as opposed to my standard 9 x 12. The smaller sized pages appear inviting and not overwhelming, exactly what you need to let loose.
What’s your favorite exercise in creative limitations? Share your ideas and tips in the comments below!