Monday, 1 December 2008
This article was first published in my newsletter "Notes From My French Easel" – September 2008. Follow the link to subscribe to the newsletter .
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the French philosopher, said that “Obedience to the law that we prescribe to ourselves is freedom” (“L’obéissance à la loi qu’on s’est prescrite est liberté.”). This statement was made in a social and political context, but it applies equally to an individual artist.
Creativity and innovation thrive on constraint. An artist does not create outside constraints but transcends them.
At an initial stage, the artist assimilates the rules of his craft and art. He discovers the material he his using and the rules of good conservation. He learns, work after work, to get the best out of the material and how he can use particular effects to shape his artisitc vision. He studies the masters and learns from other artists.
After mastering the rules, the time comes to break them and see what happens. This is the wonderful journey of discovery.
Finally, the artist recreates the rules, he writes new poetry out of old words. He makes the craft look effortless, he creates his own constraints to stretch his artistic boundaries and express himself. It is like a game of constant renewal, while still being trully personal and particular.
The truth is that limitations encourage creativity. The mind needs focus to excel. Give your mind a centre of attention and it will respond. Leave him into the wild and it will wander with no aim and no result.
How can you get your mind to react creatively:
1. Paint or draw something you never painted before.
2. Chose an unusual format to work with (a square canvas or a very long one for instance).
3. Paint with only three colours.
4. Remove from your palette your favourite colour.
5. Try a new medium.
6. Listen to a piece of music and paint what it reminds you of.
7. Make a drawing or a painting of a childwood memory.
8. Paint a canvas with only one big brush.
9. Take a small canvas, set a timer to 60 minutes, and aim to complete the painting within that time.
10. To find new painting topics, take a piece of paper, write the numbers 1 to 10 vertically on the left side, followed by the words “I will paint…” and complete each sentence. Your mind crave for completion and this will force your brain to come-up with answers (this is the technique I used to draft this list of ten items).
Creativity Creative exercise