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The Abecedary of Creative Confidence - C is for Constraints

I started my first daily drawing project on (or very close to, my memory gets a bit fuzzy beyond yesterday) my 39th birthday. I was scared about turning 40 having achieved not much at all (little did I know that the secret is that things get better after 40...or could it be after I started making art? Hmmmm? Also I know now - achieving schmachieving).

Anyway. I was a full-time mum with an 18-month-old and a four-year-old and I was going nuts. I needed to do something for myself but had limited time, limited energy, limited space, and a bunch of sweet sticky curious little fingers that wanted to wipe yoghurt on everything.

I could have used these factors as excuses. But I was so sick of my own whining that I was pushed to action. Yes, it was true that my situation was not conducive to oil painting, large scale sculpture, throwing pots or using bandsaws, but I worked within the given constraints, and it shaped the form that my art took.

I started drawing. In only black and white, so I didn’t have to make any decisions, I could just begin. I drew repetitive marks, so I could pick up my pen and work in any ten minute window I found in my day. I drew on paper the size of which conveniently matched the top of my fridge, so I could put it out of reach as needed. It was almost inevitable that my art would develop the way it did - monochromatic and meditative, pockets of peace I created for myself in toddler-driven days. When I look at it now, I see a snapshot of my life at that time.

Freedom sounds like the dream but the blank page is scary. Use constraints to give you fewer options, and use the luxury of no choice to free up your creative energy. Now my kids are 9 and 12, and I have a job and a mortgage - different constraints, but constraints that I choose (conscouisnly, every day) to create within. I get up at 5.30am to do my creative work, which is small to fit on a desk, fast to fit into my life, and often made with humble materials of paper, scissors and glue to fit my budget. It feels like it will be a snapshot of this time in my life.

Constraints are your friends - see them as a container to cradle your work, not a straightjacket.

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