Saturday, August 4, 2012

Signposts and Guides for the Creative Life

"Creativity arises out of the tension between spontaneity and limitations, the latter - like river banks - forcing the spontaneity into various forms which are essential to the work of art or poem."

Rollo May, quoted by Christine Valters Paintner in the Artist's Rule

This is one of those quotes that I had to read and reread before it took root in me.  And this is how I I have experienced its truth.

We are constantly running into limitations. There is no perfect time for anything we want to do.  No perfect place, free from distraction.  We find our energies pulled into jobs, children, parents, friends, community - you name it.  How many times do we have a great thought but we're in the car without a pencil, or we are under a deadline for something more pressing and we lose it?  We decide we have a free schedule, a clean desk - and we don't have the materials we need, the colors we would like, the right tools. ( I've had that problem when I'm on vacation and feel this great urge to paint but don't like what I've brought to use.)  WE don't have the space to work on what we envision.

I knew an artist  who worked on  large paintings and collages.  When her children were born she only had short time periods to accomplish anything and she couldn't leave pieces lying around unfinished.  Her solution was to develop small pieces of work that she could complete in a couple of hours, that were easy to transport or put away as needed.  They were intriguing and affordable to many more people than could have bought her larger works.

I now keep a small pad and pen in my purse wherever I go - and if I have to, have pulled over to the side of the road to jot down a color combination, an image, a phrase that I want to bring back and work on later.

I've come up with some interesting things working with a limited palette - kind of like what Shannon proposes with her color palette inspiration.

I like this image of the limitations as river banks that channel you into places you might not have gone before.   What kind of pleasant surprises have you uncovered as you've faced some limitations?


  1. Great quote this week! Since I carry my phone with me everywhere, I'll jot down ideas on that. However, a lot of the times I find myself not going back to it. It's one of those things where you *think* it's a good idea at the time but then you sleep on it, revisit it and then you're not as excited anymore. For me, sometimes it just wasn't meant to be but at least it shows that my brain is still working. :)

  2. I think limitations put on creativity fuel the creation of things you would never have imagined otherwise. I love watching Project Runway and every week the designers have these crazy constraints put on them - last week they had to design an outfit from just candy! The results are so amazing and so different from what each designer would have envisioned without those constraints. That's why I love Shannon's Design Seeds color palette blog each week. It cajoles me into looking at my beads in a totally different way and what I create is outside of what I would have conjured up otherwise.

  3. This is so true. I'm used to doing these grand opera paintings, illustrations for fantasy book covers that would take me a month or more to complete. Now with the demands of my family I'm trying to work with small things and receiving some satisfaction with that.

  4. Like you Becky, I find myself turning this quote over & over in my mind. Very interesting food for thought.
    I speak into my phone when something hits me to save the thought for further examination later. It's about 50/50 that it turns out to be something I wish to follow through on.

  5. You've hit a sore spot with this one. It's a daily challenge. I need to get better organized, to rein in the jumble of ideas, plans, wants, deadlines, and steer myself and my work more efficiently and fruitfully. So, no words of wisdom from me on this one, but I appreciate yours, Becky.

  6. Becky, I've been thinking - this series of posts is really profound. How about pitching it to the main Etsy blog?? You can show how the series got started as a weekly team activity, and pose the quotes and questions to the entire Etsy community. Just imagine how many great responses there would be, in addition to the wonderful posts from our team here!

  7. that's a great idea, Elena! don't know if they'd be interested, but worth an inquiry. It would be fun to see how the larger community responds - I'm already appreciating how the other team members relate to these quotes!

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