Creativity knows no bounds… but it does work better when there are some constraints!

I read an article last night in the Globe and Mail, written by Russell Smith. I agree with his musings. I have seen students grow in their creative endeavours when there are constraints placed on them, a few rules they must adjust to.

Art is like surfing. Art is also like cooking, jogging, yoga… art is like surfing, because you have a platform on which to stand. You must balance this platform on a shifting and volatile surface. You balance, and sometimes you fall off. It is a rush. You normally survive these falls, and get back on that platform again. You have experienced a fall that is actually an opportunity to learn, provides some exciting fun, and is an integral part of the activity itself.

What I’m musing on is that those constraints are good, sometimes within those constraints you can grow and expand (think outside the box… it is a six-sided structure, and when you think hard enough you can bow the lid off one of those sides, now you have a five-sided box bursting with ideas.)

I have applied unnecessary rules to my own art, when I found that it was becoming unruly. I needed some sort of guidance… and I found it in poetry. I used strict poetic forms and applied their rules to painting. I ended up creating cohesive works, works that were easy to exhibit together. 

one of the poetry paintings (Click to see more of the poetry paintings!)

The most surprising and indeed creative classes I took in art school were the ones where we were made to create in a way we hadn’t thought of before. An example: we would make our own drawing tool, and it must be over six feet long. At the end of the three-hour session, we all had created our tools, and had done some pretty remarkable drawings! Even constraints like: “use no red”, or, “only use imagery that starts with the letter G” can seem arbitrary yet force you to think…

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

Natasha can be reached at for workshops in team-building and creativity