“The enemy of art is the absence of limitation.” – Orson Welles
Do you need some good news today?
Let me tell you about an artist I just discovered on the TED screen. His name is Phil Hansen, and he is pretty dang incredible. As an art student, Phil used a particular pointillist style he’d developed with great success. Tragically, because of the intense hand movements required to make all of those perfect little points, he suffered permanent nerve damage to his hand.
Instead of creating tidy little dots, his hand could only shake and scribble. He was so devastated, he walked away from art school and the art world entirely for over three years.
Of course, the longing to create art never went away. So, he decided to see a neurologist. That appointment was a life-changing one. While discussing his need to make art, Phil’s doctor confirmed that the nerve damage was indeed permanent and then asked him a simple question:
“Why not just embrace the shake?”
From that day on, Phil started embracing his limitations to create amazing pieces of art.
Embrace the Shake
As busy, intentional moms, we are living a life that is full of “shakes.” We (sometimes literally) jump over obstacles and endure constant detours on what we can do and when (even how) we can do it. Having the title “mom” is an honor and privilege. But, gone are the days (at least for now) of leisurely waking up with the sun, eating breakfast and enjoying a day of uninterrupted creativity. Little people depend on us. We have lunches to pack, diapers to change, laundry to do!
So how can this season of what looks like barriers and relentless to-do’s increase our creativity? How can we “embrace the shake?”
Can I Be an Artist and a Good Mom?
There was a time I felt guilty for making art a priority. Sitting and drawing amid the chaos of a messy house or knowing in the back of your mind that loads of laundry are waiting can feel pretty selfish. But, I’ve (finally!) come to realize that creativity matters and art equals happy people. Of course for me, so does a clean house (but at this stage, art lasts longer ;)!). I can’t ignore the real (and usually urgent) demands I have. But, I’ve found that because of demanding motherhood, my creative time is more focused (it has to be) and purposeful. Motherhood is full of inspiration, and it’s full of limits. That combination has helped me do some of my best work. Maybe embracing the limits can help you too!
What has Worked for Me
I’ve compiled a list of a few self-imposed limits that have worked for me. Maybe you’ll find some of my ideas helpful, if you have any to add, please share in comments below. Here goes:
Set a timer:
It may be a doodle in your sketchbook while you are waiting in the carpool line. Maybe a few rows on a knitting project or 150 words in your writing journal. Set a timer and see how much you can do during that given time of pure creative focus.
Limit Your Palette:
Pick one-to-three colors and limit your palette to only these. You can apply this to painting, sewing, drawing, decorating. Anything!
Limit Your Canvas Size:
Small paintings have changed my art life! I have a stack of 5×5 canvas’ just waiting to be used. I love the flexibility and freedom they give! These little guys take away the worry of wasting a canvas, and I can usually get something I’m proud of done in under an hour. They also make great gifts!
Create a Magic Bowl:
I love Ria Sharon’s idea of a magic bowl. Just create a list of possible subjects of inspiration, write them down, cut them up and put them in a bowl. Select at random a paper a day and go for as long as you can!
Focus on One Subject:
Pretend you’re back in school and focus on one topic that really interests you. In our homeschool this semester we are learning about the five senses. Every couple of days I share a fun book or two about whatever the topic is that week. We try a quick and easy experiment and then move to the table to draw and write about what we learned. This is working for us! (Isn’t it exciting when you find something that actually works?) I am learning so much along with the kids, and it gives me a focus for my sketchbook. Think about what you have always wanted to learn about and dive in!
Apply Limitations to Other Areas
I’m amazed at how this principle works in so many other areas of life. With homemaking duties, for instance, I try to remember Parkinson’s law, “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” and give myself limits on time to do a bathroom or complete the laundry. Setting a timer or only focusing on one thing can make a big difference! It works for kids’ chores too!
Creativity can THRIVE even in the midst of crazy, awesome, motherhood. We just have to “EMBRACE the shake!”
I’d love to hear from you. How are you “embracing the shake” today?