Freedom (c) Marika Reinke 2015
Freedom (c) Marika Reinke 2015

Constraints and Freedom

“I always finish a painting in a day – max 2 days” she said.  And I thought Wow.

“I can work on a painting for up to 6 months.” was my response.

We both looked at each other in awe.

The creative process takes many forms and there is no one right way.  But lately, I have been exploring my limits and then pushing them.

What  if I’m abusing the seemingly Unlimited and Abundant?  In this case – Time?  So I experimented.

I sat down and painted these three 12″ x 16″ watercolors with these constraint;  paint for 2 hours max and when the time is done, you are done, no fixing, no double backing, no thinking about it – You Are Done. 

Here is what I learned:

Constraints paradoxically Facilitate Freedom. Without a time constraint, there was actually too much to consider and too much time to think about it.  I moved forward from stroke to stroke without doubt because there was not time for doubt!

Constraints provide Focus. With a constraint, I knew I had to finish and with that tension came precision in my artistic decision making.

Constraints encourage Experimentation. Knowing I had to finish on time, made me more likely to try some things I wouldn’t have before and to follow my instincts as I painted.

Breaking Down Limits yields an Abundance of Creative Energy.  Since trying this experiment, my work has exploded and creative blocks have disappeared.  I’ve grown more appreciative of my technical capacity and believe in my ability to do this work.  And I more implicitly trust my artistic instincts.

I’ve come to regard the practice of painting with constraints like writing freely in a journal.  Set a timer, choose the colors and just paint, see what happens, follow your instincts, Let Go and the world opens up.


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  1. Ann – I’ve not been around much and it is so nice to see you online again. Post what you come up with – this was such a transformational practice for me. I’ve actually piled up more work than I can blog about in one sitting. So many stories!

  2. That´s so good to hear! It shows in your pictures that there has been some release. They are full of life, that´s wonderful! I´m afraid I will need a bigger sized paper or canvas to try it out… My papers are usually quite small.

  3. Thanks Eileen. It is easy to get in a comfort zone and be blind to it. This has inspired me to look for more blocks, maybe a personal mission? It is great to see you online again!

  4. Thank you, Marika! I’m so glad you’re noticing improvement. I am really loving my faces challenge! I hope to go way beyond 100, and continue to study faces all year! Your encouragement means (and always has meant) so much. Thank you.

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