Ever hear about the theory of constraints and creativity? The design world discusses this idea a lot — the idea that when given limits, people are often more creative. Why? Because when we have a scarcity of options, we’re forced to work with what we have and act more resourcefully.
I like to explain it this way — I have a really hard time picking a Halloween costume. The number of options just paralyzes me. But give me a theme party, and I will DOMINATE. Maybe that’s just a skill-set I acquired during my sorority days, but I like to think it’s the constraints + creativity theory at play. ;)
Sometimes we need to work within certain parameters, self-made or otherwise, in order to wade through all the distractions and become reacquainted with our creative spirit.
Or at least that’s what happened to me in October.
In October, I quit Instagram.
I had been wanting to ease off for a while, but I finally gathered the courage after seeing a few friends do it first. I was tired of spending my days mindlessly scrolling instead of being fully present with my daughter. Tired of the constant barrage of beautiful images that I thought were inspiring but were really just making me want more stuff. Most of all, I was tired of the way I had hitched my worth as an artist to the number of little hearts below every art-related post.
The first day was strange. My thumb kept inadvertently traveling to where my Instagram app had been. I started to actually look around while waiting in line at the grocery store. I went on a 45 minute walk while Miles napped in the stroller and let my mind wander in silence the entire time. And in that stillness, the idea for this new collection of artwork was born.
After just ONE day of cutting out social media, I began to recognize the value of presence, stillness, and simplicity. I also started to realize how many aspects of my life are far too cluttered. Too many clothes in my closet, too many commitments on my calendar, too many product offerings on my website. With so much stuff, it’s hard to appreciate the value of any one thing.
Constraints lead to creativity.
I’m still sorting through how this new mantra will apply to many aspects of my life, but with regards to my art, this catalyzed a major shift. Retrospectively, it feels like I’ve been throwing a bunch of stuff at a wall over the past few years and trying to figure out what would stick. I put out so many different prints, blog series, and custom offerings — desperately trying to make myself feel legitimate — that it was hard to figure out what it was that I was really about. Along the way, I had completely lost sight of why I was making things in the first place.
I began to feel a strong desire to scrap everything and start over. So I did.
I wanted to go back to making art because it brings me joy. I wanted to paint pieces that I would be thrilled to hang on my own walls. I wanted to create fewer, better things.
And most importantly, I wanted to do it for myself. For my wellness. Because I love it.
Throughout the rest of my instagram-less month, I painted. I painted during Miles’ naps. I painted while she sat at the table in her clip-on high chair, smiling at me as she smeared mac and cheese in her hair. I even carved my new logo out of linoleum to create a stamp (something I haven’t played around with since high-school art class). Our house became a wreck of supplies, my hair became more and more greasy, yet my joy grew deeper. I relished in that amazing feeling of working hard on something that I was proud of.
And now, I’m so thrilled to be sharing that body of work with you!
The Constraints Collection consists of 19 original, one-of-a-kind paintings that I’ll be releasing on Monday, November 26th at 8AM PST. Most are on watercolor paper with torn edges. A few are on canvas. Some are large, some are small. All were created intentionally, thoughtfully, and by hand.
This collection was inspired by the outdoors — where I retreat to escape the clutter. Where I find such stillness, peace, and rest. If you end up taking a painting home, I hope that it will bring you the same sense of rejuvenation that I felt while painting them.
Please note that there will only be one available of each (no prints!), so check back on the 26th and act fast if you see something that you like. My email subscribers will be receiving a 20% off code on launch day, so make sure you sign up at the bottom of the home page by November 25th if you’d like to get in on that! I’ll also be giving away one original 11x14 painting on instagram this week, so follow along to enter!
That was a lot of promotion I realize, but here’s one of my greatest joys in this new perspective — if I don’t sell a single piece, things will be just fine. For the first time, I feel ready to put art into the world without reservation. Art that’s mine, a reflection of who I am and what I am experiencing, and I’m no longer constrained by needing it to be accepted, valued, and purchased by someone else. Ironically, it was this past constraint — the need for external validation — that suffocated me for too long.
I’m holding onto something Beau said to me a few weeks ago. I had been starting to think out loud about how I would promote and sell this new collection, worrying about price points, and getting caught up in all the stuff that takes the joy out of painting for me. Beau stopped me mid-sentence and said something along the lines of this — “Listen, nobody pays to watch me rock-climb. I do it because I love it and it helps me unwind.”
That simple statement changed everything. It allowed me to feel the freedom to do this for myself. If other people like it, awesome. If not, that’s okay too. Because I enjoyed the process of creating it so very much.
So what’s next? I plan to create and release small collections of paintings every now and then. Make sure you’re signed up for my email list and/or following along on instagram (yes, I’m cautiously back on it after my hiatus!) to stay in the loop about any upcoming releases if you want. That said, I’ll no longer be taking any custom illustration orders and my print shop has been thinned out considerably (in the spirit of constraints!), but you can still find my older art prints (stadiums, cityscapes, etc.) over on my Etsy shop.
So friends, thank you, thank you, thank you for being so supportive and encouraging over the past few years as I learned more about the value (and danger) of constraints. I appreciate you all more than you know.
Here goes nothing! :)