Shop Talk

Open Discussion: Does Working within Constraints Help Your Art?

Since we’re in the thick of the holiday season here on Redbubble (and pretty much everywhere else on Earth), I’ve been thinking about the artists in our community who look at these crazy times of the year as opportunities to get the word out about their goods. I think, in addition to journeying across the potentially treacherous landscape of self-promotion, the secret to seizing these moments is about having something to aim for, or as the question in the title of this post says, “working within constraints.”

Sometimes having no targets to aim for can be freeing. Do what you want. It’s a wonderful thought, isn’t it? But that leaves you with a lot of responsibility, especially when it comes to answering the question: how do I get started? Some folks are great at this sort of thing. Some people can say, “I want to make art.” So they make whatever art pops into their brainspaces and it’s wonderful and makes them feel like they’re floating in a sea of super fluffy kitty cats or something.

But what about the people who are allergic to super fluffy kitty cats?

What about the people who say, “I want to make art” and end up spinning their wheels, racking their brains, and doing all kinds of other cliched things that mean “you ain’t goin’ nowhere”? What about them? Do those people need a little kick in the pants? Do they need self-imposed deadlines? Do they need someone to tell them to make art featuring some trending winter styles? Do they need to know that the biggest shopping time of the year is tumbling toward them and it’s time to get their shops and art in order? Do they need to know about shipping deadlines? Do they need constraints?

In 2013 Slate interview, musician David Byrne perfectly explained this idea:

"There’s kind of a process of evolution that goes on where the creative part of you adapts to whatever circumstances are available to you. And if you decide you want to make pop songs, or whatever, there’s a format. You can push the boundaries pretty far, but it’s still a recognized thing. And if you’re going to do something at Lincoln Center, there’s a pretty prescribed set of things you are going to do. You can push that form, but kind of from inside the genre. So I guess I’m saying that a lot of creative decisions are kind of made for us, and the trick is then working creatively within those constraints."

So what do you think? Does “forcing” yourself into boxes labeled “subject matter,” “time,” “medium,” etc help or hinder your work? Do you need to be as free as possible to create whatever your muse dictates? Does a nudge in the right direction send you running through endless lands of creative brilliance? Are you able to, as David Byrne said, “adapt to whatever circumstances are available to you”?

Let us know in the comments below.

"Last days" by swin

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Jen Durant

Redbubble Artist Relationship Manager