The Value of Creative Constraints

Fireplace mantle and pierced cherry relief of hiking mountain man and raven.

Why Creative Constraints can be an Artists Best Friend

Our tendency as humans is to resist or avoid constraints.

As an artist, there are times when creative constraints are a welcome thing.

I was lucky to spend four summers in the ’70s One of the valuable skills I honed there was the ability to make variations on a theme.

It’s served me well throughout my career as an artist. Also, in building projects, working with iterations of my inventions and life in general.

At Pond Farm, we were taught the value of creative constraints.

Once we learned to make a particular form on the wheel, Marguerite had us make a board of six or so variations of it. All with a recognizable relationship, each with its unique character.

From there, she chose one, and we repeated the process.

Constraints can be the very foundation of creativity, spurring us to delve ever deeper into its source.

A unique setting and your aesthetic vision for it each offer their own set of creative constraints.

When you combine them with my artistic sensibility and experience, the ideas begin to develop.

The aethers take shape into something unique, something that wouldn’t have been realized without this creative synergy.

This unique alcove setting inspired an added dimension of depth, with the waterfall coming over the edge and into the living space. 

The short timeframe for completion of the commission provided another creative constraint responsible for the spontaneity of the design.

Engraved steel wall piece of a grizzly bear chasing a ground squirrel who escapes on the back of a golden doodle.

Here, the client’s interests, the peaked space, and the trim colors all contributed to the design of the wall sculpture.

Fireplace mantle and pierced cherry relief of hiking mountain man and raven.

I saw this design in the masonry grout lines. Not wanting to hide the beautiful stonework was the catalyst for developing the technique of ‘drawing’ with forked boards.

Large wood and metal wall art of a fishing bear with the sun shining from behind on rock chimney wall.

The mountain setting, the chimney shape, and the materials at hand were the creative constraints for this heat colored steel, maple, and chestnut bark wall sculpture.

Another idea for a decorative coffee table

What is your setting calling out for?

Starting with a clean slate and dreaming up new concepts or designs ‘unconstrained’ is a necessary and joyful experience for an artist.

It’s just that guidelines and constraints provide a foundational starting point for directing creative energy to new heights.

Creative constraints needn’t be a limiting factor. On the contrary, the field of possibility only broadens in their presence.

I wonder what creative constraints might be imposed by your vision for a space where you spend your life?

Take a quick photo, then hit reply and send it with a description of what you’d love to see there.

We’ll see what the creative aethers conspire to reveal.

Jeff Dean after installing Through Your Spotting Scope, the first percent for art project in Alaska State Parks.

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