Embracing Limitations

Two colorful paintings in progress, on a table surrounded by art supplies

Last weekend I was listening to the latest episode of the Art Juice podcast. Alice and Louise discussed limitations in the art-making process.

Over the past year I’ve been working under a self-imposed limitation of black and white only. Much of my artwork has leaned toward the monochromatic for years, but this time it was more deliberate. In action, it’s whittled itself down to primarily black ink and little else.

A little background: Last Spring, I took a painting course. It was a fantastic course from which I learned a great deal. But I soon found myself I found myself wanting to master everything that was taught. I put myself under self-imposed pressure, and found myself aiming purely for ‘finished’ results.

The result was overwhelm. I forgot to take things slowly, to let curiosity and experimentation guide me. 

It stopped being enjoyable.

Black and white ink painting of pine trees on a snowy mountain

So I put away all that color.  

I’ve been working entirely in black and white since last April. I go slowly, enjoy the process, instead of trying to race to a result. By eliminating the need to make decisions about colors and color-mixing and all that that entails, I can focus on things like pure mark-making, what brushes and tools I prefer, and which kind of substrate I love most. 

So many decisions being made in such clarity! Working from a narrow place, it’s much easier to find the way forward.  

How do you feel about limitations, or lack thereof? Let me know in the comments. 

More thoughts on art next time. In the meantime, you might enjoy watching some of my process videos as I splosh ink around 🙂 

2 thoughts on “Embracing Limitations”

  1. I feel similarly about photography. When I’m editing photos I almost always convert to black and white because knowing how to manage the color is overwhelming to me. I love the color and I appreciate people who are able to get it just right…but I find myself blocked by the complexity of it.

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