“If you don’t have a struggle already inside of or around you, you have to make one up.”
Jack White, The White Stripes, from It Might Get Loud
Part of my artistic process involves inventing problems or creating restrictions. Be it the boundaries of a grid, a limited palette or consistent type of material, I find that setting limits makes work more interesting and challenging.
Recently, my limits have invited imperfection. Like sewing with only eyebrow scissors and cotton twine and thin silk fabric. Or using Sharpie Markers in the car on a bumpy ride to NJ.
It’s not that these sketches are remarkable in any way, but for me “messing up” and having to deal with not being able to be precise (which one can never be) is thought-provoking. I realize that worrying about precision (or imprecision) was making my work stiff and lifeless, and that figuring out how to compensate for inadequacies gives me something to sink my teeth into and engages my mind as well as my hand.
Children at school most often have limits set for them by teachers. Think about the kind of formulaic projects many children are subjected to in school–from paper turkeys and snowman to labeling the parts of a plant; the only real problem involves imitation, which implies precision, and so a 3-year old’s spontaneous drawing of a turkey would be ‘wrong’ because it does not match an ideal. Not only is this kind of work tedious and uninventive, it is demoralizing. It also robs children of the chance to tackle, in small doses, overcoming obstacles and designing inventive solutions.