“The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.”
– Orson Welles
Freedom by Restraint
If you limit yourself, you can become really creative.
When you’re searching for solutions to a problem and you have to stay within a predetermined set of parameters, your brain starts coming up with different ways by default. Those are often better than conventional ones, and many inventions were made when there was a limited number of resources available. It’s no different with art.
i2 has put herself on a very specific restraint on how she creates digital paintings. She uses only a small variety of the same black shapes for all her art. She chose these shapes to be her design tools, but she asked herself how long it would take before she would run out of ideas.
• How many pictures can be created by using the same design elements over and over again?
• How many different styles?
• How far can creativity go?
It’s sort of an experiment that got started by chance. You can read the story below for an amazing insight.
“Before I forget the story and its details, I better write it down, so here it is.
My brain is always in motion. Really, always.
It creates images, concepts and new perspectives literally all the time. Then it offers that stuff to me like a cornucopia on a triple caffeine shot.
Even during sleep it’s on auto pilot, doing its thing. No theme park, psychedelic drug, or the wildest imagination could possibly compete. (Before you ask: no, I don’t do drugs, not my cup of tea.)
A wild ride though, and I’m totally cool with it.”
A dream that brings itself to life
“It was March 19, 2021, an average day. In the middle of the COVID pandemic.
I had been working on my Love & Peace website for some time, but I’d reached a plateau and was in need of some temporary mental distance from it. I needed to regroup, so I could better organize all pages and deal with the technical glitches that seemed to be lurking around every corner.
Installing hundreds of items and categorizing them to where it would make sense, requires razor sharp focus and even more so, if you’re not using a template or a specific commerce platform plugin. Or a developer, for that matter.
Introducing Ingrid 2.0
After going to bed and on the cusp of falling asleep, my mind suddenly produced a very colorful image. It somehow sparked my interest enough to clearly visualize it and memorize most details. That composition was still there the next morning, staying with me all day long and it never really left my thoughts.
Two days later, I woke up in the middle of the night. It was 1:45 am.
(My erratic sleeping pattern is nothing new, and it happens almost every night. Most days, after getting up this early, I use my PC to do research, update my social media, play some games or work on my site. Then I get tired enough by 6:00 am to go crash a bit and catch up on those Zzzs.)
I was wide awake and super alert. Frustrated about my insomnia, and with that dreamy image nagging me to record it, I went on my PC and decided to create it from memory, as well as I could.
It’s the picture below. I named it ‘Birdie Plays Soccer’. Just a random title, really.
Birdie Plays Soccer
During that night, while the best husband in the world was sound asleep, I had a super good time putting that image onto my virtual canvas. It came very close to the fantasy picture from two days before, but I had only limited tools to create it.
An old version of MS Publisher.
Gawsh. Yeah, I know. But that’s all I got. No graphics or paint software at all.
Using freeform shapes, auto shapes, squiggly lines and a preset background scheme, each component was made individually, in a different size or with varying line thickness.
Pretty simple, nothing to it.
Once that picture was finished and I was satisfied with the similarity to the one in my dream, I noticed how much I enjoyed playing with these basic design tools.
Then something happened: I realized that I wasn’t done yet. I wanted to create more.
But there is more, because less is more
Yes, I wanted more. But with a twist: not fast, and not easy.
Let me slow down and make it harder.
How about all those shapes I just created for my dream inspired art? Can they be ‘recycled’?
What if… ?
I wondered what would happen, if I would rearrange the same shapes I used in the first picture, to compose something entirely new.
It would force me to be more creative, but also more thoughtful and deliberate.
I was limiting myself to use only those shapes from my first artwork
Copying and pasting the exact same shapes, without introducing new ones. However, I would allow myself to change their size, flip, rotate, duplicate, stretch or alter the line thickness.
That leaves a mixture of organic shapes and lines, as well as geometric, static components. It should be enough to compose some interesting art.
Oh, and the shapes have to remain black in color, but they may be filled using either black, textures or one of the preset color schemes. Or a photo.
These are the ONLY shapes I’m using:
Copyright © by Ingrid Webster. All rights reserved.
It would be similar to a “Mr. Potato Head®”, where you have a finite number of parts to choose from, but you can make different figurines each time. Now I have my box of shapes so to speak, and I can try and come up with as many pieces of art as I can think of.
Pretty limiting, but exactly that confinement will set you free!
When you look at my images, you will encounter any or all of these shapes in all of the individual pieces of art. Some more, some less, but no new shapes.
“i2” is simply one of the shapes I used randomly, and it’s the only one that includes a letter or number, nothing fancy. But it’s also the only shape that appears in every image. I adopted it, and so it became my signature and artist alias by sheer chance.
Try to do something similar: create a few shapes and reconfigure them to make something different each time.
You can even draw them on different color paper and cut them out, then arrange them into anything you like. You’ll enjoy being creative, and you may even create art for you to keep and display proudly!
In the end, it’s all about your own fantasy, and how far you allow it to take you. Go fly, my pretty one!”
i2 (Ingrid Webster)
(Note: since this article was written, i2 has introduced various new type faces and auto shapes to “Harold’s Universe” items only. This made it possible to add text, hearts and call-outs to the Harold vignettes and cartoons.)