Perspectives on limitation

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A cartoon by Hugh Macleod,

Creativity is a big deal to me. It is central to how my mind works. For me creativity is playful – there is no question that the kid in me is alive and well, it just so happens that the playgrounds change and I have discovered more of them.

I was musing on one of the author descriptions in The Big MooHugh Macleod. Among other things Hugh spends his time drawing cartoons on the back of business cards. My first thought was, what an interesting use of limitation. Anyone who has taken a decent college level art class will known what I mean.

I remember back to the summer of 2003 when I entered the Rhode Island School of Design pre-college program. My focus was photography, but they expose you to a sample curriculum to help explore the possibilities. One of the best parts was looking at the illustration majors. Every piece of work was enormous, sometimes 5 x 7 feet. It impressed upon me that I did not have to feel confined by someone else’s notion of size – in this case the 19 x 24 Canson Bristol pad. So, Hugh’s decision to work with a smaller format evoked a similar inspiration.

The back of a business card is one of the best places to take notes about anything. It is small, so thoughts need to be crisp – a creative distillation process in of it. If I use my card and it is ever lost, I have a chance of actually getting it back.

What I love most about Hugh’s business card limitation is that is artificial. He can obviously render ideas and I bet has done so on larger pieces of media. It is a creative concept. What happens when we place artificial boundaries around our creative process? Does it help focus our ideas and expressions? Do we lose something that the RISD illustration majors are gaining? If we consciously impose a set of rules, do we need to pop back out to make sure those rules still apply and are helping and not hurting or is it the fact that we are conscious of imposing the rules that keeps us aware that we are not really limited?