Limitations often get a bad rap. We tend to think of any constraint as a negative thing, restricting us from having all the options we need and impeding our success.
Both kids and adults are prone to pushing back against boundaries. It’s human nature to think that having all the options will offer us the greatest opportunity.
But ironically, it’s the reverse of that – especially for kids just learning how to choose between all those options. Having no limits on the choices they could pursue can quickly overwhelm even the most creative of kids.
It’s no accident that Art teachers will assign projects with specific instructions about size, media, subject, and a problem to solve. These restrictions actually free kids to be successful by giving them a place to start from and a specific goal to work toward.
Art at Home vs. Art at School
I’ve heard many parents say that their kids produce better artwork at school than at home, and here is why.
When making art at home, kids are likely to have more freedom with their choices than they would in a classroom setting. As a result, it’s easy for them to default to generic formulas that have worked in the past. Why take on a challenge and risk it not working out if you don’t have to?
Of course, there are times when inspiration strikes with a project idea and the result is magical. But more often than not, having zero parameters for an assignment is the equivalent to staring at a blank canvas with no idea of what to do with it.
Add some “limitations”
So instead of broad, open-ended assignments, give kids a specific problem to solve with their project. Then limit some of their choices, such as size, media, subject, etc. Make sure to put a time limit in place with a due date, too!
To help students narrow down more of their options when drawing from life (or still life), have them use a viewfinder to select their best composition. For more about viewfinders, see my post here for a viewfinder you can make, and here for a good one to buy.
an inspiring quote:
“Design is the intentional solution to a problem within a set of constraints. A designer is someone who can do that. A problem solver. Someone who knows how to listen to the people who have that problem, work with them to solve it, and make sure the solution has the intended outcome.” ~ Mike Monteiro
Designers are problem-solvers. Correctly identifying a problem can be half the battle. Sometimes the real problem is hidden behind what someone only thinks the problem is. Asking good questions and listening well is the best way to get to the heart of any design challenge.