cold wax and oil paint

Putting Yourself in a Box.

You often hear people say "think outside of the box"! For artists it can be helpful to put yourself in a box. Limiting what you use is a useful way to push the boundaries and discover new ideas and ways of working.

I often work with constraints in my art practice as a way of getting new ideas, warming up, or painting when I don’t feel like it. Using an exercise of limitation and constraints can make you a better painter!

Limiting your tools, colour palette, size, and the amount of time to create your painting can have beneficial results. It forces you out of your comfort zone.  It can be a way to experiment with a certain brush or tool and really get to know what it can do. Or try new colour combinations or techniques.

Here is a constraint exercise that I often use for myself and when I am teaching workshops.


  1. 2 colours plus black and white

  2. 2 mark-making media: eg pastel, Woody Stabilo, graphite, charcoal, etc. l

  3. 2 tools - eg. brush and scraper

  4. I pattern - eg, collage, stencil, or stamp (if using collage glue will be needed as well.

I invite you to do a quick study series whether abstract or representational of 4 - 6 small pieces. You can work on them simultaneously or one at a time. Give your self a time limit of 5 or 10 minutes each. This will keep you from overthinking! I  often tape off a full sheet of paper into 6x6" squares and work on all of them at once. 


Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.