Want to Be More Creative? Embrace Your Limitations

Posted on by Beth Negus Viveiros
At the conference, Hansen asked luncheon attendees to draw a series of postage stamp sized sketches. The next day, he revealed an image of Chewbacca he created out of the tiny sketches, to illustrate his technique of assembling art in unusual ways.

Accepting your limitations and rethinking your creative approach can lead to innovation in marketing or any field, says artist Phil Hansen.

When Hansen was young, he embraced the painting technique of pointillism. He loved how it looked, but the repetitive technique of creating images out of small and steady dots tool a toll on his hands, resulting in permanent nerve damage.

At first, he thought he would need to give up his life of art. But one doctor suggested he “embrace the shake” and think of new ways to create. It wasn’t really what he wanted to hear at that point, but as an experiment he put paper on the wall, and started to make scribble pictures. He realized he could still be creative, he just needed to find a different approach.

In Pointillism, the dots are visible when you are close to the image. But when you move further away, they blend together to great the image. Hansen took on this idea in a bigger scale, doing things like dipping his feet in paint and creating images.

“For the first time in my life, I embraced my limitations and realized that could drive my creativity,” he said. “I started to wonder if I could create limitations.”

For example, Hansen had purchased new art supplies, thinking that would inspire his muse. Instead, he tried focusing on found objects, using things like cups at Starbucks as his canvas to create images. And, he used things other than paint to create. For one project, he asked people to share their stories and then wrote them on an enormous canvas, turning them into a picture.

Hansen, who spoke at the recent Brightcove Play event in Boston, has done numerous commissioned pieces, including work for the Grammy Awards and to promote Disney Pixar’s “Cars 2.”

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His cramped studio inspired him to not only create art, but create art that wasn’t meant to last. He spent two weeks making an image of Jimi Hendrix out of matches, and then videotaped the 120-second process of it burning away. Another project was a portrait of the late singer Amy Winehouse, created out of frozen red wine, which was gone when it melted.

To give the audience at Play an idea of the feeling, he showed a video of a painting being created. Then, he asked people to tear up the cards left on the seats into tiny pieces—and then revealed that the cards were pieces of the painting they had just seen be created.

When the images are gone, Hansen says, he felt refreshed and ready to start the next project. “It helped me let go of failures and inperfections—I was unencumbered by results, and was thinking about what was next.”

People who create need to realize that there is a difference between limitations and self-limiting beliefs. Limitations are things that are put in your way, while self-limiting beliefs are things people put in their own way.

“We develop ways of viewing the world that sometimes we can’t even track,” he says. “Embracing the shake is about embracing your attitudes about yourself. There are solutions to every problem, if you’re willing to open your mind.”



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