"Limitations breed creativity"
We only solve problems when we are faced with them and with this in mind I enjoy setting new challenges for myself.
I sometimes set myself what others consider to be unnecessary restrictions but I think of restrictions as positive. They force me to think and work in new ways. When I'm free to do what I want I have a tendency, as we all do, to stay firmly in the safety of my established comfort zone. Once I construct challenges for myself I find that the limitations, rather than limiting what I can do, actually increase my skill, productivity, knowledge and understanding. Why wouldn't you want to do that too?
So, for example, thinking about the areas of painting I want to work on identifies weaknesses which help me determine what to do next. Say I want to simplify my paintings. Now I have an idea what to work on I can create a challenge that will help me work towards resolving the problem. I might try reducing the tonal range of my subject to the white of the paper plus three tones, as this will help me see my subject in broader, simpler terms.
Having done this I would then assess the success of the challenge, did I achieve the simplification I was looking for? Every painting, however basic, will present new challenges to overcome so if I didn't succeed in simplifying the subject matter I will still have learnt something from doing the exercise. I may even resolve another area I needed to work on.
If I felt I had simplified the picture successfully I may still look at it critically or want to try new ideas, different approaches or techniques that occurred to me whilst I painted it. I might create a new challenge for myself along those lines, or even increase the challenge by reducing the tones to just two.
Afterwards I assess the effectiveness of this new challenge and so it goes on. You see, whatever the outcome, painting is a continual process. I have yet to meet an artist who is satisfied that they have reached the pinnacle of their success.
The picture I've chosen to illustrate this article has been painted using one tone and the white of the paper. We always assume that the simplest paintings are the easiest to do; this is not so.
If you do this exercise yourself, try to focus on one "problem" at a time; practising whether for the sake of it, or on the piece you're working on.