First up, visiting artist Raúl the Third in the Polly Thayer Starr Artist Series at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Raúl, a graphic novelist, was working in the Education Studio, where anyone, of any age, could drop in and draw or chat with him. I was struck though, by his choice of medium. Three containers of Bic pens, pieces of paper. That's it. He explained that, as a kid growing up in Texas, these simple materials were all he had access to, and that he knows that for many kids, it's the still the same. His works, including the forthcoming graphic novel Lowriders in Space, use the same. The constraint of those simple tools produces some amazing work.
Next, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, where I was entranced by Jim Hodges work, but particularly enjoyed the creative constraint of A Diary of Flowers—Above the Clouds--556 drawings of flowers on diner-type paper napkins. Together they form a beautiful installation of individual constraints.
The Art Lab (I think that's the name but cannot find on their website) took another constraint as they encouraged visitors to make flowers related to Hodge's work You, which consists of a large number of plastic flowers creating a sort of curtain (that would be the non-art historian explanation). In the Art Lab, you were encouraged to make two flowers in order to take one home. In this case, the creative constraint, the number you could make AND take, also helped build a collective project and a community sense of participation.
And two creative constraints spotted on Monhegan Island, Maine. On the Cathedral Trail, anyone walking can create fairy houses, but they must be created only with natural materials found at hand, not brought in, or plucked off a tree. I last visited Monhegan more than 20 years ago and it was amazing to see the constraints still in play, despite not a single sign telling walkers about it. The variety of these tiny spaces is beautiful and inspiring.
I found my final creative constraint walking back to town on Monhegan. The island has long been inspiration to artists ranging Rockwell Kent to George Bellows to Jamie Wyeth and the landscape is still dotted with painters with brush and palette in hand. The views of sea, sky and grey-shingled buildings are everywhere. But one young enterprising artist, perhaps 9 or 10, had set up her work on a rock with the sign below. Her constraint: mermaids and fairies only for her small business!