How Limitations Can Sometimes Be Helpful


Today I finished my ‘self assignment’ to draw a face a day for 30 days. Looking back through all the drawings, it feels like a very long time since I started this little project.

One thing I noticed was that this project felt a lot easier than some of the other times I’ve tried to draw every day. I’ve taken part in Drawing August over the past 2 years, which sometimes felt a bit stressful. At other times I’ve set myself the challenge to draw every day and failed. I think the difference with the portrait project was something I’ve heard mentioned before – having restrictions.

Every day I’ve known that it’d a face that I’d be drawing. I’ve used the same sketchbook and the same pen for every drawing, so the only decision I had to make was whose face it would be.

Restricting myself to portraits has helped me to avoid procrastinating or wasting time figuring out what I was going to draw or what equipment I was going to use. It got rid of any resistance so I could just picked up my pen and sketchbook every day and got on with it.

Letting go of perfectionism helped a bit too. So, if I was low on energy or time I’d just do a quick blind self-portrait (drawing without looking at the page), which automatically meant that the outcome wasn’t going to be perfect. Even when I was disappointed with a drawing that I’d spent more time on, I knew that I’d got the next day to start again. It stopped being about the outcome and became more about the fact that I was drawing every single day and enjoying the process.

So, setting limitations for myself seems to be the way to go if I want to draw every day and maybe there’s a way to use the same approach in other areas of my life. What do you think? Do you find that restrictions help you or do they get in the way of what you’re trying to achieve?

6 thoughts on “How Limitations Can Sometimes Be Helpful

  1. Jenny Reply

    What a great idea! I think giving yourself limitations or parameters is a great way to focus your practice. Did the portraits later in the month come easier?

    1. Cathryn Worrell Reply

      Thanks Jenny, lovely to ‘see’ you here! I’m going to keep playing around with this idea of limitations and see how things go with my next ‘challenge’. And yes, the portraits felt easier to draw as the month went on. I also felt like I loosened up a lot more each time I drew a blind self-portrait too.

  2. […] having a boundary or a limit of what I’m going to draw each day is helping me to keep going. I...
  3. Peter Reply

    Hello! I like your positive approach to limitations.
    I am limited by my health and responsibilities and I tend to wish that things were different. I also seem to spend a lot of time embarrassed and explaining why I achieve so little. What a lot of energy I waste by wishing for what isn’t and explaining with embarrassment what is!
    I think that only by accepting and even embracing my limitations humbly may I grow to be the person who I am meant to be.

    1. Cathryn Worrell Reply

      Hi Peter, and thanks for your comment. I think it’s natural to get frustrated sometimes, and wish that you had more time, more energy, or better health, to do the things you enjoy. You’re completely right that acceptance is the way forward. If we can keep remembering that as often as is necessary then hopefully it will become easier to keep things ticking over, by being kind to ourselves and without getting exhausted. I think it’s also important to accept that we won’t get this right 100% of the time but staying aware of what we need, and where our limitations are will hopefully mean that we can (through trial and error) find, and keep coming back to, what works well for us.

      1. Peter Reply

        I went off on a little tangent – thank you for your reply! I can see that what you say in your reply is right. Thank you.
        Back to art, I think that setting limitations can be good because it can allow us to explore further in an area and that can be exciting. A few weeks ago I saw some pictures done with a humble Bic biro. I was surprised because I would never have thought that an artist would choose to use a biro for serious work, but the pictures looked very good.
        Many years ago I read an article by an amateur painter. His subjects were never recognisable in his paintings, but mixing and applying colours relaxed him. For him the process was much more important than the artistic outcome.
        I like your work and your pages are uplifting.

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