Posts Tagged ‘limitations’

I have a guilty pleasure. I really like to watch some of these holiday cooking shows on the Food Network. No, not the ones where the people make sumptuous recipes. That stuff is beyond me. What I love are the shows where the people compete to make cakes and other things that are decorative. Last night, for example I was watching a show where the contestants made gingerbread creations. They had a relatively short period of time to complete their creations, they had to be at least three feet tall, etc. These pieces were huge and amazing, they were true works of art, but I noticed something.

There was one guy who actually included robotics to create an animated show in the midst of his creation. It was brilliant but he didn’t win and there is a lesson we can learn from this. The person who won did an immaculate presentation. There were fewer bells and whistles, at least of the “animated” kind, instead every part of her piece was flawless, the attention to detail was phenomenal, her piece was a thing of beauty. By way of contrast, the guy with the bells and whistles spent so much time on the bells and whistles that there wasn’t time for him to make his creation beautiful.

The lesson to be learned is this. When you have a time limit, you have to focus on what is most important. Bells and whistles are great when you have time for them, but the first step is to get the basics right. The guy with the technology had a really cool and creative idea, and I have no doubt given more time to execute his idea, could have created something pretty amazing but the person who did flawless work and managed her time properly won the day. There were several boundaries in place here, chief of which were a time limit and a theme. Boundaries are our friends. It doesn’t matter what you could do with unlimited time, if there is a time limit, you have to work within the time limit.

Boundaries let us know our limitations. Working within the boundaries requires us to be even more creative and show us the path to success. We need to learn to create within given parameters, deliver what is asked of us, over deliver as much as we can, and deliver on time.

One thing I become aware of from time to time is that I spend a lot of time writing about the arts on here but not as much time making art. Today I wanted to change that. We’re having a family vacation soon, a couple of days at the beach and I have to admit the closer it gets the more my mind goes there. We’re going to Maryland, a place known for it’s crabs, so I decided to create a crab. Now I could draw a crab with some effort, but I didn’t want to do that. Instead I wanted to test my skills. I wanted to deal with some limitations. I decided to do the piece in Photoshop using only a few tools. Mostly the circle and/or oval tool and some effects. It was an interesting attempt.

Sometimes working with limitations can stretch your creativity. Try it, impose a limitation on your work and see how what you can come up with.

One of the most difficult, frustrating parts of my speaking ministry is also the most crucial. Educating people about what I do. I’m always truly blessed and amazed by the response to what I do. It is clear many people really love it. There’s something about the visual element, watching the image come together, wondering what I am doing, etc. that draws the audience in so that when I am ready to speak they are ready to listen. It works like a charm, and all glory for that belongs to God.

The people who bring me in love what I do. The problem is often to get people to bring me in. They wonder if it will be boring, kind of like watching paint dry (it isn’t because it goes the painting goes by too fast (I average 6-8 minutes for most pieces) and I combine that element of the presentation with video or music). They wonder if I will be distracting. My answer to this is, it might be to some, but this will also draw already distracted people into the message. That’s what it’s designed to do. It also shows the vast majority of people who don’t do the big three (preaching, playing and singing) that there are more ways than just those three to worship God and that there are a multitude of ways to serve Him as well. To me the art is and will always be subservient to the message, it’s just another act of worship, like the music, to draw people into the Word. My presentation is designed to show people their God-given gifts have value in the Kingdom.

They worry will I make a mess. While nothing is foolproof, I am very careful to spread tarps everywhere because I have the utmost respect for the church. Some worry about the teaching. I make every effort to be scripturally sound because ultimately, I want to honor God and bless the church. I am tasked with the responsibility of teaching the Word of God. It’s something I take very seriously.

Then there is the question of value. I try to keep my costs to the church low by mainly asking for a free-will offering but some have questioned this, thinking I don’t value what I do highly enough. The truth is, I value what I do extremely highly, because it’s designed to connect people with Jesus (How much should eternity cost?) and help them to find and use their God-given gifts and talents, finding their life’s purpose and worshipping with their lives (How much is that worth?). It’s not that I don’t value it, it’s that I never want money to stand between me and fulfilling this mission. My life was radically changed when a pastor found my gift and showed me that I could use it to serve the Lord.

Every single time I do this ministry, I know it was what I was called and created to do.

I just wish more people understood it. The ones who see it, do.

All I need is a chance.

A lot of times we creatives look at limitations as a bad thing, but for the most part they’re not. Think about it, when someone gives you a broad project, one with very little in the way of specifications, what is the first thing we have to do? We have to narrow it down. We have to begin to find the boundaries. Even if it’s our own project, we have to continue narrowing it down until the creation becomes tangible. Limitations, boundaries and borders actually help the creative process. They help us narrow things down, help us understand the problem that needs to be solved (problem solving is the essence of creativity) and give us the parameters within which we can succeed.

42nd Street, Tulpehocken High SchoolI learned this years ago when I was hired to paint sets and lead the student set painting crew for a local high school’s musical. We had huge things to create and a very limited budget. The budget was a limitation, but it made us get creative. I learned to take advantage of the mis-mixed shelf at the paint store, and I learned to make inexpensive materials look professional. I learned the ten foot rule (if it can’t be seen from 10 feet away, don’t worry about it). I learned to simplify my design so that others, inexperienced students, could help me to achieve the vision, rather than doing it all myself in a panic, while the students entrusted to me could do nothing but watch.

Deadlines also can be quite helpful. I would never have attempted to do what I do today, like a full four foot painting in four minutes, were it not for spending many years trying to meet tight deadlines.

Limitations can be quite helpful to the creative process, so don’t fret them, let them stretch you. This takes the focus off what you don’t have and forces you to look at what you already have and learn to do the best you can with it.

Limitations are your creativity friend. Embrace them and get creative.

Once again, Phil Hansen, of, nails it as he shares a work of art made from the actual struggles and limitations people face. This is an extension of his Embrace the Shake Ted Talk. It an amazing work with an amazing vision.

Here’s what Phil has to say about the piece…

I spent a month in front of a LIVE webcam feed asking people from all over the world, “What’s your limitation?”, and creating a 9x13ft work of art called Refraction, which is completely made out of text. This documentary shows what I uncovered in the process.

What do you see as your limitations and how can you rise above them.

It’s one of the things people  say to us on a fairly regular basis. “Be realistic.” It’s a nice way of saying, “Get your head out of the clouds, accept your limitations, stop dreaming, it’s impossible.” The thing is, I’m not convinced this is the best place to start for creatives. As a matter of fact I’m sure it’s not . After all, when we create, aren’t we really trying to make something that has not existed before and isn’t that the exact opposite of realistic?

Look at the Wright Brothers. They were trying to accomplish something that the entire world considered unrealistic if not downright impossible. Flight was the realm of birds and angels, but they saw something unrealistic and made it reality.

Look, I’m not saying that reality won’t pop into the picture eventually and place limitations on you. The Wright flyer only made it a couple feet off the ground the flight lasted only seconds, but they checked something off the impossible list, and once that was checked off, the sky was the limit. As a matter of fact, a few decades later, we couldn’t even say the sky was the limit anymore.

Faith adds an extra dimension to this. We serve a God for whom all things are possible. There are a million “impossible” problems in this world looking for a creative solution, waiting for a person of faith to refuse to be realistic and trust God to go where no one has gone before. You may not be used to solve the whole problem but you may be used to check something off the impossible list and pave the way for others.

Maybe that’s what it means when we read, “…He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion in the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6 NIV)

What have you been putting off because you thought it was unrealistic?