Boundaries: A Key to Artful Living


Much is said about this word “boundaries” as it relates to our personal and emotional lives. But it also has great benefit for our creative lives as well. As creative beings we deal with practical as well as emotional issues. Our inner artist will be nurtured when boundaries are set for such things as WHO we allow to see our latest, new-direction artistic ventures; WHEN we “go public” with our art; HOW we receive others’ comments; and WHERE we will go for encouragement and inspiration.

There are also practical ways that boundaries can help us in our artful lives. I like to think of my creative field of play as a broad, wide field of wildflowers with a stream at one side and a line of trees at the other. All of this land is encompassed by a sturdy wooden fence, beautiful with its flowering vines, weathered look, and patched portions. This lovely space is where I draw and paint, knit and crochet, write and illustrate. There have been a few times when I’ve jumped the fence and played with clay and glazes. For a few years I participated in a figure drawing group over in the next holler. And there’s a farm over yonder with sheep where I longingly gaze and wonder if I could learn to spin and dye wool. But for now, I’m happy within the bounds of my little creative field.

Little? There are days when the possibilities that lie within the fences seem overwhelming. So many creative interests. So little time! And there are certain creative ventures both within and without the fences that require resources…money to invest in the possibility, the foray, the accomplishment. How do I deal with the overwhelm of possibility? Some days, not so well. Other days, a little friendly boundary setting gives me a sense of security and focus.

When my children were tiny, they enjoyed playing in their playpen (pack ‘n play:). I started off giving them a bazillion toys to play with in their playpen. I couldn’t understand why, five minutes later, they were unhappy, trying to climb out of the webbed walls. But if I gave them just a few toys in their environs, they were happy for much longer. I surmised that having fewer things to focus on actually allowed them to…well…focus! And thereby enjoy the toy at hand.

I am much like my toddlers were. When I don’t have a nice, soft, webbed boundary around just a few creative possibilities, I feel stretched, unable to focus, scattered and listless. I end up wailing over the fence, longing for whatever is “over there”! All I need is to imagine I am sweetly hemmed in with a few favorite artistic “toys” and I’m a much happier camper, or at least, a bit less of a tormented artist.

So I limit myself. Not for always. And certainly not in a severe way. (Although I do have this nagging thought that if I were really disciplined and severe with myself, I might actually accomplish something huge. But my next thought is that it wouldn’t be nearly so fun! Then I’m off to sketch the cornflowers in the field and to find a ball of yarn in that precise color blue. I choose joy over severity every time. Well, almost every time.)

Anyhoo. To establish these helpful boundaries I ask myself a few questions. There are others, but these tend to guide me pretty well.

1.  In embarking on this creative venture, do I have the time, energy and money to sustain what will be needed to begin and to follow through?

2. Will this creative venture carry a hefty “guilt factor” if I don’t continue with it?

3. What aspect of this creative path can I do on a small scale allowing me to “try it out” without any need to continue with it, unless I want to?

4. Am I willing to give up one or two other creative things to allow room for this new one?

Many times, it only takes #1 to give some focus to what I’m dreaming about or feeling pulled into.  Such was the case with Sketchbook Skool. It looked sooooo fun and inspiring! Shouldn’t I take this course? Don’t I owe it to myself to improve in my drawing skills? But I was/am enjoying the creative things I’m into right now. I knew that in taking the course, I would have to squeeze out a couple of these things to make room for the Skool. I decided to stay put in my little field and not go on a six-week hiking and sketching venture. Hopefully it will still be available in some form for a future time. In answering the above questions, I’m able to establish a soft, webbed area for myself to enjoy the particular materials and creative ideas at hand. If I do choose to give up a thing or two for a time, the boundary allows me to focus on what I’m committing to for whatever amount of time I choose.

Money is a wonderful boundary marker. Living within your provision is not only wise but is honoring to your creativity. Spending far too much on supplies or classes or frames will leave you feeling guilt-ridden at best and disgusted with your art at worst. (Believe me, I’ve been there!) If the money isn’t there…wait. Save up for it. Ask for money for Christmas or for your birthday. And no need to fall into the trap of “but it might not be there if I wait!”. There will always be art supplies, classes to take, frames to buy, and gorgeous colored yarns you feel you “just can’t live without”. Always.

So how do you establish healthy boundaries for your artful life? In what ways do they help you? I’d love to know your thoughts on the matter! I hope you have a happy, creative day playing in your fenced field of creativity!

***This is a different take on a similar topic I wrote about here. In fact, there’s a whole category titled “Artful Living” you can access in the right-hand margin. 🙂


0 thoughts on “Boundaries: A Key to Artful Living

  1. postalice says:

    Thank you, Jennifer! This helps me put things in perspective.

    An interesting thing about my newest adventure, furniture re-loving, is that it takes up a lot of space. Physical space and mental space! I find myself tripping over pieces in my kitchen, and then pondering over their riddles during the night. Sometimes I just sit and stare at a piece – not knowing I’m doing it. As you can imagine, it is shoving many other interests into the corners. This new adventure is a bit of a bully!

    It helps me to remember that my current passion isn’t going to “beat up” the others. They are patiently waiting – I love the fence and field analogy – they are grazing in the fields right now while I’m riding this new lively horse, I suppose!

    Thank you, Jennifer, for the imagery!


    • jenpedwards says:

      You are so welcome Alice! I get that “bully” thing. Or maybe they are just bigger animals that need a lot more space in iur field of creativity. I have a couple like that just waiting for me to give them some attention. But I know that ince I take them by the horns they will take me for a ride! (This analogy thing is fun isn’t it?) I’m enjoying going for a walk with my little sheep (yarns) and sketching along the way. I love all your furniture “loving”. This summer I am hoping to tackle a big armoire in iur living room and do something cool with it. Have a lovely creative day, friend!

  2. jrwilsondesign says:

    Jennifer, your thoughts are right on the money, as always. It helps me know I’m not alone in my little neighborhood, hanging out in my little paddock with all my art and stamping and photo supplies. It’s like each creative outlet is a friend to play with, but you feel bad leaving the other friends out when you have to pick just one. I am taking Danny’s class and it is a source of inspiration and focus for me. It is getting me out of that dithering mode where I sit surrounded with a roomful of “toys” and is allowing me to focus on just drawing for now. We forget that if we can focus on one thing for a while that the others are still there waiting for you to come back. But if we don’t concentrate on any one for a while we have a million half done projects and don’t allow our skills to grow through continued use of the tools, mistake, and repetition. And if we aren’t persistent at it for while, as with gold-digging, we won’t find the reward waiting for us. Gold dust, for sure, but those who keep at it find the mother lode!

    • freebirdsings says:

      I sure love your analogies! Yes, my art is my gold lode even if it looks like just a bit of gold dust to someone else! And I like how you say we need to concentrate on one thing sometimes while the others are on hold. I do need that and hadn’t thought of it like that. Especially when I feel too scattered by projects it’s good to pull in on the reins and slow down to enjoy the walk of one satisfying project for a while (guess that’s partly how it becomes a satisfying project, lol).

    • jenpedwards says:

      So true, so true! Love the “gold-digging” analogy! Knitting really helps me with the stick-with-it mindset…I gotta push through to see it to the end, the final “gold” of wearing it, or giving it, or whatever. Thanks for your comments!

  3. freebirdsings says:

    Guilt, guilt, guilt! Yep, I feel it as when I bought new markers to color with yesterday (man those things are expensive). I feel it when I sign up for too many classes to concentrate on (yep, did it AGAIN), and I feel guilt when a new project either pushes others aside or doesn’t get going! Guilt, guilt, guilt!

    I really like your analogy. I wonder if I could draw it. Hmmm, well I am behind on many things and need to make a space for that kind of drawing so for now, I will put it in note form. That sounds good. I don’t want to forget the idea. I really like the idea because I have been jumping the fence too often of late and you are right, it does not make me happy in the long run!

    I AM doing Sketchbook Skool and am happy so far. I didn’t expect to jump in and start drawing everything they suggest but to incorporate it into whatever I do sketch! That keeps it in my garden but let’s the scent from the flowers next door to be enjoyed (yes, analogies are very fun). Oh, and as for your friend of yesterday’s post, this week’s class is on taming the inner critic! How perfect is that?! This is just the first session of the skool. Their will be new sessions with new teachers every quarter I think, for at least a year if I am correct. I signed up for beginnings worrying it would be too beginnerish but I liked a couple of the teachers so gave in and to my happiness, it is not too beginnerish after all but you could join in at a later date to other quarters.

    As for spinning and dyeing of wool, I say do it! Do it as a weekend project with your kids or even just Maddie if she’s home and the others are busy. A good dye for wool is Koolaid! That’s cheap, plentiful and non-hazardous to you and your house. Buy a bit of roving which will be already cleaned and combed. Then YouTube for easy spinning ideas. One is no spool or spindle needed. You spin against your leg on your jeans (they make a good surface with just enough texture to help hold the wool. It’s easy, fun and you get a taste of spinning. Another is to buy or make (very easy) a drop spindle and although it’s a bit harder to “get” than the leg spinning, you can spin quite a bit more yarn than the other and if you get good enough, you can make enough for a shawl or sweater. These both make single ply yarns but if you enjoyed it and got good enough you could then YouTube on making a double ply, more durable yarn. But this is something you could experiment with over a couple of weekends doing the dying of the roving one weekend and the spinning on the next with little investment in materials. This was enough for me. I got to taste the fruits of the neighbors tree and then settled back into my own garden happier for the experience and perhaps that would be enough for you too (or Maddie) or perhaps one of you would want to run with it and do much more but that could be decided later! (I’ve even spun my dog’s hair to show the grandkids how you can spin against your leg but dog hair is too weak a structure to use well although some people do it.

    • jenpedwards says:

      Ooohh…thanks for all the spinning and dyeing tips! I do have a sack of wool a friend gave me that I plan on dyeing using the Kool-aid method. I may have some time this summer when I’m not teaching. Do share your drawing/painting of your creative field whenever you do that. I for one, would love to see it! Thanks again Timaree!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *