Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Thinking Outside the Box

-By Dan dos Santos

Oftentimes, I'll get a client that tell me to paint 'whatever I want'. As good as that may sound at first, it's actually quite intimidating. There are a limitless amount of things I could paint, and without some sort of direction, I flounder, usually resulting in a mediocre piece.

I've realized in recent years, that from a creative point of view, I flourish under restrictions. Maybe it's a restrictive subject matter, or a difficult template, or even something as simple as a specific palette choice. However simple, or complex, the restriction... I like having one. The inherent problems immediately causes me to come up with solutions, and ideas begin flowing quickly from there.

After all, you can't think outside the box, unless someone puts you inside a box first.

Artist David Jablow recent completed a series of drawing that I feel capture this sentiment perfectly.

David took a vintage doodle pad with an adult theme, and rather than going with the most obvious solution, he came up with literally dozens of alternative solutions... all of them surprising and wildly creative.

The drawings are fantastic in their own right. But I suspect that David wouldn't have been half as creative if he allowed himself to just draw 'a woman doing whatever'. Having that difficult restriction gave him something to push off from.

The next time you're stumped for something to draw, try challenging yourself. Limit your options a little, or give yourself a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. You'll surprise yourself with the great solutions that come out of it.

You can see dozens more of David's solutions at his Tumblr page:

Or check out his Flickr page which also contains a lot of his preliminary sketches too:


  1. Oh my god, those drawings are fantastic. What an awesome way to flip it from "draw some titties on a bent over women", to creating a central character with her own narrative. I love it!

  2. Great inspiration! Thank you so much for sharing! :)

  3. Gee, if only comic artists could be this creative all the time with the female form. You know, instead of drawing impossible boobs on female superheroes and other ladies, they could actually draw them doing something interesting.

  4. So right on Dan. I was trying to explain this to a friend that is a fine artist and he vehemently disagreed. He wouldn't admit that restrictions can spur creativity and said he works with no restrictions... which I thought was funny because he paints on canvas over stretcher bars which forms a rectangle, a box-like restriction.

    I saw these the other day and loved them. I did just notice that the top one has some celebrity cameos from Kingpin and the Big Lebowski. Bill Murray and John Goodman stand out, but I see Jeff Bridges and Steve Buscemi too.

  5. Agreed. A professor I had in college (who is an amazing painter), always used to tell me that too many options are paralyzing. He used the example of a person living in a huge city not being able to decide where to go for dinner. Too many possibilities are overwhelming. But, when you have limited options or a particular set of restrictions to work around, it's definitely more engaging to "solve the puzzle."

  6. The bowling guy on the right on drawing #1 looks a lot like Bill Murray.

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  8. I'm no artist, but I could see this going even further from what's expected. How about the legs being from a different person who is standing up and spinning the lady around swing-dance style? The spot where the breasts would presumably go could even be occupied by an outstretched arm lifting the woman into place.