The Cat In The Hat turns 50 this year. It was created by Theodore Geisel in response to a challenge to write a book containing only the reading vocabulary of a typical 6-year-old that would engage and enthuse beginning readers. Instead of traditional 1st grade primers depicting overly-polite Stepford-like children, Dr. Seuss created an inspired expression that captures the imagination. The book is 1629 words in length and uses a vocabulary of only 236 distinct words. Only a single word – another – has three syllables, while 14 have two and the remaining 221 are monosyllabic.
The creativity of Dr. Suess is directly related to the limits on the vocabulary. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? A new challenge! Since a painting can be looked at as a compilation of visual vocabulary, limiting that vocabulary is likely to push the bounds of the process and reveal insights in the outcome. Think Haiku. (Or Twitter perhaps?)
I will come up with a limited list of techniques—some you may know, or not. You must use all of those techniques, but no more to create your next piece. You may start from scratch or use an underpainting. You may continue to work on a piece in progress, but using only what will be on the list. You can be sure that dipping your favorite round brush into paint and applying it to the paper will NOT be on the list.
Bonus round—if you come up with an interesting technique (to be determined if it is interesting or not), you may switch it out with one on the list I create. If you come up with a series of 3 or more that are different than mine, you can impose them on one person of your choosing. So if Leslie wants to see what Lois will do with a palette knife, tissue paper and a sponge, she can devise a plan to be incorporated in the big picture.
The criteria for subject matter remains the same—choose a subject that is meaningful and has good bones. As Louise Bourgeois says– tell your own story and it will be interesting.