This Week’s Art Inspiration: When Limitations are Liberation

Phil Hansen Artist

Phil Hansen Embrace the Shake

This week’s focus is Phil Hansen–-a pointillist artist who developed neurological damage in his hands from his own working style. No longer able to make a mark without his hands shaking, he went to the doctor who told him the damage was permanent.

This was devastating news for Hansen, but when the doctor suggested he “embrace the shake” he decided to do just that.

Watch this super inspiring video and find out how Phil Hansen turned the notion of limitation into a fantastic exploration of the creative process and discovered the infinite possibilities within every creative barrier.


How could you turn own your limitations–whatever they may be–having self-doubt or being broke or living with no space to make art or working 2 jobs and taking care of 3 kids into a wonderful creative opportunity?

Or have you already overcome a limitation regarding your creativity that you can share?

Take a look and let me know what you think in the comments! Don’t forget, your experiences can help other people!

Bookmark and Share


  1. karen b says:

    Woah! Amazing! Thanks for sharing this. It is very thought-provoking.

  2. Sarah says:

    I loved it too Karen–it’s cool to see how he created other new limitations as well to push himself creatively!

  3. lacey says:

    Thanks so much for posting, Sarah. I’ve been in a slight rut, using your words of ‘honoring the process’ and digging it as well as I can. Then this. Thank you to infinity. It pushes me beyond my previous borders into unknown, exciting territory.

  4. lacey says:

    * um…. “digging in” but I guess “digging it” works, too ;)

  5. Sarah says:

    Hi Lacey! So glad to hear that this video helped. I was so inspired myself–I love that after “embracing the shake” and having it work that his reaction was to become excited and start imagining other limitations to explore–and then, how by doing that, he just kept finding endless opportunities through them! Wow.

  6. Irene says:

    Thanks SO much for sharing this. It is wonderful, inspriring and thought provoking. It is also worth remembering that before he embraced his limitations he went through a dark period. So perhaps the lesson for me is not to fight the dark.

  7. Sarah says:

    Excellent point Irene! We do have to feel our feelings before we can “look on the bright side” or “make lemonade”. It’s also interesting that when he couldn’t do his art the way he wanted to, he stopped completely–but his route back–by finally going to the neurologist to figure out what he could do about his condition was driven by his need to create–giving it up altogether wasn’t an option after all. So he found a new way–once he was ready. I guess we have to grieve before we can let go.

  8. theresa tally says:

    Sarah, Awesome video….no more excuses! Thanks for posting.

  9. Lillian Thrasher says:

    Thanks for sharing this video. So inspirational, and it reminded me of my own journey. I was supposed to paint a mural at church, something that came easily to me. But after leaving the hospital due to strokes, I found I had no idea how to do the mural. I tried and tried, but finally had to contact the church (at pretty much the last minute) to say I couldn’t do it. There were many other things I could no longer do (I still can’t remember how to drive a car), but the artistic pull wouldn’t let go of me. The transition to my current form of art was mostly just a form of play and prayer. I no longer have buyers for my paintings, but it’s fine – I have a lot more fun with my collages. I always liked to make messes.

  10. Sarah says:

    Hi Lillian! So glad it resonated with you too–and thanks for sharing your story here–I love that you kept your creativity and artistic self a part of your life when it ceased to be an income stream. My mom has alzheimer’s and when I help her make drawings or collages, they are so different from what she would have made in the past, but I still love them and find them really interesting.

  11. Strawberry Shake says:

    How inspiring is this. After seeing someone so talented can also get in a slump. It gives me hope and know if I have patience it will come back to me and maybe in a form I had never thought of before.Thank you so much for posting this.

  12. Sarah Bush says:

    You’re welcome Strawberry Shake. His story is so inspiring that it’s a great reminder than anything is possible. :-)

Leave a Reply