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Embrace the Shake - Phil Hansen

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In art school, Phil Hansen developed an unruly tremor in his hand that kept him from creating the pointillist drawings he loved. Hansen was devastated until a neurologist made a simple suggestion: embrace this limitation... and transcend it. How can limitations inspire creativity and drive innovation?

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  • Speaker Phil Hansen
Additional Resources for you to Explore
The Artist

As described on his website, “The term 'Embrace the Shake' is coined from Artist Phil Hansen’s personal story of transformation. After developing a career-ending tremor in his drawing hand, Phil embraced his 'shake' both physically and metaphorically by redefining his limitation as an impetus for creativity. Phil not only restored his artistic abilities, he became a much more creative and innovative artist than ever before.” To learn more about Hansen’s artwork and current projects, you can visit his artist site at Philinthecircle, or his youtube channel.

Art History

If you are interested in further exploring artists who have transcended limitations, check out the following individuals:

Chuck Close, a photorealistic American painter whose life and work were transformed by severe paralysis and face-blindess. You can learn more from his own words is this Interview from the World Science Festival or this CBS News installment of “Note to Self” where the artist reads a note to himself as a young man.

Frida Kahlo, a Surrealist Mexican painter who survived childhood illness and began painting while bedridden from severe injury after a bus crash. Learn about Kahlo’s life, work, and influence from Iseult Gillespie’s TED-Ed lesson, or in her own words from her published journal.

Henri Matisse, a Fauvist French Artist whose work evolved from painting to large scale paper cutouts late in life due to medical ailments. Learn more about Matisse’s cut outs and process in this CBS News story on an exhibit at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

Judith Scott, a Fiber artist with deafness and Down syndrome who was isolated and institutionalized for the majority of her early life. She began her artistic journey at 43 years old. Learn more about Scott’s artwork and inspiring story through Art21 and their Art in the Twenty-First Century episode on the Creative Growth Art Center, a non-profit providing representation, studio space, and exhibition for artists with disabilities.

Your Own Creative Journey

Hansen is a passionate advocate for arts education and bringing art to a wide audience. He is the founder of Goodbye-Art Academy, which provided free education videos on topics like artist biographies, art history, and art vocab. In addition, Hansen’s book Tattoo a Banana: And Other Ways to Turn Anything and Everything Into Art, is a witty, engaging guide to exercising your own creativity through creating art with unexpected, everyday materials.

If you are interested in further exploring authors with books on unlocking creativity or building artistic habits, check out the following individuals:

Twyla Tharp, a legendary dancer and choreographer who is best known for pushing the creative boundaries of ballet and merging classical technique with other American dance genres. She is the author of The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use it for Life, a guide to generating ideas, working through ruts, and making creativity a daily habit in your life. Learn more about her philosophy and additional writings in this New York Times Article.

Anne Bogart, an American theater director, Professor at Columbia University, and co-founder of SITI Company, is known for her contributions to the training methodologies of Viewpoints, on which she has co-authored a text with Tina Landau. In her book A Director Prepares: Seven Essays on Art and Theatre, Bogart (2001) speaks to the importance of limitations in the artistic process, stating that “Paradoxically, it is the restrictions, the precision, the exactitude, that allows for the possibility of freedom. The form becomes a container in which the actor can find endless variation and interpretive freedom” (p.46).

Julia Cameron, an American author and teacher is best known for her book The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, which is a 12 week guide intended to promote self inquiry, inspiration, and creative artistic engagement. You can learn more about Cameron and her philosophy in this article from The Cut.

Sir Ken Robinson, a British author, speaker, and educational researcher whose work focuses on the power of creativity and how institutions such as schools and businesses can make radical changes to cultivate it. He is the author ofOut of Our Minds: The Power of Being Creative and you can engage in his popular talks here on TED.

Check out this recommended TED-Ed Lesson: 

Who decides what art means?
There is a question that has been tossed around by philosophers and art critics for decades: how much should an artist's intention affect your interpretation of the work? Do the artist’s plans and motivations affect its meaning? Or is it completely up to the judgment of the viewer? Hayley Levitt explores the complex web of artistic interpretation.

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About TED Talk Lessons

TED Talk Lessons are created by TED-Ed using phenomenal TED Talks. Do you have an idea for a lesson? Create it now using any video from YouTube »

Meet The Creators

  • Speaker Phil Hansen