On Creativity

collage/drawing in my sketchbook 1.16.24

The other day in a fit of procrastination I rearranged my studio and decided to go through my piles and get rid of stuff, which required me to go through my bookshelves. In my studio I have a ton of books on art and creativity and creative process. And while I I have skimmed parts, I never fully invested my time and attention. I decided to dedicate myself to read these books that I just dusted off, and of course didn’t get rid of.

I started with rereading Drawing On the Artist Within by Betty Edwards, published in 1986. I have had this book FOREVER and read it probably 25 some years ago. It is literally falling apart. In the first chapter she discusses the definition of creativity and how it often defies being defined. That talking about creativity is like chasing an elusive entity. Creativity has been thought of as coming up with solutions, or innovative responses to situations that arise. And also that creative individuals often seek out and discover problems to solve that no one else has thought of yet. So in that sense, humans are all creative beings. Definitely true.

Today at this moment, I am thinking of creativity as seeing all the different possibilities where there are currently not any, and the creative process as pursuing these possibilities and figuring out how to come to a satisfying solution. One of the most creative people I know is my husband who doesn’t have a lick of artistic ability. No exaggeration. He is a tech guy and I can’t even wrap my head around some of the things he has created or come up with.

“Creativity, as has been said, consists largely of rearranging what we know in order to find out what we do not know….Hence, to think creatively we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted” – George Kneller

But what about when it comes to art making? Edwards then discusses what talent is and whether people can have a talent for being creative, and then the following question- can creativity be taught? She then focuses on drawing skills and that while it is often seen as a gift or a talent, she believes it is a skill that can be taught.

I remember when I was a kid I was always drawing. I got attention for it from peers and teachers, which then led to more drawing. Then high school came along and I really got into life drawing and painting and people associated me with being a creative person. I mean, I always had paint or pastel chalk or dried up clay on my uniform. I remember that the art/creative identity followed me into college and people were surprised that I wasn’t majoring in art. I would reply, I’m not an artist. And they’d say, what do you mean?! You’re so creative! You can draw, you’re always painting, and you go to the pottery studio to throw bowls and plates on the wheel in your spare time! And I’d say, well yeah I can look at a chair and draw a chair and it looks like a chair, but does that make me an artist? I don’t think that’s really creative and to me being an artist is about creativity. As for making things on the wheel, I just like to make things.

Maybe I need a therapist to unpack all that.

But really I can’t help but wonder what I meant by that? Was it just self sabotage at an early age? I ended up getting a Bachelors of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders because I was so fascinated by cognition and brain development and I wanted to help people, especially children in disadvantaged areas. But in between all my science classes I was always taking art and art history classes because that was my bliss. (I should have known!) I even had an art professor try to get me to switch schools, to leave Northwestern University and transfer to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to major in painting. But I didn’t listen. I thought she was just being nice. Or crazy.

My first job out of college was doing speech language therapy in Chicago Public Schools and I have to say that teaching is probably the most creative work one can engage in. Especially when working with children with a wide array of abilities. Again, this would be creatively speaking, not artistically speaking.

Anyway, I came to my art practice later than college and it was something I had to teach myself. To learn to develop and learn to trust. And I am still learning. Every day and always.

Why am I ruminating on all this? I should be in the studio working on deadlines or folding the mountain of clean laundry that is waiting for me. Well to be honest, I have been feeling in a bit of a rut. Wondering what direction I want to go in. What do I want to explore. And how do I get there. I do know that getting out of a rut is solved mostly by doing. Creating begets more creating. But being in a rut makes me think- where do my ideas come from and how do I access it when I am feeling blah? I have also been doing dangerous thinking like, what would life look like if I had stuck to my path I had started in college, would I even be the person I am today?

“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.” – Ray Bradbury

Maybe I just need to listen to Ray Bradbury.

{I do love thinking about these things though. I might try to write once a week or monthly about something I’ve read on creativity. Unless something sparks in the studio and I don’t have time to contemplate the moon.}

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