At the start of one of my children’s summer camps, I dished out drawing kits, charcoal sticks, kneadable erasers, plus lots of paper. I then confidently announced the start of a fun, creative drawing session. After an unforeseen (but intensely interesting) discussion about where charcoal actually came from, we set to.
One camper decided to make a sculpture from his drawing kit and this made me think.
Initially, I had to hold myself from instructing the camper to stop messing about and use the tools for the purpose that they were intended. I then thought: now that’s Art, that’s Creativity!
Picasso once visited an exhibition of children’s drawings and observed: “When I was their age, I could draw like Raphael, but it took me a lifetime to learn to draw like them.” Children have been tested for divergent thinking (an essential element of creativity) with the vast majority of kindergarten children testing at or near genius levels. As children get older, this trait falls like a stone.
Creativity is in all of us. Submerged and knocked about by schooling, society and workplaces, it’s nevertheless there. I’m always a little baffled when someone comments to me, as they quite regularly do: “I don’t have an artistic bone in my body” or perhaps another old favorite: “So-and-so is the Artist in the family”. The official family “Artist designate” I suppose.
I can think of at least three reasons this situation persists:
Firstly, the day-to-day brain is in the driver’s seat to deal with that bottomless pit of schedules, commitments, errands and problems. The hum of life.
Secondly, by it’s very nature, thinking creatively is not a “serious” proposition. You have to have some fun with ideas and having fun is often considered “wrong” – a guilty pleasure that does not get much street cred at the water cooler.
The third factor is that many of us don’t know how-to anymore: Not long after kindergarten, it gets lost in the machine. My spouse tells me that she once got the strap for “colouring outside the lines”. Thankfully, times have changed somewhat but no one really believes that we encourage knowledge and practice of the creative process in our society. It’s not only that it’s not valued, it’s just lost to many.
In my case, creativity starts with a period of deepening disquiet. I might then play at something seemingly irrelevant before anything happens. There’s definitely a tension and this can act as a barrier to progress. It’s not always easy to stick with the unknown, options, ideas, unfulfilled aspirations and the tension of the unresolved. That’s all a valuable part of my creative process.
I’m really interested to hear your comments on what creativity means to you: Share your stories!