Saturday, April 19, 2008

What is Creativity?

Frequently when people come into the shop I am asked if I ever give lessons on how to do some of the things I do. I usually say "no, I would not know how to do that." But that is not quite the whole answer. I routinely buy magazines and books looking for new techniques and ideas for new pieces. I want to know how to use mediums I find in the store or how to make the most of the fiber I get etc. What I get is directions on how to make the same item the authors made. Many times this will give me an idea on how to use the medium but it doesn't cover all it can do. So I start exploring myself. The truth is I am not wild about teaching people how to do what I do for two reasons... 1. If they can do it themselves why buy my stuff? and 2. I think that if a person does not know how to do what I do than I need to teach them the foundations of thinking creatively. In truth I am not sure how I could go about doing that since it is a somewhat elusive thought process. It is often so much easier to think like sheep and stay within the lines. I did have the opportunity to take a class from a very well known artist here on the island and she had some very creative ways to bring out creative thought in her classes. One was to play a 15 minute scrabble game and then write a story out using all the words created from that game and then make a quilted piece using that story. Another was to take your least favorite color, put it in the center of a circle and linking off the circle write down everything that reminds you of that color then go one further and write links off each of those links of things that you are reminded of from those links. It is somewhat like mind mapping and I loved this process.

I recently joined a website that discusses things linked to the creative process. What we were asked was: What do you do that stirs your creative process? The author goes through magazines and tears out photos or short stories, blurbs anything she finds interesting and then she puts them in a file for future thumbing through. I have a library of magazines from all over that are full of projects i thought interesting. I frequently thumb through them. I tried the file thing... I had so many files and frequently forgot what was so exciting or interesting about certain pics and spent most of my time cleaning out my files. YUCK! Not my gig. I often like to sit in my Living room or at the coffeehouse (both are brightly painted) without a book or anything and just look around. Often color will spur my creative juices and I find myself dreaming up new ideas. Then sometimes the ideas come from very unusual places. One night I was getting in the bathtub and on the floor in the bathroom was this small blob of smootz. It looked like a small portrait of a lady with a hat and I was truly delighted with the way it looked. I took a pen and paper and copied it down then I cleaned up the smootz. (It was a dust bunny! for all you sickos out there:)

Creativity comes from a balance in life. When life is way to hectic and there is not any way to not worry or do... then creativity is stymied. For me creativity is definitely aided by boredom. Then it is helped along by resources that I have or can obtain, and then it is helped further by the need to do it before I forget what it was I was trying to do. It comes from unexpected things like shapes of furniture, or colors found in near by items. It is elusive. It is not practical except in the extreme and it is something I think that is very hard to teach and almost impossible to learn.

Given that creativity is something we all have some of. We use it in designing our houses, decorating our cars, growing our gardens, or taking care of our families. Even computer programmers or geeks have a certain amount of creativity although it is interesting trying to get them to use it. There is something about that linear thought process that does not give itself over easily to helter skelter thought and action.

on that note I have a story to show my example. My very best friend and sister (Mary) is a total geek... well not totally like her hubby and son but close. She fixes flight simulators. She loves electronics and stuff I don't even begin to understand. One day Mary decided she wanted to paint her living room. She wanted a little color in it. So she decided she wanted a sponged marble kind of technique. Done with a small sponge and three different colors sponged randomly over one another while each color was wet. This creates a wonderful texture and adds some great depth to the piece painted. I did up a diagram board showing colors she wanted or thought she did and when she decided which one she like the best we went and got colors at the store, came home and started painting. I had Mary work on one wall while I worked on the other. I showed her how to put the paint on using a random pattern and moving the sponge hither and yon and once Mary said she got it I went to work on my wall. After about 15 minutes Mary said "Rene how does it look?" I went over and found that while the first 6 inches of wall were done well with overlapping and randomness the rest of the wall had been systematically colored in neat little rows with the sponge pointed in the same direction on each splotch of color. I laughed and went over it again with Mary showing her again how it was done. She said she got it and I went back to painting my wall. After a few minutes I look over and find Mary attacking the wall in neat tidy little sponge painted blotches in neat little rows. We laughed again and at this point Mary admitted she did not do random real well. We started again at the top and this time I had her follow me. I did the initial random coloring and she used a colored sponge in each hand and went over my painting with the other two colors in a semi-random order. It worked out great because we had to work really quickly (the paint had to be wet when each of the colors were applied over it) and Mary could not find a pattern under the painting she was doing so it forced her to paint randomly. She then took some Advil and went to bed with a migraine! (not really although she did say it gave her an awful headache).

In truth Mary is becoming more artistic every time she does something and while she may not be random she is become a little more experimental in the pieces she is making. Her current piece is absolutely wonderful and three years ago I never would have thought it would be a piece she would do. I will get a pic of it when she is finished to show you what it looks like.

So teaching creativity... hmmm.... maybe it just comes from living spontaneously and being open to whatever comes your way... within reason. Then again maybe knowing where that reasonable boundary is and forcing it a little now and again is what creativity is really about... hmmm...

Text about Whidbey Island.


Anonymous said...

Well, you know Rene, in case you hadn't noticed, the art forms I've been experimenting with are ones that come out mostly random, no matter how hard you try to be ordered. (prints using flowers, felting, dyes) Kind of hard to keep them neat and tidy! I think it's the only way my hard-wired left brain can do random stuff!!

Bunk Strutts said...

Artistry is organizing different things into a pleasing pattern.

Creativity is organizing random thoughts and ideas to form a solution to a problem.

Beer is for the times in between.

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