Monday, March 19, 2012

Learning to Create (Creativity) in the Arts

Creativity is an enigma to most of us, we believe some people posess it while others are unlucky and were simply born without it. In essence - many of us believe that creativity is somehow randomly dispersed through populations. This is simply not the case. Most of our minds are very similar when we are born, the majority of our brains are chemically similar as well as structurally. We learn creativity as we age - it is an acquired trait! And don't let anyone convince you otherwise.

Many artists will openly state that their inspiration comes from an external place, that they have been chosen to channel their artwork through their mind and conceive it with their media. Some even claim divine inspiration, that their work is the product of God's divine creativity. Although these people may in fact believe this, they do not realize that they are in fact heavily influenced by their favorite artists, or in fact, by their surroundings.

An informative quote;

Bad artists copy. Good artists steal.

-Pablo Picasso

The truth behind creativity is actually a summation of all that you find appealing, transformed by your evolved perception of the world. It is precisely your experiences throughout life that are at the basis of what you create with your inherent creativity. Not all people enjoy sunset oil paintings, and not all people care for black and white photography. The amount of art out there is incredibly large, and the ever expanding volume of different medias used and the inclusion of digital art has spread creativity far and wide. Often, one will see some art and say "I could never do that." or "How did they even come up with that?" under the assumption that these people are the sole reasons for their art to exist.

Pablo Picasso (for he is often referred to as one of the most original) himself knew his influences; George Braque, Paul Cezanne, and (importantly) Pablo's father also pursued art, setting the stage for an immersive creative familial influence.

Dali, one of the most notable surreal artists, gained influence from Americana art, fused with influences from Picasso and Joan Miro and others. Their production of almost other-worldly pieces is quite the opposite; they are products of their environment, their access to influences and inspiration, and a sheer dedication to advance their skills as artists.

No doubt if you've found my site you are a worth internet-ninja, with a curiosity and great intelligence. We are all intelligent, beyond smart, yet we are often subjected (subconsciously or not) to the idea of the exact opposite. Do not let your inability to understand anything limit your ability to understand something else. All things are capable for you to learn, but ambition, motivation, and inspiration are key.

Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings.
-Salvador Dali

SO! Lets access that creativity. First, in this day and age, dive into the most efficient inspiration harnessing thing you can find: The internet. Youtube,, google, are all wonderful sources of inspirational art. I myself have works on Etsy. I am powerfully drawn to abstract and surreal works, which is perhaps why I have quoted the two people as you have read above. (Although I never was attracted to Picasso's work).

Try every day to find a new artist or piece that you really enjoy to view. I do this by browsing, as well as other forums ( with threads titled "Great Art by Others". Reading a poem every day can also enhance your ability to stretch out your mind's creativity. Listening to a new artist (easily done on youtube) can open new doors to your ear's pleasure. These are various ways to subject yourself to other's creative energy. If done enough, and with good success (finding art that you enjoy) you too cannot escape the inspiration to create.

The next step would be implementation. How does one who has rarely drawn or painted gain creativity in such a realm? How can the inexperienced become experienced? Well practice is the brute force answer, but the easier answer is cheat. In drawing and painting, simply try to exactly replicate someone elses work. Use some tracing paper. This part is not exactly the creativity building, it is rather the bank of tools and techniques you need to fulfill your mind's creative need to, well, create!

You can think of all painting and pictures as a series of lines and shapes. It can be broken up to various brush strokes, colors, angles, and segments. Each of these parts will be a product of your mastering of it. Take for example a human face. The face, in reality, is a continuum of cells, stretch over muscle, bone, and nerves. If you wanted to paint a face cell by cell you'd be doing yourself a dishonesty, rather, our minds are much better at generalizations. We first construct the shape of the face; that is, the outline, the spaceing between the eyes, the shape of the nose, the structure of the lips and cheeks, and then we detail and highlight. Most of this is simply done by sheer practice and a building of your artistic inventory. Lets take a look at a youtube video I just love:

Notice, here, the segmentation. The face is parts. The artist has mastered the individual parts of a face, and the spacing, and then uses her learned artistic abilities to blend them together. This beautiful piece of watercolor art is actually just a summation of eyes, nose, mouth, face, and a technique the artist has herself mastered to blend them together in an abstract way.

My art, usually done in pen & ink, is done much the same way. I have a large warehouse of techniques, patterns, objects, and themes lodged deep within my brain and memory. I piece these together in various ways and out comes a work that some enjoy (I'm modest). What a real artist is good at is creating a theme - a large idea of a piece, a feeling to be expressed, or an object that is of central importance, and then building that based on the acquired techniques. I have often thought of great ideas for works of art that I simply did not at the time have the skill assets to create, and thus they were swept under the rug. However, time and time again, while waking, dreaming, or extremely sleepy, I have often conceived of pictures that were absolutely necessary for me to pursue on paper.

This ability to see new images to create is where the real creativity comes from. Synthesizing worlds of imagery that never existed before - that is a true creative mind. To emphasize this trait, often it is best to lose some of the mind's mental blockers. All throughout our day we block and filter information that seems irrelevant to our daily grind. This filter also, unfortunately, removes some abstract or creative imagery from the mind. Have you ever been very, very tired, and seemed to have images coming to you almost as if they were funneled to you? This, in my opinion, is actually your brain slowing down and removing filters, you are now creating images from noise - exactly what your brain is good at.

Use this. When your real tired one night, right before bed, try to sketch something a little more abstract, a bit more on the creative side. If you're really up for pushing your limits scroll through some art before bed time. While you go to sleep images will dance in your head, I promise! Usually what I do to get some inspiration is go through some images on - cascading myself with images far and wide of all types. I love street art as well and flickr is a great place for that, just take a look:

Going through images like this slowly builds up an inspiration for me, and soon my mind's eye is full of colored shapes and designs. Give it a try - you'll find that you too will soon be grabbing bits and pieces of these amazing art works and creating your own one-of-a-kind images in your head.

This type of creativity can carry over into your discipline of choice. Problem solving is necessarily dependent on creativity. You must come up with new ideas to tackle problems others have faced. This is done much the same way - surrounding yourself with influential minds and inspiring thought provokers will stir your mind into the right kind of thinking. I myself being in the realm of Chemistry surround myself often with forums on chemistry and reading of the scientific literature. What was once a completely abstract concept to me now has solidified to an easy to understand series of steps in my mind. To figure out a problem in chemistry is much like building a puzzle, and so are many other disciplines.
So - what did we learn today? In order to increase your creativity, look to others and what has already been done. Gather methods and styles you enjoy and focus on them, try to mimic them. Break down the filters, and surround yourself with art. As your mind slows down you will start synthesizing scenes and pictures never before created, and in a style that is uniquely your own, but the summation of many others.
Good luck! Have fun! Feel free to contact me.

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