Friday, April 01, 2005

What does it take be creative?

"Talking Heads View of the Whole World" (cover for the album Little Creatures by Howard Finster)

"The artist shall be innocent of pictorial influences and perfectly untutored. He shall be socially nonconformist, even to the point of diverging violently from the psychological norm, and he shall not cater to the public."
-- British art historian Roger Cardinal

People always confess to a professional. So my wife, the rabbi, gets people telling her why they haven't been to synagogue lately and how much they really mean to come more often. Dentists hear a lot of folks explaining, in pathetic detail, exactly why they haven't been flossing as much as they really want to.

I, on the other hand, get people telling me that they can't do anything creative. And frankly, like the dentist, I am sick of hearing it.

As a "creative," I take pride in my training and my skills, and I wouldn't want the world of graphic design or fine art handed over to a bunch of talentless yahoos. There is such a thing as artistic talent, and I want the stuff I see every day (magazines, street signs, furniture) to look good -- so I'm not suggesting that everyone can do everything well. That being said, there's nothing magical about creating something; it's hard, but anyone can dig deep, find the creative impulse, and ride it to some sort of creative success (even if it's just personal enjoyment [which I hate to modify with the word "just"]).

There is, in fact, a whole movement devoted to such art (art by anyone) -- it's called by various names, including outsider art, naive art, and folk art. The work that people create when they are trying to express an inner vision or emotion, or to communicate to someone some simple message... these can be beautiful expressions of truth.

This is the message that I am trying to communicate to my daughters (I figure it's better to start too early than too late). I want them to be confident in their ability to create, and to hold onto their ability to interpret the world around them in interesting ways. Kids aren't afraid to draw, because they don't have preconceived notions about what's "good" or "bad" art; they just enjoy expressing themselves. The way to reinforce this, I have found, is just to expose them to lots of art and encourage them to make their own.

Abstract artists gave civilization a lot more than just fancy pictures; they gave us the freedom to believe in our own abilities. You can see a Pollock or a Miro and say "I could paint like that." And we can show our kids this kind of stuff in a gallery and say "you don't have to worry about what color the cow is, or how many legs it should have, or even if it looks like a cow at all." (See Picasso's "Guernica" for proof of this. And as for "realistic" drawing, I offer Dali's "Persistence of Memory".) Just draw it how you see it, and let people say what they will.

Art is about expression, and communication -- and more about the former than the latter. When we create something we do it for oursleves, and if others enjoy it that's fine (although for some, that sort of success is for some reason derided as commercial and summarily dismissed). So don't worry about doing it "the right way" -- just do it your way.

You don't need to start laying out your office newsletter, but some weekend maybe pick up a brush and some watercolors and paint a little. Or buy some Sculpey and make a little statue. Or put pen to paper and write down that story you've had running through your head. Don't waste your life bemoaning your lack of talent -- just act on that creative impulse, the part of your brain that makes you wish you could make something, and just make something.


B2 said...

"Pirate" added this to the Misanthrope's April 1 posting, but it really goes here:

You're absolutely right. People should just stop whining and get on with it if they want to create. There are teachers of the "creative arts", however, who wouldn't agree with you. I had one such instructor in a sr.-level University creative writing class. She had contempt for those who didn't follow certain weird "rules of process" for creating and I found this class horrible to be in as most of the students were of a similar persuasion: that creativity is reserved for the privileged, talented few (of course, this was never openly stated, but this was the opnion of most in the room). When I expressed my outrage at this rather royals-vs-commoners attitude, I was told (by the instructor) that, sure, of course anyone can create (this was said condescendingly); that most people choose to do it by having children !!!! I pulled an A in the class but I was depressed for weeks at a time and doubted my own ability to write anything at all as a result of this teacher's attitude, which many in the class seemed to share. This is what some "ordinary folks" who want to create are up against.

Pirate, that condescending attitude sucks, and I'm sorry you experienced it. My post, on the other hand, was a sincere effort to encourage everyone to be creative. --B2

Pirate said...

Sorry if I came across as bitter, B2. I know what the intentions of your post were, and I'm with you. Go forth, everyone, create, if you wish; creativity is NOT the province of the deified few. Have fun with it.

B2 said...

Pirate -- I meant the condescending attitude of your instructor -- I don't think you had an attitude at all! You did not seem overly bitter, so don't worry about it.

Chandira said...

Thanks B2, inspiring people to be creative is a good thing to blog about. I see so much (and sometimes write so much myself) negativity in blogland sometimes, all complaint and no solution. Creativity is a solution. Right on!
I paint sporadically. I spent 2 years at art college, as I didn't really know what the hell else to do! Check out Scott's very creative, I'd like to give him a plug here. :-)