Since the release of the seminal book on creativity, “The Artists’ Way”, and “Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain”, there’s been a steady increase in the knowledge and acceptance of the role of the human mind, the human experience and most importantly the spirit, in creating art. This article reveals some of the truths behind the artistic experience and presents simple yet effective methods that any person can be “creative”. Many authors have written about the “Creativity Class” (i.e. Richard Florida) or the “Creativity Revolution”.
First, let’s be clear about some common misconceptions about artists…
Myth #1 – Artists are born not made. This belief is actually fueled by popular and new media and throughout history, has been the widely accepted norm about artists. After all, Van Gogh, Gougain, and many other artists were poor… However largely mainstream outlets have penetrated the public consciousness and helped to spread this popular belief of the artist as “strange”, irresponsible, selfish, unrealistic, unfaithful… POOR. But this is in fact not the case. Artists are not born (although some artists may have a genetic predisposition toward becoming an artist – e.g. their parents or family had artists). Artists, successful ones anyway, go through a long and often arduous journey of ‘self-discovery’ which is riddled with self-doubt, fear, anxiety and sometimes loneliness. Much of this isolationism that an artist will experience comes from the simple act of having no clear measure by which to evaluate their artwork – art is merely an expression of the soul, and a natural by-product and process of being intimately connected to the divine/God and open to the thrust of grace (i.e. open to receiving divine blessings, ideas, information and serendipitous/synchronistic events that unfold naturally and effortlessly).
Many martial artists and Tai Chi and Qi Gong practioners describe this as Tao (the way), or as “effortless effort”; Bruce Lee, who many don’t know had a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Seattle, described it well in his poem (excerpt written here from his seminal martial arts book “The Tao of Jeet-Kun-do” (1973): “…Victory is for the one, who even before the combat, has no thought of himself, abiding in the no-mindness of great origin”. Now this doesn’t suggest that one should forget oneself and do whatever you want to (reckless behaviour, immoral life, foolishness), but is means that one has to empty one’s mind and free oneself of the “ego”, before achieving success. It also makes reference to our own inner enemy – i.e. that critical voice which is so often responsible for ruining our dreams, for complicating our lives, and producing our fears, worries, stresses, anxieties and sorrows. We mustn’t pay attention to these as artists (or whatever profession you’re in), as these are false illusions, which Bruce Lee refers to as “…the reflection of the sun and the moon”, and are thus not the sun or the moon. Similarly, the criticisms we receive from art critics, and especially from within ourselves, we should take with a grain of salt. Concentrate on the solution to a challenge, not on the challenge itself.
The other important myth (myth #2) about artists is: artists can’t make money or survive on their art. The popular and indeed false representation of the classical artist struggling to make ends meet, and starving in the process, is a common Hollywood/film icon. As artists, we are to a large extent, more sensitive and intuitive than the rest of the population, but that is because we listen, which is really a form of acceptance, and embracing one’s own creativity, is a form of connecting with and embracing one’s own creative drive and one’s creative potential.
While there is a lot of existing knowledge and scientific information on early childhood development, human development, psychology, etc, I make no attempt to draw upon any of this research in detail, and only highlight some key concepts to make a point with respect to creative potential and creative growth and evolution of the ‘artist’. Each artist, regardless of discipline or life experience goes through a similar journey of “self discovery” (i.e. know thyself and what thy is capable of achieving and pushing one’s boundaries and expanding one’s self and one’s consciousness):
- Exploration of the natural, built and imaginary world: as toddlers and children our senses are open to taking in a robust and rich tapastry of tastes, sights, sounds, kinesthetic feelings and touching and interacting with objects, etc. Our world is expanding by the second as we take in all the splendour and experiences of the world, and establish critical neural connections and networks, which form the basis/foundation for further brain development and emotional intelligence later in life.
- Discovering our natural talents through our interactions with the built and natural world. Conditioning, which results from our interactions, experiences, traumas, etc as an infant, child, but also as a young adult, affects our ‘points of reference’, our values, goals, etc. Our creative potential often lies dormant or hidden, unexplored, or worse – unconsciously blocked through limiting beliefs). Through the process of discovering our creative talents, interests and creatively communicating it freely and openly and playfully, we grow both as artists participating and expressing and exploring, and become more intuitive, more aware, sensitive and aware of changes within us, our environment, and also we become much more curious. This is an experimental stage for the artist/emerging artist
- Artists interact with the world in a playful way, and long for play, touch, interaction and the art of “effortless effort”. As artists, we tap into our inner creativity which requires heightened senses, perception and sensitivity to being, experiencing and living. As artists, we soak up things like sponges: that ray of sunlight streaming through the open blinds, reflecting on the glass ornament on the table…the same light which softens the hues and tones of the table cloth and creates cast shadows… we are simply clear observers of the world around us. And in many cases, we invent and add to, change, take away from what we see and experience, through our imaginations and the process of ‘visualization’. Visualization is an artists’ critical tool, since as artists we are always picturing an outcome or weighing and making often unconscious decisions about the composition, subject matter, etc.
- Artists connect with their subconscious mind more frequently, and draw upon those parts of themselves (their liminal selves), and multiple senses, which many ‘normal’ or non-artists or unconscious artists, still dismiss as being ‘childish’, naieve, non-existent, or illogical. Just as David Abrams wrote in “The Spell of the Sensuous”, there are not five senses as we are accustomed to believing; there are in fact more than 70 senses, and multiple ways of relating to things in the world. Many of these extra-sensory perceptions or ‘senses’ are experienced when we connect with our soul, and with the divine essence of life – i.e. God/our creator. In this way, the process of creating something, is divine and magical. Creating or performing art brings you closer to the divine…it makes you feel good, happy, joyful and in many cases makes you very aware of your sensory body and subconscious mind.
It’s good as an artist or as a person wanting to cultivate and develop their creative faculties, to become away of this creative process within themselves, and better cultivate conditions in their lives which permit them to be creative. Being aware of your likes, dislikes (contrast), and who you are (self-knowledge), tends to heighten your senses, and the depth or extent to which you interact with the world, and different parts of yourself/your subconscious, your conscious mind, your soul and heart.
Above all, just do it. The process of creating something, is both very therapeutic and healing, deeply enriching and rewarding. So next time you hesitate to make something or do something that involves ‘creativity’, don’t hesitate…break through and do it. At least try it, and see if you like it.