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Can creativity be taught?

I’m hoping with my heart and soul that the answer to that question is YES. I would like to become a teacher of creativity, and I don’t yet exactly know what that will mean.

I’m currently taking a course called “Creativity and Its Development,” which surveys theories of creativity and personal observations of artists, scientists and other creative people. It also challenges students to become visionary and artistic by better understanding and engaging their own creativity.

Here are some of my initial impressions:

  • Creativity demands a balance between passivity and activity—letting the muse penetrate the normal din of our active minds by becoming quiet, and then grabbing a hold of inspiration and stubbornly shaping it into something tangible.
  • Creativity requires courage. Courage to slow down, courage to feel, courage to run with an idea and not give up when the product doesn’t match the vision, and finally, the courage to share what you’ve created.
  • You can’t become creative just by analyzing creativity. You must try it out. However, there are lots of resources for exploring creativity and becoming inspired. So far the best handbook I’ve been introduced to is a book called Fearless Creating by psychotherapist Eric Maisel. It’s the artist’s boot camp! I’m only on Chapter 3, but I’m pretty sure that anyone who dreams of becoming an artist and follows this book like they go to Starbucks in the morning will become an artist.
  • “Artist” is an approach to any endeavor. But it’s also a discipline, an occupation and a profession. Not everyone can make a living as a painter, but everyone can be an artist of his or her particular trade.

Imagine a world with many more creative people! People paying attention; people focusing attention; people acting on their instincts and people caring deeply about what they produce. Writer and poet D.H. Lawrence observed, “Art is a form of supremely delicate awareness and atonement—meaning at-oneness, the state of being at one with the object.”1

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Art by Carl Gustav Jung, who theorized that “visionary art” is derived from and informs the “collective unconscious.”

1Lawrence, D. H. “Making Pictures.” The Creative Process: A Symposium. Ed. Brewster Ghiselin. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985. 62-67.
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Why study art?

I recently went back to school to study art. If I was going to work full-time, raise kids and get a master’s degree, it had to be something that would drive me to the library on a Sunday and keep me awake after 9 p.m. I love art and have dabbled in poetry and dance since I was young, and visual communication is becoming more and more important in my professional life. So I signed up for an M.H. program in Art and Visual Media. M.H. stands for master’s of humanities. “Of all the worthless things!” you might think.

My final paper in one of my first courses was devoted to researching the role of art and humanities education in innovation. You might be surprised to know how much the business and technology world is in need of creativity and humanity! It was an interesting project, but it only scratched the surface of the question “Why study art?” Why an M.H. instead of an M.B.A.?

The humanities offer the perspective of history, the openness of analysis and the expansiveness of art. Among its artists, philosophers, fictional and historical figures, the humanities offer abundant role models for traveling in unexplored territories.  Deep thinking and critical questioning are encouraged. You are taught the good sport of uncertainty with confidence in the journey and a sense of adventure. Our world is full of questions that need exploring beyond dogma and fear, and I’m convinced that art can help us do just that. If nothing else, embracing art and creativity makes us better people. Isn’t that enough?