What makes us creative?

What makes us creative?

Back in September 2019 I submitted a couple of oil paintings and a selection of pen sketches to the Haslemere Art Society exhibition. I had not painted with oils before, many years ago I dabbled with acrylics, I had also used watercolours. But oil painting, this was a new beast…

The Stag – work in progress

The Stag Oil Painting

It is interesting how we all process tasks (and comfort zones) differently, some adapt quickly whilst others freak out! To switch over from pen sketching to oil painting did not seem like a big move at the time, however I was very wrong. In my head I had already mastered oil painting, in reality I needed to learn, practice and adapt.

MJ Ward Oil Paintings

Adjustments aside, I believe the process of creating and being creative is transferable. So I don’t believe an artist needs to stick to one medium, they can (if they wish) experiment with many. The same applies to other natural talents and abilities; someone sporty who runs fast, they will likely be good at other sports. Someone naturally gifted at music, they will pick up an instrument and learn to play it far quicker than most. So in my mind, creativity is indeed transferable if the want and desire is there. I look forward to my next oil painting session, watch this space…

A good teacher…

My own adjustments stem back to an English teacher I had at school, her name was Mrs Beer. I struggled with reading and writing as a kid, but I was pretty good at art and sports. She told me to change my perception, “think of an empty page as an empty canvas, start writing as you would drawing”. From then on I realised that words can become art. Limits only existed in our imagination, dudes like Shakespeare were indeed artists! I guess like all things in life, the more we practice the better we become.

So going back to what makes us creative. It is pretty hard to measure creativity, it is not like a persons IQ or a stop watch at a race. I guess we could say that creativity is genetic, but then what percentage of creativity is upbringing and environment? Are those encouraged to be creative as children, more likely to become creative as adults? If parents are being actively creative (through a job or a hobby), do kids pick-up on it, making creativity the norm.

How to be creative?

I believe creativity is a balance between energy, focus and ability. There needs to be a drive, a want, a passion. Something that makes you work when you are tired, or wake up when you are sleepy. There needs to be focus, this translates into your vision, a good understanding of what you are trying to create. As for ability, this comes in many shapes and sizes. Natural ability with lazy execution will never beat Joe Average, applying an extreme level of work ethic. I believe creativity is part natural ability and part upbringing, however being creative is tangible to all, a big percentage is hard work.

It’s all in the history books!

Looking back, the great visionary’s and innovators had much in common. Patterns exist all around us, so we can look at these patterns to help us understand creative habits. Steve Jobs once said, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them…”. If we rewind back a bit further, Albert Einstein highlighted, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” We then have modern day influencers like Elon Musk who say “Persistence is very important. You should not give up unless you are forced to give up”, and those like Dali who said “No masterpiece was ever created by a lazy artist.”… Now these are some pretty creative and successful individuals, listening is a great gift!

A few characteristics of these creative legends could include; a contagious level of passion, endless energy, super clever but often conceived as crazy, sociable but quiet, rebellious and different, proud but also modest. I guess to challenge the norm, to do things yet to be done, there has to be a few extremes in the equation. Extreme results often require extreme actions, AKA the road less travelled…

So, what makes us creative?

The short answer; a vision combined with massive action, and a commitment to both. I believe it’s working hard at something until it is done, not losing focus, not giving up… Going back to the start of this post and my oil painting, on many occasions I wanted to smash up the canvas! I had late nights, moments of doubt, times I wanted to quit and stick to pen drawings. However, the trick was to keep on trying, not giving up.

I hope this post has inspired some creativity, here’s to thinking outside the box and persisting with the challenges we set. Until next time…

Posted: 13th September 2020.

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