Thoughts on Creativity

Where does creativity spring from? Roughly once a year I have the privilege of going on a retreat with a group of business people who, over the years, have become good friends. We spend a full day exploring a new concept or learning something new that has the potential to enhance our business abilities. Quite often there’s an element of creativity in the mix somewhere. Last week six of us had an immersion in face reading with Glenna Trout of FacingFacts. An ex-police officer, Glenna has had over 20 years of experience in assessing people, some of whom are not always in the most co-operative state of mind. We examined a few quite chilling examples of serial killers’ expressions, and some revealing aspects of celebrity character traits showing up that they probably wouldn’t want their public to see.

creativity: watercolour painting - sketch of shadows on a faceAt the end of the day, Glenna gave a candid run down of what she saw in each of us. She talked, amongst other things, about our tendency towards creativity. There was lightbulb moment in what she saw in me. That I am creative, is no real surprise. Her insight was that there is a build up of frustration because that creativity is not expressed often enough, or for long enough. I don’t get angry very often but I must confess that when I do, it is a bit volcanic. I had always glibly put it down to my ‘red head temper’. But, perhaps not.

I don’t think of creativity as being purely an artistic or aesthetic attribute. Many entrepreneurs are fundamentally creative, and there is certainly a strong element of creativity in the thinking behind scientific discovery. However, its more visible manifestations tend to be in the arts.

Intrigued by Glenna’s insight, I asked a couple of very creative people (both artists), for their thoughts on creativity. Here’s what they said:

Maggie Latham talked about her early years, what led her to a deeper understanding of her own creativity, and what it takes to pursue them. She says:
“My mother died when I was a young girl, so I spent many solitary years, growing up before my time. One of the ways I dealt with grief was to daydream of travel and an artist’s life. …and to sketch and walk.

Many years later, my husband passed away unexpectedly and that too made me remember that life is too short not to be doing what is in your heart and soul, however much it may seem like a difficult path to take at the time.

 It was then I decided to stop fooling around with creativity and to dedicate my self, my time, my life, and my energy to the creation of art. Like many, I used to paint when I felt in the mood, but the decision to make the creation of art   my life, means I paint most everyday, and on days when the muse just isn’t there, I write about art, prepare my class work for my watercolour class, or just mange the business side of art.

Like any thing in life, it’s not just about the physical act of doing (painting), but a great deal also about the commitment, dedication and enthusiasm you bring to your chosen media. Even through lean economic times, I never doubt I am on the right track.  I would purchase a new paintbrush over a haircut or new pair of jeans any day!

If you want something to happen bad enough, you have the power within yourself to make that happen, but it does take dedication, tenacity and a positive outlook…. along with a pinch of creative talent.”

Mita Higton said:

“Ah..the creative process! I didn’t know I could paint until I picked up a paintbrush at the ripe old age of 40. Since then, it’s been hard to put it down. I’ve been painting more or less consistently since then. Now it’s got to the point where it completely dominates my life…there’s hardly a day goes by when I don’t paint something. Even when I’m despondent at the lack of sales etc and decide to give it all up and put my stuff away, within a day or so it’s all out again and I’m stuck into something new.

What drives me to keep doing it? I can’t explain, except that the creative urge is something that I’ve always had and governs how I look at the world around me..whether it’s the landscape outside the door, the shape and colour of the clouds, the way a tree bends in the wind, the cottage that fits so neatly into the curve of the hill, or the way the furniture should be arranged in my living room or the curtains I could make with the spare fabric in my cupboard, or how to alter that dress that doesn’t fit properly.

Everything I look at is defined by the creative impulse within me. I want to recreate it in my way, either by putting paint and water on paper or moving a chair into a different position or arranging a vase of flowers and placing it on a table near a window where it will show the best. Is it something I was born with? I don’t know, but it does seem to be prevalent in the family. The urge is always there and no matter how much frustration there may be in recreating something in the way I want, the urge never leaves me.”

As for me:  I decided to try my hand at painting when I realised just how much of my working life was spent in analytical thinking. I felt that I needed some balance and had the idea that by developing a different, more flexible, way of seeing the world, my overall thought process would be enhanced. Logically, if we can maintain our current neural pathways while at the same time developing additional ones by trying something fresh and new, our overall mental agility should improve – and with it,greater creativity.

With regard to Glenna’s insight; I can confirm that one of my frustrations in life is not having enough time to do all the things I want to do. I need a lot more hours in each day to get through all the books I want to read, the websites I want to explore, the paintings I want to paint…

Perhaps with a bit more awareness, and just a few more hours of painting each month, I’ll be able to reduce the number of Vesuvius moments my long-suffering family endure.

6 thoughts on “Thoughts on Creativity

  1. I agree with so much of this. My art is a vent for me. As I say in my profile, after the stresses of my very left-brained job I relax by giving the right side a chance. I also have a bit of a 0-60 in 3 secs temper lol! I lost both of my parents and one of my two brothers in just a few years quite recently and so the whole ‘life is too short’ does provide a good kick to stop wasting time and be creative.
    I started to paint about twenty years ago, at a time when I was very stressed in my job, but, after an initial burst of enthusiam, I basically stopped. It was the whole blogging thing that attracted me back, seeing other peoples work and wanting to be creative again myself. So now I’m blogging and getting frustrated that the days are jus too short!
    Great post Vandy – thanks for sharing.

    1. That ‘days are too short’ thing is such a problem, isn’t it?

      It strikes me that many of us have discovered, (or rediscovered) this love of painting when we are adults and life has thrown us a few curve balls. Time does then become the largest constraint because we live such busy lives.

    1. What a great piece by Ira Glass. I really can relate to that. Thank you, Christy. Good pointer.

  2. Vandy, so sorry I missed this when you posted it last week. Too busy in my own little world! It is so interesting to hear other artists heartfelt feelings about painting and why they are driven to create. It’s not something we often put into words. As far as the word ‘creativity’ goes, I personally think that it often only presumed synonymous with the arts. We don’t think of the housewife who creates a variety of 7 hot meals a week from roughly the same ingredients week after week as ‘creative’! And what about the person who spends a huge amount of time looking at gardening and seed catalogues each spring, ordering just the right amount of plug plants for their summer hanging basket? I never quite understood how my sister’s hanging baskets were so beautiful year after year, colour co-ordinated, everything growing at the right size so that you can see all the plants…She actually spends many, many hours planning and thinking and working-out colours!!!!…But the rest of the family would not think of her (or as this) as creative! So the perception of the word ‘creative’ itself is p’haps in question. Thank you so much for posting my words, I have so much enjoyed our journey together on the 100 washes blog. And big thanks for introducing me (us) to the work of Mita and her husband.

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