Monday, 17 April 2017

Regaining Your Innate Creativity At The WI

I was recently invited to the Kingsclere Women's Institute to speak on 'Regaining Your Innate Creativity' and lead a creative art workshop. 

To start off I asked the question: What is creativity?

“The ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination.”

“The use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness.”

“Creativity is the innate ability to synthesize ideas into something new.”

From these definitions we can see that creativity is not applied to just art, craft or design but any type of problem solving - and we may engage with a range of everyday tasks creatively without recognising this.

The next question to ask was; is everyone creative?

It is a common notion that creativity is a mysterious trait that you either have or you don’t. There has been a lot of speculation and research on whether some people are naturally more creative and how much environmental factors play on developing creativity. The answer is probably a bit of both.  Some people may be more disposed to original thinking or visual learning than others but I believe that we all have the potential to be creative.

So why do we lose this creativity?

If you spend any time with young children you will know that they are very creative and imaginative, completely unhindered by notions of the correct way to draw something or even that trees must be green.  It is only as we get older that we begin to lose this creativity.  It may be that we are told trees can’t be purple or that our drawing doesn’t look right. Many lose confidence in their artistic abilities and in creativity in general.

Also we are told that creativity is an artistic characteristic.  The initial influencers in our lives, have told us that if we can draw or paint or sculpt or write etc. we are creativeTherefore, we’ve deduced that if we can’t draw or paint or sculpt or write, we aren’t creative. This reasoning becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Drawing and painting are in fact technical skills that can be learnt in the same way that music can, but creativity is where a particular problem is solved.  Such as how do you show that part of the tree you are painting is in shadow?  Perhaps a creative solution would be to add some purple in those areas!

When we were children, most of us perceived of ourselves as creative because we were not held back by rules and instead engaged with art activities not hindered by the concept of being judged on our creations – we just had fun!

As we get older we begin to feel more pressure to conform, we worry about results, being accepted and are less likely to take risks in trying new things. 

One of the most innovative artists Pablo Picasso summed this up in two quotes.

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”

So is it too late to learn? Can you be more creative?

Yes! One of the great myths about creativity and especially art is that it can’t be learnt. Neuroscience has shown that our brains are incredibly adaptable and that they physically change as we learn new things.  While the best time to learn may be while we are young and the neural synapses in our brains are most adaptable to making new connections we can still train our brains to make different connections later on, even if we are going against or bypassing established connections.

As an example the famous painter Wassily Kandinsky originally practised law. He was thirty, when he decided to pursue a career in the arts and went on to create the first pieces of non-objective, abstract art.  One of the most momentous developments in the history of art.

You may be asking why are art and performing creative activities important?

Imagination, creative problem solving and lateral thinking are essential to all developments across any discipline. Whether or not we are aware of it, art design and creativity affects our lives all the time.  As an example look at the chair you are sitting on and imagine the creative work that went into it's design and construction. 

Art and creative activities also encourage exploration of the world and different subjects.  Art and craft can be an effective way of exploring different cultures and act as a record of historical events.

Art can be used for; entertainment, cultural appreciation, aesthetics, personal improvement, and even social change.

It has been shown that art and creative activities can have a positive impact on our well-being.  Art or craft groups can create space to socialise, for those who are lonely. Craft is a good way to bring together communities, generations and cultures. It can also be the perfect medium to discuss a variety of issues. Difficult subjects are often easier to talk about whilst in the process of making an object.

Art can also impact our emotional and mental health.  Jennifer Drake is an assistant professor of psychology,  researching psychology and the arts, who has looked into how drawing can improve mood. Her studies show that when used as a distraction drawing can significantly improve mood. The studies found that drawing an emotionally neutral subject and focusing on observation and the process of drawing worked best, rather than using drawing to vent or express emotions.

Recent fads like adult colouring books and zen doodles are now making use of this mood altering effect. Commenting on adult colouring Drake said:

“I think adult colouring is absolutely therapeutic. It distracts us from something that is stressing us and allows us to focus on something positive.”

How can we be more creative day to day?

Creativity often feels as though it blossoms out of nowhere.  Awesome ideas can pop into your head when you're in the shower or on the bus, but only occasionally when you're at your desk or easel.  Creativity emerges when there is the correct balance between knowledge, experience and your focus on the challenge at hand is a relaxed, coupled with a positive emotional state.  In other words you’re unlikely to solve a problem creatively, when stressed.  

To encourage creative thinking:

·         Feed your imagination, increase your knowledge of a range of subjects.

·         Be open and inquisitive.

·         Set yourself problems that require creative solutions.

·         Be confident to try new things. Take some risks. Move out of your comfort zone

·         Don’t go with your first idea.

·         Look at the problem from a different angle.

·         Cultivate a resilience to failure.

 After my talk I introduced some practical activities using wet on wet watercolour washes, Clingfilm and salt, then encouraged the ladies to explore a range of dry media while the watercolour was dying. The colourful paintings could then be cut out into shapes and stuck onto larger paper in a new design. 

Throughout the activity I encouraged the ladies to play and explore, experiment, try new things and take risks. I asked them not to worry about the end product but to approach the activity with a sense of freedom and not worry about being judged. 

Lots of fun was had by all and hopefully I have inspired the ladies to be more creative.

Example of work made.


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