There is a problem with how we educate children to be creative. I think back to my high school art classes and how I was taught. The idea that was allowed to perpetuate was that artists constantly search for inspiration and it was the great artists who had found it.
Later on, in art school, I learned artistic processes revolving around playing, experimenting and documenting. Even though this might seem similar to the activities you remember from high school art, the thinking behind it was very different. When backed up by a particular methodology, and in a structured and focused environment, these activities become something more. They become habits which open the door for creativity. Through continuously doing we enable ourselves to make and see more connections and develop our work until we reach a resolution.
Creativity is a matter of hard work. It is less about ideas and inspiration and more about perseverance and execution.
This isn’t just about art, design or music though. Creative thinking and the processes involved with taking an idea and thrashing it around until you get to the best manifestation of that idea, or trying and trying until you find the solution to a problem can be applied across the board.
A favourite artist of mine, Bob and Roberta Smith, has long been championing the importance of teaching creativity and maintaining art and creative pursuits as a core part of the curriculum. In our formative education, if we’re lucky, we will learn certain processes. These might manifest themselves in the ability to see relationships between numbers and quickly solve mathematical problems, or they might result in the ability to analyse a collection of words and deduce a meaning which may be hidden to others.
However, many of us will learn that there is a relationship between numbers and words and we may even memorise what these are in some cases, but we will not learn the processes behind them. By being introduced to the creative process at an early age we can develop the ability to explore relationships, even if just in our minds, and discover how things (be they numbers, words, paper and paint, or piano keys) can work together.
John Cleese, in his well known lecture, talks about how creativity (or the open mode) can lead to curiosity. And curiosity is surely the most important attribute for someone to have during formative education. It opens the mind and compels us to try new things, learn new skills and explore the world around us.
As well as the links above, I’d recommend Edward de Bono’s Po: Beyond Yes and No as a starting point for reading about creativity. I’d be interested in hearing the thoughts and experiences of others. Did you get a good creative education? Do you feel it’s lacking now? How did you learn to be creative and how do you keep it up now?