“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine, and at last, you create what you will” – George Bernard Shaw
This month’s blog extends our artistic development process as we evolve an awareness of creativity.
I’ve spent considerable time, effort, study and analysis working to better understand how a personal cultivation might enhance our creative spirit.
The internet and book stores are full of words and videos that intend to provide these understandings and I find some quite insightful.
Being obtuse in my learning, it sometimes requires that I am beat over the head a few times until words and visuals become a token of knowledge in my spirit. Continuing to push this rock of knowledge up my wisdom mountain a little every day with enduring and repeated efforts has slowly developed intuitions within my awareness that assist me in this effort.
I wanted to provide one of the well founded insights that I happened upon which I’ve found preferred at defining the essential elements of creativity.
Here are these insights:
Creativity is a product of:
It also requires:
Intelligence, flexibility, time and effort
DESIRE. It’s hard to imagine creativity simply happening without a preexisting desire. The person looking for creativity sees possibilities that others tend to miss. The desire must be an active one, accompanied by actions that result in fulfillment of the goal
Creativity implies originality — doing something new — therefore, it also implies difficulty. Few difficult things are even attempted without a deep, active desire to succeed.
The desire must be accompanied by the next element, thought; without thinking and planning, desire is useless.
THOUGHT. One of the biggest difference of a creative photographer is the thinking that precedes and accompanies all aspects of the photographic process. Each of the many controls of photography can alter the final image. To recognize the originality of the unexpected. Only the intelligent, thinking individual will do so.
More often than not, creativity is based on careful thinking, reasoning, planning, and execution. Chance happenings may be part of the process, but the effect can be incorporated into future planning in a controlled manner. This requires thought, intelligence, and insight, as well as some knowledge of past photography. You don’t have to be a photohistorian, but knowledge of theory of photography can be a springboard to new ideas and real creativity.
Thought also implies the ability to distinguish real creativity from imagined creativity. To do something that truly has never been done before requires planning, as well as a great deal of personal insight.
“Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible” [Paul Klee Inward Vision]
EXPERIENCE. This can prove to be a double-edged sword. Experience can and should free you from concentrating on the mundane, mechanical aspects of the photographic process and allow you to concentrate on new concepts, techniques, and approaches. Experience tells you what to expect from most things you’ve done previously, freeing you from concerns with the basics. Yet too often, experience tends to lock you into regular habits and proven techniques, stifling creative potential. Every photographer has to guard against allowing experience to become a means of growing stale.
EXPERIMENTATION. Originality doesn’t arrive without experimentation. Nothing new comes from standard ways of seeing or standard ways of using familiar materials. Experimentation runs the risk of failure and most experiments are dead ends. In recognition of this basic truth, photographers shy away from experimentation. You must be willing to try and fail, then try and fail again, and again, and again. This can be frustrating, time-consuming, and costly, but it can also be incredibly rewarding when the experiment yields positive results.
Experimentation can be random or directed. You can work toward improving weaknesses in your existing work or toward expanding your horizons by delving into untried realms. This can take a variety of forms. If your body of work seems too limited, search for new subject matter or new ways of printing or presenting your work.
If the quality of your work is not personally pleasing, try new exposure and printing techniques or different materials and post processing workflow techniques. Even if everything seems pleasing, it’s still important to test new concepts, new combinations, and new approaches simply to avoid stagnation and also to recharge your own batteries.
INNER CONVICTION. I refer to this as a “gut feeling” that your imagery has meaning beyond it’s obvious, outward trappings. Inner conviction also means your way of expressing your personal view as you see it, and as you want it seen by others. Many photographers photograph where others have done so previously, yet a different vision marks the newer attempt. Just as each of us has different opinions about any subject, we also see things differently. If you feel your vision of even the most commonplace things is unique, satisfy that inner conviction with photographic expression.
This also implies doing what you want to do, whether or not the value of your work is immediately recognized by others. It doesn’t mean following the trends of the moment or the demands of the public or the critics. It means being yourself and following your inner motivations. It means having a sense of purpose and pursuing it with an honest approach. Today, galleries and museums are filled with work that is new, different, original, and gimmicky. The emphasis on originality has created a near-paranoia among artists and would-be artists to do something different, which all too often translates to something shocking. So a tremendous amount of “different” work is being produced, but much of it lacks personal conviction, insight, or emotion. It uses the materials of art, but it isn’t art. It’s nothing more than an unfeeling response to the demands of collectors, art critics, gallery owners, museum curators, and the like.
I feel that artists who maintain their personal integrity even at the risk of critical rejection are fulfilling the purpose of art more positively than those who produce original work lacking inner conviction. Van Gogh would have quit painting if his inner convictions were not as strong as they were, for his work received no acclaim in his lifetime.
Creativity, then, stems from a complex interaction of many factors.
Where it comes from and how any individual can acquire it are equally complex concerns. Some people are more inclined to creativity than others; when it comes to creativity, it’s obviously not true that all people are created equal. Those with intelligence, insight, and an inclination to experiment are likely to be the most creative.
Creativity can be nurtured, if not learned. You have to push yourself to do new and different things; push yourself, but not pressure yourself. There’s a difference, a huge difference. It’s rare indeed when anyone can produce creative work under pressure.
“Life is short, the art long” [Hippocrates Aphorisms]
These are just several of the multitude of insights that I have discovered over the years and continue to do so.
Hopefully they provide you with the light of knowledge and at minimum a path towards which you can seek your own avenues of creativity and bringing your own personal voice to your perceptual forefront.