I’ve been playing around with a few Working Definitions over the last year or so as they relate to Creativity and Art. I’d like to bounce them at you.
I think Creativity is about making connections. You get everything you can in front of you – the ideas you’ve brainstormed, the materials at hand, the problem you’re considering, a giant container of iced tea from lemonjellos (my favorite local coffee shop for those of you not from West Michigan) and any stray information that may be even remotely relevant. Then you start to make connections. Then you take a bathroom break because iced tea really passes through you. Then you collect still more ideas, materials, etc. and keep making connections. Somewhere in the midst of your caffeine buzz creativity happens. There’s more to say about attitudes, postures and why sweet tea isn’t really tea, and how these factor into the creative process, but I’ll save that for another day.
Meanwhile, Working Definition Number 2 is that Art is sharing your Creativity in Compelling Ways. I also think Art is best when it invites others into making their own connections. I always say I hate explaining a painting that I’ve done because it’s like explaining the punch line of a joke – you might understand the joke, but it won’t be funny anymore. Art is best when it is done in community – for community – and thus becomes more of a conversation and less of a monologue. So, for instance, what’s the inspirational title we could attach to this painting of mine?
Finally, Working Definition Number 3 is that Iced Tea is Awesome and it is also best done in community because the baristas at lemonjellos make good tea and good banter.
It’s fun to listen to people’s comments as they view art in a museum or gallery. The “a kid could draw that” is one that seems to pop out often – along with, “That costs HOW MUCH?!” and “Let’s get lunch”.
While I interpret some comments like that to be a dig, it also makes me smile, because how kids think and draw has been one of the constant muses in my 25 years of professional work. You see, I strive to find the joy and freshness of children’s eyes and noggins. I’d go as far to say that regardless of one’s creative approach, a lot of what we Creatives do is battle the filters that get constructed as we grow up. We edit too quickly and excuse the stray thoughts that are common in how kids operate.
So, the next time you look at my work and wonder why I can’t spell, or why some cow has too many teats, or why there is a bean stalk in the story of David and Goliath, know that it is because I am following the stray, stream-o-consciousness thought that I equate with thinking like a kid. My goal is to free the viewer up to do the same (think like a kid that is – not spel rong). Because when you do, then maybe you can rediscover a little bit of lost joy, or find a fresh angle on a familiar story or idea. Oh! And maybe the next time you hear someone say, “A kid could draw that”, you can answer, “Yes! Isn’t it wonderful!?”