Creativity and it’s bedfellows

Mr Bean and the Art Class

I was transported the other night back into my high school art class. I was watching an episode of Mr Bean with my son, in which he attends a still life drawing session. If you haven’t watched this episode in a while, it’s a great excuse to have a laugh. But in addition to the laugh, this episode gave me the opportunity to reflect on my creative experiences and perhaps one of the greatest challenges I believe we all can have as adults- to start the process of un-learning and question some previously held beliefs relative to our creativity.

From the outset I am envious of Mr Bean’s confidence at the easel. The setting is all very cliched, The art teacher is French, the subject is a bowl of fruit. I am instantly teleported back, somewhere 1995-ish, and I am staring at an almost identical bowl of fruit. I remember struggling trying to draw the banana, clumsily smudging charcoal all over my fingers and the white page. I glance over at the other students drawings. Suddenly bothering with my drawing doesn’t seem worthwhile anymore.

I feel irritated as a couple of students have already completed their drawings. The perfectly life-like bowls of fruit they produced seemed effortlessly channelled and they seemed (at least to me) to be unappreciative of their considerable skill. My mind drifts to similar negative memories- a poorly graded black and white photograph, or an art teacher attempting to fix my very weak attempt at the human ear.

But after years of yearning for an artistic ability to be able to create beauty and deeply envious of those who can, I have come to realise now is that bothering is worthwhile. More than that, bothering for me is essential. I have now come to appreciate (with some additional maturity) the type of artwork I would prefer to buy- and it turns out it is the far less life-like, but arguably more connected piece by, well…Mr Bean. Yes, I’m serious.

As the episode closes, and in the midst of my son’s chuckles, I am reminded of the Greats, the Masters. I am lost in the bright sunshine of Van Gogh’s heavily stylised vase of sunflowers, and his violet rambling field of Iris. Neither of which were photo-real. But entirely his own offering.

And I smile to myself.

The Creativity Quotient

There is, I am disappointed to say, a barometer of creativity called the creative quotient, which similarly to intelligence levels, claims to be able to measure our levels of creative ability or aptitude. Instantly my mind wonders if I would score very well on this test.

I am highly suspicious of this quotient (and not just because I doubt that I would score well), but I believe that creativity is something that simply can’t be measured. Would the same arrogance suggest that a quotient could be devised to measure the size of the human soul? In my opinion, creativity is a fluid process that waxes and wanes, that can easily become suppressed and denied. Human Beings change and grow and creative potential continues to change and grow in response to that stimuli. For me, creativity is not only a daily challenge but a privilege.

I am reminded of years of my own ‘creative constipation’, and know that I am not alone. I often talk to people who insist ‘I am not creative’, and I know that this simply is not true. It is just a story. I wish there was a Metamucil or Coloxyl equivalent in my handbag I could offer to relieve this predicament but know that none such exists. What I can do though, is to offer my honest reflections on the creative process and the truth might surprise you. It continues to surprise me and it is my hope, that it might encourage you on your own creative pa