Exploring Creativity

Erick Wahl writes…..

“The purpose of art is not to produce a product. The purpose of art is to produce thinking. The secret is not the mechanics or technical skill that create art – but the process of introspection and different levels of contemplation that generate it. Once you learn to embrace this process, your creative potential is limitless.

Artwork should be an active verb (a lens by which to view the world) not a passive noun (a painting that sits dormant in a museum). Creativity lies NOT in the done but in the doing. Art is active and incomplete. Always shifting, always becoming. Art is a sneak peak into the future of potential, of what could be. Not a past result of what has been already done. Art is a process not a product.

Art is a human act. Art is Risky. Generous. Courageous. Provocative. You can be perfect, or you can make art. You can keep track of what you will get in return for your effort, or you can make art. You can enjoy the status quo, or you can make art.

This is the purpose for why art should not be cut from education.

Erick obviously has some very narrow ideas about the definition of art.  He would have it that it is all in the process and gives no credibility to a product of that process.  I agree, if becoming more creative is the goal, then forgetting about the product and just ‘do it’ is certainly good advise.  So many ‘artists’ spend their time judging what art trends are, designated color of the year, what architects and designers are looking for, or checking out a juror’s art work to sway their style of painting.  

Historically, his claim was very evident in art schools of the 1960’s through 80’s.  Painting teachers were reluctant to lay down any rules and expected students to find their own means of expression.  The student needed to attend a design class to learn about standard guidelines.  The Painting teacher came from the Expressionist era where the goal was ‘autonomy’ between the painters’ more subjective feelings, heart/ soul in order to produce something with more spontaneity and ‘expression’.  The artists’ goal was more revelation than intention.  Those ideas still exist today, although there is more of an emphasis on content to express reality, or the artists view of their perceived reality, rather than it being just a vehicle for internal expression.  

As a student, on the first day of painting class, it was an exercise in frustration with a feeling similar to getting ready to jump in the deep end of a pool from a high diving platform.  We didn’t know anything about materials, paint, brush and surface characteristics, plus the added intimidation of being a freshman trying to deal with acceptance.  What a relief to have permission to set up a still life and the principle of just ‘blocking in’.  It got me in the pool.  Then we found out there was something called ‘critique’ at the end of every class. It helped to take a philosophy class in conjunction with art classes.  I think we earned our initiation.

As a teacher I have noticed how so many beginners are nervous to even start a painting, some even freeze up.  As if laying out their souls to the world or revealing something very personal.  I’ve seen how students can intimidate themselves.  The is probably what Wahl alludes to when he wrote about the idea of ‘perfection’  The student is afraid not to be perfect.  So, yes, I agree, the creative process is not about the product but a concentration on the enjoyment of the process and a degree of ‘introspection’ that brings success, ironically, in the end product.  Rather than a headache, the student experience becomes more aligned with meditation, with time just disappearing.

I don’t like Erik’s claim that all paintings in museums were not created in the pursuit of art.  Maybe we call them art works.  But, just like science, we need to know where we have been in order to move towards innovation.  What is the purpose of studying Art History if this were not true?

The truest statement he made:  Art should not be cut from Eduction.