Insight generation

Creativity is neither right nor wrong; it just is. That does not mean it lacks ethical impact or is neutral in the expression of ideas. I am an advocate of Isabelle Graw’s interpretation of the painting as a type of ‘quasi-person’ (Thinking through painting: reflexivity and agency beyond the canvas, Sternberg Press, 2012).

My own journey began with the realisation that creativity can find productive expression in many forms. I’ve worked first with art photography, then fabric art and have arrived at paint.

Many, most of us perhaps, have wanted to develop our creative ideas further, and this often finds an outlet in our daily work regardless of what we do for a living. As adults we take up various projects to express our creative interests, which become a journey of discovery and personal development. For example, some of us write, others make films or take photographs, and many explore painting, sculpture, pottery, jewellery, textiles, while others design and maintain gardens. This is what adults do.

Think of it this way: Pointillism is built on how we put together pictures from dots (look closely at a colour picture in a magazine — it is made of little dots). Make the dots big, and you have Roy Lichtenstein.

I am largely self-trained, an auto-didact, but have taken a variety of courses in creative photography, including commercial photography and art photography. I’ve also taken workshops on art tapestry (fabric art) and produced a number of tapestries. My decision to explore fabric came from a desire to explore the dimensionality of light, which in photography is essentially the flat plane of the image surface but you do come to understand the difference between reflected and transmitted light — regretfully, paintings only reflect light and the artist has do tricks to make the impression of light transmission. Fabric is 3d and colour blending occurs as light mixes between the fibres — look at some fabric to see what this means.

Painting offers a bit of both, as paint can be layered like a cake, or blended the way light mixes on cloth, but like with photography, layering and sculptural work can produce specular highlights which the artist must decide are intentional or not. I tend to prefer to chromatic mixing through glazing to the layering and mixing of colours on the palette itself. But then again, two bands of colour that are touching each other in a sharp line, can produce in our mind the impression of a colour that is NOT on there. There is some controversial research on whether there is a colour there or not.

It is not uncommon for people to have a maturing experience of their own lives and want to come back to the creativity that had eluded them. But this experience can be mind-numbing as few courses offered by schools or colleges meet the expectations for creative accomplishment by an adult learner. This is perhaps a great injustice to the vast population who may wish to explore their creativity later in life but find these often tax-funded institutions unresponsive. Indeed, performance research on the universities in the UK, finds the art schools at the very bottom.

It is worth noting that many art classes focus on techniques not creativity itself. Also keep in mind that the vast majority of the experience of academic artists in these institutions is with people 18-25 or so and not with mature learners with life experience. Perhaps the rule-bound universities will in time reconnect with the broader learning community using methods that offer flexible and friendly access.

I’ve written about this for Art of England magazine and the articles are posted on this site.