Here’s another post from Elizabeth King, whose blog I critiqued in an earlier post.  This post is really just a graphic, but it’s still interesting…

Overall, I appreciate (that is, I like) the author’s overall goal of encouraging people to be more creative.  This graphic though seems to suggest that an artist’s creative process involves a lot of consideration for the “rules” of art, and then decisions as to whether or not to follow them: “risk taking,” “innovation,” etc.  This also suggests that an artist is very concious of where his or her artwork fits in the big scheme things.

And I don’t necessarily disagree with any of that, if that’s what the artist wants to think about.  (Though I do think an artist can think he knows more about the role of his and other artists’ work in the big scheme of things than he is actually capable of knowing.  Things like influence are like stock market prices; they’re chaotic systems.  They are not linearly-defined cause-and-effect patterns, even though they can be simplified to look like that, and we humans tend to simplify things into cause-and-effect patterns quite naturally.  Nassim Nicholas Taleb, anyone?)

I don’t think any art is created in a vacuum.  An artist is going to be influenced by all the artwork he’s seen before, especially work that really resonates with him.

But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with an artist’s creative process not involving consideration for “rules” (which often aren’t really “rules” in the first place, so I don’t know why people keep calling them that), or consideration for how “innovative” they think they’re being.  After all, one can only judge “innovation” based on what one’s seen before, thus it is a subjective property, a matter of opinion, not objective academic analysis (though such analysis might be interesting for the sake of getting new ideas).  Innovation for the sake of innovation is, of course, worthless.  It’s kind of annoying how many music composers out there could, for example, spend their time trying to create something “new” despite sensing any beauty, hoping the beauty will be found by future generations.  The point of creation is then a hope for later fame, later recognition for being the first, even though they claim to be entirely unselfish in their creative act.  But I guess that’s all beside the point…

I don’t really understand the concepts of “safety” and “bravery” in relation to artistic creation, so it will be interesting to see those concepts expanded upon.  Perhaps it has to do with an artist asking “will this creation of mine work for others?”  If the answer is: “Gee wiz, I just don’t know!  But I believe in it!” then the artist is brave.  If the answer is: “Yes!  I have followed all the rules!” then the artist is being safe.  Or perhaps it has to do whether or not the artist even cares what other people think.  If the artist thinks: “I’m going to do what I wish to do and I shall not compromise for the sake of the masses!” then he is brave.  If the artist thinks: “Well, gee wiz, I sure don’t want to confuse anyone and I hope everyone likes me!” then he is being safe.

Again, though, I don’t think this necessarily has to be a conscious decision, or even a decision at all.  If an artist is just trying please himself, then “safety vs. bravery” just doesn’t apply.  It’s not like you can be “brave” to yourself; you’re never going to do anything outside of what you would do.  To me, “brave” seems to mean you have something to fear, but do something despite that fear.  If you’re not afraid of anything, then you cannot be brave.  And maybe I’d go so far as to say that a fearful artist is a stupid artist, and therefore no good artist can be brave.  After all, if you’re truly fearing something, then your creative priorities are probably wrong.

So, overall, I don’t think this diagram describes a lot of people’s “creative process” and I don’t think that’s bad.  I think it’s a lot more automatic for most people.  It basically goes: What would I like to see exist? –> Create it.  That simple.  No thinking about innovation, rules and rule-breaking, being brave or safe, studying long artistic histories, etc.  Just creating for the joy of it.

Perhaps I will at some point launch my own site dedicated to encouraging creativity… but first I will have to study whether or not such a project will be innovative enough…


2 Comments

Elizabeth · October 2, 2010 at 1:14 PM

“This graphic though seems to suggest that an artist’s creative process involves a lot of consideration for the “rules” of art, and then decisions as to whether or not to follow them: “risk taking,” “innovation,” etc. This also suggests that an artist is very concious of where his or her artwork fits in the big scheme things.”

In a word: nope.

My graphic has nothing to do with rules or the greater context–nor does it say it does.
It’s just a reflection of a relatively typical *subconscious* *experience* (rather than volitional action sequence) that happens when you innovate or create– you usually, but not always, have some sort of context; you use what you know to start thinking about things; sometimes you wrestle with them; then you have an Aha moment, make a new connection, and what you’ve discovered/created is absorbed into your new canon or work or base of knowledge.

I think it’s hilarious that you put words in my mouth about rules and conscious decision-making and then rail about how I’m wrong, but I guess if that’s how you work things out for yourself, that’s cool. While it’s neither here nor there, I do think it’s odd that you never ask questions to clarify what I mean? Why is that?

Re: “It’s not like you can be “brave” to yourself; you’re never going to do anything outside of what you would do. <–It'll be really interesting to hear what other artists say about this. As an artist myself, I've had to make some brave moves. True, the human will always does what it is most inclined to do, but that doesn't mean it's not scary or risky.

S P Hannifin · October 2, 2010 at 3:04 PM

Hi! Thanks for the comment, I appreciate it!

Please don’t view my post as an attempt to put words in your mouth. I am only making comments on my interpretations of your graphic. Your post only contains the graphic, so my only question would’ve been “can you expand on this?” which I thought you were planning to do anyway.

“My graphic has nothing to do with rules or the greater context–nor does it say it does.”

Then why put the word “rules” in the graphic? What you *mean* by rules may not be what I interpret it to mean, but you have “rule breaking” in big bold letters.

When I say “seems to suggest” perhaps I should’ve added “to me” … I’m saying right there that this is all a subjective interpretation … but I thought that’d be obvious since I’m the one writing it. Yes, it *does* suggest what I said it suggested. I’m not lying about what it suggested to me. Like a work of art, it might suggest different things to different people. You use the word “internal” and “external” but never differentiate between conscious and subconscious, so to me it suggested that this process was more conscious than not, and the rest of my post is based on that.

(It would be interesting to see a graphic that attempted to split up the conscious and subconscious parts of the creative process. We obviously can’t do it all consciously, but even making a graphic about the subconscious processes we think we have would give the idea of those processes at least a chance to be conscious (not that that would necessarily change the creative process).)

I don’t know how or why you’re interpreting any of this to be an attempt to put words your mouth.

I usually don’t ask clarification questions on blogs because most of the time (in my experience) it’s futile, so it’s nice to see an author welcoming them. But when I blog my responses to potential answers, please don’t read it as putting words in your mouth.

“It’ll be really interesting to hear what other artists say about this. As an artist myself, I’ve had to make some brave moves. True, the human will always does what it is most inclined to do, but that doesn’t mean it’s not scary or risky.”

I agree it would be interesting to hear what other artists say. I’d also be interested what you mean by your own “brave moves.” I can’t think of anything that would be *artistically* scary; maybe the fear or risk comes from the social or economic side of it… Will I make enough money if I do this? Will people like me? But I don’t think anyone can really be “brave” in these areas, at least not without caring too much about them… when it comes to the actual *art*, these are not concerns.

Thanks again for the comment! Looking forward to more of your posts!

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