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  • Bianca Vinther

Creativity in art: the ultimate overview

Understanding the foundation of your art and waking up your inner artist

What does creativity mean to you?

Creative flow of abstract forms and colours. Watercolour on cold pressed paper by Bianca Vinther
"An explosion of artistic creativity" (watercolour on cold-pressed paper) by Bianca Vinther

Creativity is the driving force of all artistic processes. Understanding what it means to be creative is fundamental to your relationship with yourself and your art-making process. A solid grasp of this multifaceted concept called creativity in the visual arts can positively impact your work and help you make art you love.

In this post, I’ll share with you my most essential knowledge of creativity in art, including:

  • My definition of creativity in general and of artistic creativity in particular,

  • A short explanation of the relationship between creativity and transformation, and

  • A set of personal reflections on the role of creativity in art.

I wish you a pleasant reading, and I look forward to hearing from you!

What is creativity in general?

Creativity is a seed – an inborn and imperishable one, which can spread in manifold ways and can grow into extraordinary things. It’s like the tree inside the acorn – it makes everything possible. Everything.

If you cut the acorn open, you won’t see a giant oak tree, but you know it’s there.” (Wayne Dyer)

Creativity is your capacity to make innovative connections and free associations that others don’t do the way you do and to reinvent reality each time anew.

Creativity is also a means through which you can co-create reality — you and life itself working in tandem. I say co-create because you’re not alone on planet earth, but you’re a significant part of a global community of artists – creators in their own right and co-creators of a different world at the same time!

One of the things I like most about creativity is that it challenges conformism and the canonical recognition of empirical reality. It’s like a versatile lens that enables you to see up close, as well as far beyond appearances and the limits of your physical vision.

Creativity has tremendous power: it can pull you out of contingency and arbitrariness, and it can move you straight into meaningful action. Just think of it as a means for making a countless number of unique contributions to the ever-expanding universe!

Furthermore, creativity is a spring of possibilities for every visual artist including you, which can fuel your artistic fire. Believe in it and follow its lead!

Creativity usually works its way forward in small, sometimes unnoticeable steps, but once in a while it can occur in spurts or so-called “quantum leaps”. Either way, there’s no user manual, no plan, no standard pattern.

What mystery pervades a well! ” (E. Dickinson)

Can creativity be lost and found again?

Once in a while, creativity may feel like it’s completely gone. Why is that so? Because creativity is a fluctuating capacity of the brain. This is to say, your capacity to create depends on your physical and mental condition, which in its turn is joined to daily influences from various social, interpersonal, and emotional dynamics, to name just a few. So, yes, creativity can feel like it’s sometimes lost. This is absolutely normal and unquestionably human.

Without a doubt, you’re not always at the height of your creative potential, nor are you all the time in a creative mood (in fact, nobody is), but creativity is always there. Creativity is part of life itself in a daily motion. It swings but never vanishes. It lies dormant until you act on it. Remember the acorn inside the oak tree?

Creativity always gave me a feeling of wonder and a sense of purpose and adventure. I simply love this combination of meaningfulness and surprise, and this so positive feeling of awe that the gift of creativity awakens in me! I’m fascinated by the creative spark that each of us has!

Notice how creativity takes you out of the ordinary, off the beaten track.

Observe how it shakes your fears and breaks through your limitations, enfolding you like a wave.

Creativity has the power to set you free!

What is creativity in art?

I identify creativity in the visual arts (in short, creativity in art or artistic creativity) with the acquired ability to see like an artist and express oneself differently.

What does it mean to see like an artist?

Seeing like an artist is a way of seeing – an individual and unique one – like your entire Self. It means seeing the world from a personal angle that only you can have. It also means combining ordinary things into extra-ordinary hybrids, exploring new, alternative ways, and transforming empirical reality through close observation and regular practice.

It's shifting your vision from conformity to unconventionality. But it's also noticing things you’ve never noticed before, or seeing beyond the limits of your habitual vision, just like the mouse from the children's book called Armstrong by the German author and illustrator Torben Kuhlmann.

Armstrong tells the remarkable story of a little ingenious rodent with enormous imagination and courage (the first living creature to ever land on the Moon before the Apollo 11 Mission!). This clever mouse presents his fellow mice with ground-breaking evidence: the moon is a huge stone sphere. A huge sphere made of stone? No, no, no, that can’t be so! The mice proclaim: the moon is one big piece of cheese!

Who’s right and who’s wrong? The mice see what they have learned to see, the artist sees something else, in this case, an ultimate reality. The sight of his fellow mice is limited to the confines of their knowledge and daily habits. The artist’s unique vision goes beyond; it breaks the boundaries of conventional perspective, and it reaches brand-new horizons.

How to express yourself differently

This is what you can learn from Torben Kuhlmann’s hero: to be able to express yourself differently, you must unlearn your usual ways of making art (whatever they may be), walk off the beaten track, and explore alternative paths for your art; observe relentlessly and never give up; trust your creative Self.

You’ve always used brushes to make marks? Then try some wooden sticks instead. You’ve always liked to paint from nature? Then adopt a more abstract approach: focus on your marks, think and create without an end in mind, work with fewer materials and tools, and let yourself be surprised.

Creativity thrives under constraints, and it doesn’t need a road map.

The truth is that there's no map. You must decide to leave the comfortable, conventional road behind. Feeling afraid of taking this decision? Then remind yourself that you can’t live your life without making decisions, and befriend your creativity – make it your best ally, and artist block won't bother you any longer.

Creativity and transformation

Transformation is at the core of every artistic process. But there’s no transformation without creativity. Therefore, creativity is a condition for you to be able to carry out your art-making process.

The more you train your creativity, the better you can get in making art, regardless of the trajectory you adopt from artwork conception through to the finish (which, by the way, doesn’t always run in a straight line). If you want to know more about the art-making process, read my blog post entitled “What are the stages of the art-making process? Understanding the creative process in visual arts from concept to completion”.

Do you think that regular changes or shifts of vision won’t be possible or even necessary? Then you’re in store for one big surprise: routine kills your creativity. Because there’s no secure plan that creativity will ever stick to, and there’s no user manual that transformation will ever follow.

Creativity is non-conventional, anti-conformist, anti-canonical, unpredictable, and genuinely free. That's the beauty of it. It’s pure energy in action, dynamic and versatile, intentional and purposeful. It knows no boundaries, but it’s not always at its height. Therefore, it requires from you full commitment and steady practice.

Ask yourself this question: are you all in?