Creativity and artistic ability are two different subjects. Creativity is a natural gift that every living person is born with. Babies engage in creative play, children pretend they are princesses and super heroes, adults create meals in the kitchen and decide what clothes to put together for the day, etc. So being creative is a basic human quality.
When someone says something like, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body,” what they are really saying is that they don’t believe they have artistic talent. Some people are born with the artistic ability to make art without much thinking, some people stress out if they’re asked to make art, some people learn the how-tos and then their artistic skills improve.
The important thing to remember is that creativity is in you, no matter what you think. Creativity is in you no matter what degree of artistic ability you have. If you’re interested in learning how to draw or paint, make jewelry or do arts and crafts or write poetry, just know that you have already achieved the first step just by virtue of being a human – you have creativity.
To develop artistic ability, first is choosing what you’re interested in creating, and then finding someone who can teach you the basic steps. Developing artistic ability is like learning how to ride a bike, as cliche as that sounds, because at first it may seem difficult… but with practice it gets easy and natural. In truth, the creative challenge is really to surrender to the learning curve so your inborn creativity can find its expression.
In modern society, we are continually bombarded with standards of beauty and what is cool, and these standards are imposed by others. Artists coming out of various cultures not only express what’s inside, but there is also an influence that delicately affects us out of culture. This is where the intellect takes over. It is a reservoir of endless, inner commentary based on a lifetime of inflow! This can have a deep impact on creativity, sometimes causing us to be hard on ourselves, be critical of what we are making, make us feel stuck, etc., all of which I call “inner creative challenges.” I have a personal “bag of tricks” I use to help me overcome myself, and to stay in touch with my inner creative energy. Different things work for different people and each individual can find ways to inspire his/herself.
I cannot command my creativeness to appear, but I can influence it. Some examples are that I often keep a small sketchbook in my purse, I take photos with my phone of things I want to refer to later, I jot down notes of ideas that will probably slip my mind, I change what I have hanging on the walls, I have several projects going at the same time so I can get away from something I can’t be objective about, I work on my painting upside down, I make lists of unexpected things I could incorporate into a work, I take a class in something new, and I always try the opposite of what I would normally do in a drawing or painting (or in my jewelry designs).
Other things I do when those inner creative challenges arise are I’ll take a walk or a drive to get away from my project, then draw something while I’m out for a change of pace. Or I take 5 minutes to talk to myself in the mirror and encourage the one I see across from me. Sometimes I take ten to practice changing my thoughts – I sit quietly and then for every negative thought, I make up 25 positive thoughts. I’ll trace a drawing/painting I’m working on, transfer it to another paper/canvas, and start over in a completely different color palette or style. It’s all about being kind to myself and having fun. And I’ve discovered that whenever I’m too serious about my art, the inner creative challenges rear their ugly heads!
When children are given the opportunity for creative, open-ended play, the imagination is stimulated and they learn to think in new ways. New ideas form because in creative play they are free to see things in different ways. They begin to rearrange things and think outside of the box they normally live in. They fantasize and dream about things, and do whatever feels fun or interesting. They exercise their curiosity as well as their visual muscles.For as long as I’ve been teaching the visual arts of drawing, painting, and animating, I’ve seen children and adults develop faith in themselves, through self expression, because each one is seeing himself or herself as unique. (Read my full article here.)
Adults are like children in their need to express their inherent creativity. Creating art makes people of all ages feel good, and happy people have more self-esteem. I’ve had many students, children and adults, whose self-esteem grew as they became more proficient in drawing and painting.