Friday, January 8, 2010

About Creativity

I often hear mention of an individual’s search for creativity, especially from people who are past middle age. It sounds as if it were something precious and elusive that needs to be ferreted out of some hidden place or fabricated and put to use. I’ve also heard: “I’m not very creative”. In point of fact human beings cannot help but be creative. Our creativity has produced our cultures, our cities, our artifacts and our arts.

Contrary to the theory that we become creative when our basic needs are covered, we have become expert at covering those needs. Necessity is the mother of invention, right? Human beings are resourceful and imaginative. We make things. We find solutions.

Here’s Abraham Maslow on the subject: “The key question isn't ‘What fosters creativity?’ But it is why in God's name isn't everyone creative? Where was the human potential lost? How was it crippled? I think therefore a good question might be not why do people create? But why do people not create or innovate? We have got to abandon that sense of amazement in the face of creativity, as if it were a miracle if anybody created anything.”

My experience and what I know of friends who are painters or writers is that it’s about work and focus. Add to that some faith in the worth of your project (not always available but very helpful) and maybe some need for the results. When is a work of art needed? Well, how about a commission or a deadline for a design or a show? Or how about a job where you have to supply copy for advertising, a plan for a structure, or the resolution of a conflict? Creativity is essential in business, economics, architecture, industrial design, graphic design, advertising, mathematics, music, science and engineering. It is also vital when you are in the midst of putting together a recipe and you find that you need to make a substitution for some ingredient. When I was teaching, I found that my students were wizards at creating excuses for not having done the assignments.

Maslow again: “We assume that creativeness consists of lightening striking you on the head in one glorious moment. The fact that people who create are good workers tends to be lost.” And from psychologist Teresa Amabile (slightly paraphrased): “Creativity soars when the artist, or mathematician or cook is concentrating on the task before her and on the intrinsic pleasure and satisfaction of the task.”

Simply put, it is the act of making something new.

The image above is the collage painting Lobelia, acrylic & mixed media on paper mounted on canvas, 23” x 29”, painted in 2006. For information about any of the paintings seen on this site please email Joan.


  1. You are a inspiration to everyone. Thank you for your wisdom. Jack

  2. Hello! I'm here via The Alchemist's Pillow. Your artwork is delightful, and I so enjoyed your enterview and a peek into your studio.

    Glad to hear you survived the recent quake. Blessings and peace.

  3. Here via your nephew's blog and truly assimilating this post. I'm taking in what you say about having faith in one's own work/project

    Thanks you,


  4. Nice article you got here. I'd like to read something more concerning that theme. Thank you for posting this data.
    Joan Stepsen
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