What comes to mind when you think of skills artists need? How to draw? How to hold and use a paint brush? Rules of color mixing and line use?
Ok, fine. I agree. But you can have all those skills and not be an artist. What is the deeper need? You might answer “creativity”. You know, that thing that supposedly very few people have because for some reason the metric to measure creativity is whether or not you can draw a stick figure. I’m rolling my eyes, haha.
But really, what is creativity? How can you develop it or instill it in learners? Or is that a thing that some people get and some people don’t? Do you believe you have no creativity? Keep reading for some ways to develop more creative thinking.
After much research, both in trying to observe my own artistic process and through reading, I purpose to compose a series of articles on the mindsets and skills that I believe contribute to creativity. And all of them are within the grasp of almost every human. I hope that you, dear wonderer, can better understand the artistic process as well as get a sense of how I might guide an artistic learner.
First Skill: ENVISION
The first skill needed for every artist is the ability to ENVISION. To ask “What if”. To have an idea. To imagine what the result could be. This is a skill all of us practice every day–it’s problem solving, and life itself requires a measure of it.
To develop this skill, I encourage the student to ask a lot of questions of themselves: What if I changed the size? What if I added a line here? What if I mixed in this color? What if I tried again? What if I worked a little longer? How does my vision differ from what I’ve made? What can I change to make it a little more like my vision? What is missing? What needs to be taken out?
I also encourage imagining, pretending, and fantasizing. I might suggest questions such as “If you could make ANYTHING what would it be? If there was a color no one else had thought of yet, what color would it be? Pretend that you are a great scientist about to invent the cure for the common cold–what is the cure? Are you hoping to be an astronaut? What kind of things do you need to be an astronaut? What kind of planet would you hope to visit? What might alien life look like?”
It is so important to foster creativity that I love seeing parents who both let their kids have things to pretend, play and imagine with and model these things with their children! They don’t worry about the mess, because they are also going to teach and model how to clean up.
If you believe you have no artistic creativity, it’s very likely that the reason is because you once envisioned something wonderful, but when you made it, it didn’t match your vision. So you assumed you didn’t have any “talent”. Which, when you think about it, is not the way we approach anything else in life. Think about if you approached math that way. When you were 5 or 6, and someone asked you “what is 2 plus 2” and you answered “3”, did the adults in your life say “oh, there’s no talent there. Don’t waste your time sending them to math class”? Of course not. They helped you practice and understand until you got better.
Practicing envisioning–imagining, pretending, play and curiosity–really is the first step to becoming more creative. Isn’t that fun? It’s a blessing from the Creator Himself. It is one of the first lessons artistic learners encounter in my teaching, and one that is developed during every single class.
The following ideas for creativity are from the article found at this link: https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/creativity-exercise
Incomplete figure test
The incomplete figure test is a drawing exercise. You use a small, simple scribble, like a half-circle or loop, to create a full drawing. To do this in a group, several people use the same scribble to work from, and then they compare the drawings. Seeing how others interpret the same small design can expand your creative thinking and give you new ideas.
30 circles is a creativity exercise where the goal is quantity over quality. You’re given a sheet of paper with 30 identical circles on it. You have a short amount of time, usually 10 minutes at most, to draw something in as many of the 30 circles as possible. When done as a team, the group members compare the completed circles to see if there are any unifying principles or designs.
Paper clip test
The paper clip test is a thinking exercise that is usually done with multiple people at a time. In this activity, groups receive a box of paper clips and find as many uses for them as possible, apart from holding papers. Groups then share their ideas with the rest of their coworkers. This innovation can lead to an increased number of original ideas on work projects.
Sometimes a change of background, like listening intentionally to music, can inspire new ideas. Go to a concert or play music in your office, and write down any ideas or thoughts that come to mind. Assess those ideas to see if you can apply any to your work challenges.
Use the objects on your desk, like staplers, folders, tape, pictures and paper, to create a new product. This activity is also great for groups. After each individual or team has finished repurposing a product, they can compare their creations for uniqueness, ingenuity and practicality. This exercise is especially helpful for developing brainstorming skills.
Select a word at random from the dictionary. Use the word you chose, the word above it and the word below it to create a short story. Finding a way to create an interesting, cohesive story from seemingly random elements can improve your ability to make connections and combine ideas that don’t necessarily relate.
Take a compound word and substitute one word for another. For example, the compound word sunflower could become moonflower. Use your new compound word to create a story or make a drawing. Finding connections between unrelated items can help you improve your critical thinking and process evaluation on the job.
Use building blocks to create models of houses, businesses or products. If you do this as a group, see who can make the most intricate, detailed or unique objects. Spatial awareness, which you develop during this activity, can improve your ability to come up with thoughtful designs for work projects of all types.
Write a poem about your day in the style of your favorite poet or following the structure of a classic poem, like a sonnet or haiku. Writing with a clear structure in mind forces you to find the ideal word or phrase to fit the constraints, which can improve your overall writing ability.
Draw it again
Draw the same object, like a coffee mug, every day for a week or more. See what new details or nuances you notice as you examine the object every day. Extreme focus like this should improve your attention to detail and help you notice new elements in your work.
Go on a team field trip out of the office. Explore a local garden or walk around downtown to see what new ideas or concepts the group discovers through a change of scenery. Even the act of having a meeting in a new place can spark original ideas.
Go to a bookstore or library and explore a section completely unrelated to your job or the books you normally read. Choose a book and read it to see what new knowledge you can glean. Learning about disciplines that are different from your own can introduce you to new ways of managing your work.
Schedule a few minutes every morning to write in a stream of consciousness. This type of freewriting, where you write whatever comes to mind consistently without stopping, is a great way to discover some of your subconscious ideas, which could lead to innovative solutions to work challenges.
Storyboarding can be a particularly useful creative exercise for establishing new procedures or improving existing processes. Rather than writing out the steps of the procedure, draw each step in a series of small, rectangular boxes, like a comic strip. You might discover a useful new step in the process that you hadn’t considered.
SCAMPER is a great strategy to use when assessing an idea or new product. It’s an acronym that stands for the following:
- Substitute: What can you trade from this idea for something else?
- Combine: What elements of this idea can you combine for efficiency?
- Adapt: How can you adapt this idea for a different market?
- Modify: What can you modify to improve functionality?
- Put to another use: What’s another use for this idea?
- Eliminate: What is unnecessary?
- Reverse: What can you adjust to make this project better?
Use these steps to see how you could improve your idea or project, particularly if you’re looking for ways to develop it further.
Six thinking hats
Six thinking hats is another strategy used to evaluate the optimization of a product or idea. In a group, an individual or small team “wears” one of the hats. When reviewing the idea in question, each “hat” maintains its assigned perspective:
- Logic: The logic hat represents the facts related to the product or idea.
- Optimism: The optimism hat represents the possibilities for the product or idea with no barriers.
- Judgment: The judgment hat addresses the challenges or problems with the product or idea by considering the opposite point of view.
- Emotion: The emotion hat represents the feelings or perceptions associated with the project or idea.
- Creativity: The creativity hat introduces new ideas or possibilities for the idea or product.
- Management: The management hat oversees the discussion and makes sure the team represents all perspectives.
In a group, create a list of assumptions about the product or idea in question, both good and bad. Work through the list and consider how to alleviate any negative assumptions and capitalize on positive assumptions.
New out of two
Take two separate products and find a way to combine them. For example, you could use two common office tools, like a stapler and a tape dispenser, to create an interesting new product. Design a marketing strategy and target market for the new product you have created.