So I wanted to talk about creativity, right? It was all induced by a post on Paul Lester’s blog and the discussion that resulted from it. Please go there for the whole thing, but basically I’ve argued that creativity is not the thing to care about, productivity is.
Creativity is the outside view of a productive artist, answering to the inputs from a source of inspiration, busily producing art.
What does that mean? It means that creativity is something to be observed by non-creative people. It is not a category of any importance to the artist. Creativity is an indirect by-product. If you constantly produce, and if your productivity answers to the inputs of your source of inspiration, then you can’t be other than creative.
Creativity was one point in Paul’s post, artistic growth was the other, but it is again the same thing. Constantly produce, and you can’t help but grow. It’s automatic. It’s one of the few things in the world that are free and that we don’t have to worry about. Being thankful, yes, worrying, no.
Let’s get back to the definition of terms. What’s a “source of inspiration” anyway? Well, whatever inspires you. I mean it in the widest sense. For me it’s the visual world. My surroundings. I am a visual type of person. I see, capture, work on that, and the outcome may be either art or a failed attempt, but in the beginning there is always some visual input.
Other artists may be different. Some may be inspired by music, literature, other art, but for me it’s normally raw sensory input. Well, that again can be on a very abstract level, like some lines or angles, an isolated color or some other details that most people wouldn’t see. With enough practice you become pretty good at seeing.
It is also not so that I blindly respond to every input at any time, no, I may use a filter. One such filter is the choice of lens. Normally I leave home with one particular lens mounted, and most of the time I don’t change it during the day. The lens works as a filter, it causes me to look for a certain category of things.
Another filter, one that was effective when I made the first two photos, those of a street scene in Vienna, another such filter is a concept. Here it was the concept of consciously trying to capture “along-the-street” and “diagonally-across-the-street” views. It’s something that I have been on the lookout for during most of the last week. The idea is to slow down on the streets, stop in places where there are no “sights”, look for the “in-between” things, denying the view that there are “sights” scattered around with nothing in between. See “Oasis in the City” on Marti Jeffers’ blog “My View” for a discussion on “in-between-ness”.
I don’t know if these two images are art and, honestly, I don’t care. This “project” if you will is an attempt to see my own city with fresh eyes. I concentrate on something that I have not done in a while, and looking at the images that result, Saturday’s “624 – It’s OK To Listen To The Gray Voice“, Sunday’s street scenes that you see here and so many others that I don’t show because they either had some flaws or I simply did not have the time to work on them, looking at these images I am amazed to discover views that I must have seen before, but can not remember. All that is fresh and exciting.
What’s so exciting about two street images that look almost the same, you may ask. Well, it’s that they are adequate solutions to two very different problems. In fact, that’s something important. The subject is not what an image is about. Yes, these two images have mostly the same subject, a crossing of Neubaugasse and Neustiftgasse in Vienna’s 7th district, but that’s not the what they are about. The first image is about an urban canyon, a meandering street, a fan-like roof line in the background, and about some details that you unfortunately can’t see at this resolution, even when you click on the image. You would need a big print for that.
The second image is not about a canyon. You know now that it was taken at roughly the same place, but from the image you can deduce the other side of the street only by looking at the shadows. They hint at buildings, but there is no way to tell what kind of buildings that are. The curving, diagonal movement of the street is important here, but it is broken up by verticals. I have included the posts in the foreground to take up the dominant vertical movement.
You see, these are images with roughly the same subject, but they are about completely different things. In both cases I have responded to my source of inspiration. I did it both spontaneously and with a plan in mind. The plan allowed me to restrict my attention to those aspects that I wanted to trigger my spontaneity.
Whatever your source of inspiration is, if you constantly observe it, you will find a stream of ever changing input, sometimes more, sometimes less changing, but if your work is based on that, your productivity will always be creative and you will continue to grow. The only way to avoid it, is to stop listening to your input.
That’s what happens when artists “find their style”. Nonsense! That’s a euphemism and it should read “find something that sells and that they stick to for the rest of their now non-creative lives”.
Style is another thing that an artist must not worry about. Mind, I don’t say “need not”, I say “must not”. It’s another thing that should be left to be perceived by others from the outside. It’s not your concern. An observable style will result from busy productive work, it’s also automatic, it’s also free.
Basically these are two sides of a coin. When you are productive and listen to input, then you will be perceived as creative, because you respond to an ever changing world, and thus your art is ever changing as well. On the other hand, the experience that you gain by busily producing, will allow you to make shortcuts, to re-apply partial solutions that you have found to be appropriate for certain partial problems. An attentive viewer will recognize that, will see you invariably take a certain direction at a certain crossing, probably most of the time take the other at another crossing. That’s really what style is all about and why it is so absurd to try to appropriate someone else’s style:
From its very nature style is a verb. It is a way of doing, of acting, that is directed by personal and artistic experience. Other experiences, other style. No way to copy that, and why should you want to? You don’t have other people’s experiences, you have your own, and they are worth to be used.
The Image of the Day is simply funny. A battered sign across, telling van drivers to mind the height of the arch. Obviously nobody cared.
The Song of the Day is the Gershwin tune “Who Cares“. Ella or Anita? That’s a little bit like Beatles or Stones, huhh?? I prefer Anita on her 1955 album “This Is Anita“. Any live recording by Ella could change that though. Give me a hint if you know of a good one.