How to create an interest in artistic creativity

zeni asks: How can I develop interest in artistic creativity in students?

Hi zeni –

It’s a funny thing, but we dogs have absolutely no artistic creativity at all.  We enjoy pretty music and such, but our brains literally cannot create art in the way humans do.  In fact, no one can, except humans.  When a spider spins its gorgeous, intricate web, it has no idea how beautiful it is; it’s only doing what it knows how to do to catch flies.  And when a flower opens, revealing its incredible bright colors to the world, all it knows is that those hues tend to attract bees, which it needs in order to create new flowers.

So in a way, what you’re asking is how to engage your students in becoming human, in the most essential way.

So, how to do that?  Engage them!  Sure, little children will love drawing or painting the things that excite them, just out of interest in the object.  But your job is to interest them in the creativity of the art.  Maybe show them ten very different-styled paintings of a flower, and then assign each of them to paint a flower in a one or more of those styles, and then to do one in a completely different way than any you showed.

Then have them do the same with faces, buildings, birds, whatever.

And then (and here’s the big moment), have them begin to notice how the different styles make them FEEL.

“What?!” they’ll think.  “You mean it’s not just the pretty flower, or the famous face, that I’m seeing and recognizing and liking… it’s the way the painter chose to paint it that matters?”

Suddenly you’ll have opened a huge door to them.  You can play them five different versions of a same melody, pointing out how the different styles make the same tune feel completely different.  You could even play them five singers singing the same song, and how they change the meaning of the words and tune.  You could give them five poems about a similar subject.  And on and on and on…

When he was young, Handsome, like many people, never understood what the big deal was with the famous painter Jackson Pollock.  Anyone can throw paint across a canvas, right?  What’s so special about him?  Then a friend of his became obsessed with that style of painting, and would show Handsome each of his attempts to work in that way.  And Handsome got more and more interested in it.  And then one day, they went to a museum, and saw one of Pollock’s huge masterpieces hanging on a wall… and neither could speak for twenty minutes.  Both were lost inside the majestic explosion of it.

Now his friend, sure, he had already had a great understanding of Pollock’s genius.  But Handsome was only able to grasp it because of having experienced the process of working that way, even though it was second-hand.

So that’s my answer, zeni.  Teach those students about the differences of ways of presenting different material, have them work to imitate them, then to create their own.  But don’t forget that last step… have them focus on how the art makes them feel.  Because the truest magic of art lies in that.

Or at least that’s what the humans tell me!
Best of luck!




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