Basis of all Creativity

Cartoon of a man in a fetal position. He says to another, "I'm okay. This is just how I get creative."

In high school, I had a graphic design teacher that loved to spout adages. One of his favorites was, “limitation is the basis for all creativity.”

I’d love to know whether he made that up or if he got that quote from someone. I googled the phrase and nothing came up. There were a few lines that began with “limitation is the basis of…” but then it went into something altogether different.

At the time, I thought he was talking about the limits of design technology. Back then, a personal computer was a novelty. Anything you created had to be for the limits of the printing presses or silkscreen printing. High tech was anything that could be done in a dark room with film or Photostat paper.

Thirty years later, the phrase still rings true to me. When you are limited with your resources, you learn to use your creativity. If all you have is a paper bag, you can learn to make the most use of it.

Sometimes, I get stuck on what tools I have at my disposal. I think I can’t be creative unless I have the latest hardware or software upgrades. I must remind myself that if I face a limit, it’s a golden opportunity to use my creativity.

Have you ever faced a limitation that ended up giving you a creative boost? Feel free to post it in the comments.

Kids, Creativity and Influence

Lawrence Wilson had a good blog post today on five ways to unlock your imagination. He pointed out the things that bring him closer to God also fuel his imagination.

Playfulness was the one thing that really struck out to me. I realized playfulness fuels my creativity and make me feel child-like. That’s a good thing. Preschoolers and early elementary kids are so creative in their play. One of the tragedies of this world is we lose that creativity as we get older. Why is that?

One reason is kids don’t have the experience of failure. The world is new to them. They haven’t faced a friend who ridicules them for doing something out of the ordinary. What’s wrong with wearing a tutu with swimming flippers and a sunflower hat? Plenty if you are in elementary school! You’ll be branded as a weirdo before you can turn in your tutu.

But it’s that same kind of playfulness that can give us a creativity breakthrough! Oh, to be a child and have no worries about doing something society brands nonconformist!

Another reason is when we’ve tried something, and it doesn’t work, we hesitate before we do that again. That’s good for a preschooler when he is doing something that could be dangerous. It’s not so good when it comes to creativity.

When I teach, I look for ways to be creative. Ask yourself silly questions. What does love and pepper jack cheese have in common? What does an aardvark have in common with teaching perseverance? It’s those little mind games that can set your imagination free. After all, humor is all about surprise. We laugh when we connect something that normally doesn’t connect.

Here are a few ways to generate a creative brainstorm:

  • There is a program on the web and available on the iPhone called The Brainstormer. Give it a try!
  • Do something you’ve never done before.
    • Go to a different ethnic restaurant.
    • Try a class at your local library or community center.
    • Try an adventure. You may be surprised what kinds of recreation are available in your area.
  • Participate with kids at play. It’s amazing what they come up with. Four to six-year olds make up totally crazy worlds that, to them, are perfectly believable.
  • Look around the room and find an every day object. Take a few minutes to devise some unconventional uses for that object. Is that fork a back-scratcher for an elf? Is it a strange compass? Could it be a recliner for a hamster?
  • Ask questions. Even if you think you know the answer. Besides, do we REALLY know the answer, or do we just assume we do?
Take a look around you and see things differently. Better yet, see the world through the eyes of a child. It will make you a better teacher and artist.
When I found out this week’s theme for Illustration Friday was “influence,” I through this was perfect. With creativity comes influence!

A Week of Pondering

This week, I have been on vacation. I have had the opportunity to catch up on some reading. One of the books I’ve loved this week is “Making Ideas Happen” by Scott Belsky.

Here are two of the points I’ve received from this book:

  1. To-do lists/action steps are critical to getting an idea off the ground. It helps keep the focus on an idea.
  2. Self-marketing and transparency are critical to making your idea known.

In the coming weeks, I’m going to consider how I need to make larger ideas happen. I love to create gag cartoons, but I need to go to the next level in order to give them life.

I love how this book has made me reconsider how to get creative ideas to the next level. I’d recommend this book to any creative professional.

Scott Belsky is the founder and CEO of the Behance Network. The site for this book is www.makingthingshappen.com.

Hairy Creativity

Cartoon of girl with wild hairCartoon of a girl with wild hair. She says, “I choose to express myself through my hair.”