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William Edward Gompertz (born 25 August 1965), is the BBC's arts editor.
Think Like an Artist (2015)
- The problem is, some of us have either convinced ourselves that we are not creative, or are yet to find our way. Confidence in our own creativity can wane. Which is bad. Confidence is crucial. In my experience artists, like a lot of us, fear being “found out.” But somehow they manage to summon up enough self-belief to overcome the self-doubt, which enables them to back their creativity. The Beatles were just a bunch of young lads with time on their hands who found the confidence to persuade themselves and then the world that they were musicians.
- In reality, artists are no more courageous or noble or single-minded than the farmers who go to extreme lengths, in extreme weather, to protect their herd. Or a restaurateur who—having waved goodbye to her last customer at midnight—hauls herself out of bed at 4 A.M. the following morning to make sure she’s at the market in time to buy the best produce. Or, for that matter, a master bricklayer who has calloused fingers and an aching back from days spent building a house.
- Artists are entrepreneurs. They are willing to stake everything for the chance to go it alone and make the work they feel compelled to create. They will beg and borrow to pay the rent on their studio, to buy the necessary materials, and to feed themselves during the long months of endeavor.
- If at first you don’t succeed, don’t try exactly the same thing again. You won’t succeed, again. Instead, have a think, evaluate, correct, modify and then try again. Creativity is an iterative process.
- To give up before we even start, using low self-esteem or lack of qualifications as an excuse, is, frankly, gutless. As human beings we are all born with not only the wherewithal to be creative, but also the need.
- A far more important lesson to learn from artists is not that they fail, but that they prevail. Artists make. Artists do.
- If necessity is the mother of invention, curiosity is the father. After all, you cannot produce something interesting if you are not interested in something. Outputs need inputs.
- That’s how ideas are generated. Unusual combinations, mixing old and new, stimulate original ideas, that is, ideas with origins.
- Creativity is a constant process of call and response taking place inside our heads. If all is going well, the question–answer routine is like the two sides of our brain working together as if in an inner-cranial pas de deux.
- Decision-making is the tortuous by-product of the Socratic method. Because at some point skepticism and questioning have to give way to personal judgment in the shape of a decision made. And that is the most daunting part of a forbidding process. As Socrates knew only too well, the more you question the more you realize that there are no concrete answers. Doubt reigns supreme, an inescapable truth he succinctly expressed when he said, “All I know is that I know nothing.”
- Creativity, like society, thrives when the individual elements fit within, and add to, a bigger picture.
- She pointed up to a shelf of plates stacked vertically in a rack above the sink. “Choose one,” she said. I must have looked nonplussed. “Choose a plate,” she repeated. And then explained that she collects plates, but only ever one of any type. It was up to the guest to decide which one would be theirs for the duration of the stay. “We’re not robots,” she said. “Life is more exciting when you have an opinion.”
- It is, after all, our imagination that makes us human. Vincent van Gogh asked, “What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” To which the answer is, I would have thought, boring, bordering on pointless.
- Duchamp is a worthy role model. Added to which he believed passionately that anyone could be an artist and spent his life showing the rest of us how it is done. He chose fine art as the vehicle for his imagination, but his approach could equally well be applied to any area of creative endeavor.
His trick was to spend more time thinking than doing. He would pause for thought and ponder on life and creativity and how things might be. Which is what I’m going to do now.
- Would it be any better if all schools were art schools? I think so. But whatever your view, there are few more exciting areas than education in our digital age. I know tech and media and neuroscience are sexier, but for sheer untapped potential that is waiting to be realized by a new generation of thinkers and doers, I doubt there’s anything to beat education as a place to work right now.
So much is about to change, including, I would have thought, our relationship with academia. A combination of an intellectually ambitious aging population, an emerging creative economy, and a digitized world will lead to many of us renewing or expanding our ties with education. The notion that formal learning stops when we are barely adults will seem very odd in future. As will the idea that someone has one single career for life. If you’re going to be working until you’re eighty, the chances are you’ll want to explore several fields and not plow the same furrow decade after decade.
- The future depends on us taking a different approach. One in which we can all express ourselves and contribute to society by using our unique imagination and talent. It’s our brains not our brawn that makes us special and life worth living. Artists had that worked out a long time ago.