Fame and success

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Fame and success

From Brian K. Yoder

Published before 2005


Mark Strutt wrote:

I told you that if you think that creativity should have boundaries, that is an oxymoron.

That's not what an oxymoron is, but be that as it may, the idea that "no boundaries" or "overcoming boundaries" is key characteristic of creativity is completely false. It is true that one can adopt restrictions on choices that are unduly constraining, but such cases have more to do with choosing unwise constraints rather than that they are constraints in the first place. Your line of thinking on this leads to the conclusion that a constraint like "You should know how to manipulate your medium well before starting your creation." is somehow limiting creativity in a bad way. In fact, such a constraint is a prerequisite for creativity. If you can't control your medium you can't be creative at all. That kind of "freedom" is in fact a straightjacket that inhibits creativity.

And what better example of that then the never ending creation.

What "never ending creation" might that be? You are making no sense here. You can't even define this thing, and even if you could you can't relate it to what an artist is doing, and even if you could, there's no reason to think that it would yield any particular conclusion on this subject one way or the other.

I said that you can't expect people to go out and be creative as long as they don't go beyond your idea of creativity.

Why not? I know you have heard people say things like this for many years, but it makes no sense. Think about it.

Once you have learned to paint like Bouguereau, then where do you go?

First of all, to treat such an achievement as though it is nothing makes me think that you have no respect for the work such a thing would take. Second, once you reach that point you can do whatever you want. The ability to paint that well means that you can create far far more than anyone who couldn't paint as well. Superb levels of skill are not a dead end, they are the royal road to creativity!

Is it over, or do you just keep going over and over and over repeating what you already know.

There's always more to learn, but once you know something there's no reason to throw it away as though it is somehow no longer true. It sounds to me like you are applying the modernist principle that novelty is the only good in art. By that standard, of course, learning how to create awesome images is useless once you (or anyone) have already done it once, but that's a great argument for rejecting the principle since it's absurd on your face. Can you seriously claim that now that we have had a Bouguereau there's nothing we can learn from him and nothing more to be done using any of his great skills and methods? And that they can't be built on?

The other side of this modernist dogma about the new being the only thing of value is that once some great achievement has been made, the only thing left to do is destroy it. We should be learning from and building on the work of great painters from the past, not avoiding them or accusing them of being the enemies of creativity.

When you have done all that you can do with the limitations of a brush is that it? No.

Brushes don't limit creativity. They help to enable it.

Centuries ago Japanese potters had perfected the art of pottery to the extent that they could not make them any more perfect. Perfect thickness, perfect in every variation of size and shape. They were so bored of this perfection that they changed the clay by adding a form of grout or heavy sand to the clay body. This made it impossible to throw perfect pots and they were very happy with this outcome because their pots now had the beautiful irregularity of design that reflects nature's irregularities. No leaf on a tree is the same as another yet they are all leaves, no branch of the tree is like any other branch. Nothing is exactly the same as any other, and without perfect symmetry. Everything in the organic [world] is this way. Do you want a bunch of clones whose paintings are really hard to tell the difference from?

Since when have I ever called for uniformity? Since when have I ever said that artists should produce the same thing over and over? When I claim that there are certain true principles of painting, literature, or music I am not calling for uniformity, I am explaining how one might go about understanding how to make them better. Come on, you know I am not calling for mass production or the elimination of creativity.

Like nice marching soldiers that never get out of line. This is how I see your point of view.

You should look a little more closely. Understanding the facts about the arts is what makes it possible to be creative. Casting aside all of your tools (both physical and intellectual) on the grounds that they inhibit your creativity leaves you impotent to create anything. That's exactly the situation the modernists find themselves in today.

-- Brian