Pablo Picasso once said… ‘We are all born an artist, the problem is how to remain one as we grow up…”. Pushing aside my reservations for showing enthusiasm for Picasso in this one area, he certainly gets me thinking; where does our creativity go?
If you ask a 5 year-old to draw you a picture, they will, unsurprisingly, come up with artwork that is fundamentally non-representational in the traditional sense. The mistake we make is to dismiss the art as bad – just because a person doesn’t have blue hair, or a donkey isn’t pink etc.
We tell the child to us the correct colours, colour within the lines and draw bigger. As constructive as these comments are in making the work more visually accurate – what are we actually teaching them.
If you take the time to listen to 5 year-old child when they show you their art piece, there is normally a story; “This is mum, this is me, this is my cat, these are aliens and they are in a ship….”. The child is telling a story; the art is not intended to be accurate, but they are proud of their art as it succeeds in telling a deeper message they want to convey.
A young child uses their innate creativity to explore, discover, collaborate and problem solve. As we begin to tell them when art is good and when it is not, and when their representation is right or wrong, they begin to question their own ability.
Artist were traditionally trained by masters in their studio to produce the art required of them when commissioned by a patron, often to evoke beauty of the highest form. Are we subconsciously conditioned that visual art must do this today, even though contemporary artists try and break down these conventions? Is this what we are teaching to our children?
Take an 11 year-old child given a drawing task, which is almost always entirely representational; it can be stressful to create a 3D object from a 2D image using line, tone, negative space and creating the illusion of depth. The teacher often tries to avoid giving the children too many examples, as this will stop them from coming up with their own ideas.
As we become teenagers, we learn more and more about artists, designers and the technical standard we need to reach – that we feel is far beyond our capabilities.
So we stop.
Most adults will never delve into creating artworks – despite it being innately in us as human beings to express and document our existence in this world.
Are we teaching creativity out of children?
As we develop, we need to fit into a society that has expectations to fit into our 9 till 5, to do our desk jobs, go home and watch Love Island . Everything has a ‘professional standard’, we learn what ‘good art’ is, and that there is a right and wrong. Suddenly we are not able to express, because we don’t know who we are anymore, and we are afraid to fail.
Picasso was trained – he knew what ‘good art’ was and he responded to these expectations creatively, which manifested in the Cubist style – The Fauves went back to expressionism through a creative use of colour and the surrealists ‘imagined’.
Perhaps it’s not ‘remaining an artist’ as Picasso states, but having the courage to have a voice, be different, go against convention and expectation, say something new, and most of all, not be afraid of what others think.
All the great artists from the 20th Century were brave; they didn’t care about how others would respond and were true to themselves in presenting the world in a different way.