Saturday, February 16, 2008

Natural Ability

I have a friend who's been driving me crazy. She talks about my natural artistic ability, and complains that she doesn't have it. I reacted without thinking about it, taking offense to her claim of natural ability, because I felt that I had worked really hard to get to where I am artistically. Then I spent the last month thinking non-stop about artistic people having natural abilities. I've been accused of arrogance, and I had to investigate.

I work with children from the age of two until they are five. I have them to myself at the ages of three and four, but the time before and after I'm still involved with them. In the beginning I am an authority figure that steps in when they are misbehaving (when the teacher in the toddler class starts going crazy at about 11:15 every morning). Towards the end I'm the adult that they seek out when they do something creative, because ultimately it is my opinion that matters more than any other adult when it comes to art.

I've been seeking out children that could be candidates for this so called natural ability towards creativity, and I have so far found no evidence that it exists. What I have found is that every human is born with the ability to be creative, and they either exercise it or it dies. I've been trying to find science-related evidence to back me up or contradict me, but I'm guessing I'm not searching the right way, because I've found nothing. :o(

I've tried to come up with other possible ways that creativity could be anything other than a "muscle" that needs to be exercised, but I can't. All I can see is that the more I try, the better I get. The more I practice, the better I get. The more I exercise creativity, the more creative I become. I find that when I'm labeled "naturally creative" I get extremely pissed off. You might as well be saying, "You didn't work hard to get to where you are, it just came naturally to you."

The desire came what seemed like naturally to me. I saw adults that were creative, and instead of saying, "I wish I could be creative, too" I invested a lot of time and effort to become one of those people. I believe this is called Self-Actualizing.

Now when self-esteem and comparison comes in to play I have to say I'm no where near as creative as I'd like to be, but I'm working at it. I don't think I'm awesome, and that makes people angry because they think I'm being cocky. WHAT? I am so confused. Okay, so yeah, I know how to use glue and I have the patience to start over and over and over again until I have a straight line, but I'm telling you I'm going to be a lot more awesome than this, and don't you dare chalk it up to natural ability. I am devoting all of my time to this. I started teaching preschool because I knew that it would be a m-f job with a small income I could count on, but more importantly I would have the freedom to spend my time practicing creativity. Where better than a preschool? The preschool classroom is set up for creativity.

All of the toys are made to exercise creativity, but kids struggle when they aren't show the way. All my class did was make guns out of legos and shoot each other with them until I spent some time showing them what else you can do with legos. They took those ideas and used them with other toys, and created things I probably would have never thought of on my own. We learn from each other. This is why everything I make is licensed under creative commons. (With the attribution to feed my ego. :o))

I hit the jackpot. All day the kids ask me to draw pictures for them and now after two years I can finally draw a unicorn that I would call cute and that would be difficult for the average person to draw. I could not do this two years ago. Back then if I wanted a cute unicorn I would ask my husband to draw it.

As a result, now, the kids that sat and watched me draw all day are also able to draw what I can draw. Their hands aren't as steady yet, but they saw it over and over and they know all the steps and they can draw amazingly for four-year-olds. The kids that have gone through my class ALL draw better than their older siblings. Each and every parent now thinks they have a kid that is naturally creative, not like their older sibling who is not so creative. I don't argue with them because what am I going to say, "Uh actually they are just copying me. Kids do that. They watch adults and mimic them." It starts out that way, but the real treat is when they start being creative on their own, which usually happens after they leave my class. My favorite creation so far was by a girl that I had taught to draw dinosaurs and unicorns. After a few months away from me she came to me with a dinosaur that had a horn and wings . She called it a "unisaur". I now draw unisaurs all the time. I also started drawing caticorns and other mixes of animals. It wasn't MY idea, it was a child's.

I didn't see this coming. This job turned out to be the best thing for exercising my own creativity. The kids copy me and I copy the kids and it becomes easier to do things that were once extremely difficult for me. It's practice, not magic. Creativity isn't something we do on our own. It isn't an inner natural ability that some magic god gave you because you are specially made for it. Let's stop wishing and start playing together.

I'm open to any science opposing this, by the way. I just came up with it by observing and coming to conclusions, so there is no way I can say I am correct.

3 comments:

Merk said...

GENIUS!!

Rainedaye said...

I like how you decided to look at this rationally. I don't think there is any science opposing this, but I know little of the social sciences so I could be wrong.

Heather Dixon said...

These are some interesting thoughts, & I think you're right. The best artists I know are the ones who are constantly practicing, trying different styles, and working hard to become better. There's a lot of clout placed on talent but really I think it's just desire and hard work.