Why is creativity important?

  • The other day I was talking to a close friend (a graphic designer) about balancing strong drawing fundamentals and creativity in illustration. I’m an aspiring illustrator and very interested in how creativity and style is so important to an artist’s journey. She argued that some artists, especially those who focus on realism, draw or paint what they see without modifying the content, so they are not using creativity, but still create strong work.

    I argued it’s important to build both muscles to become a strong artist. She then asked, but why do artists need to be creative? I was taken a back by the question, because it’s always been so core to my identity as an emerging artist to be creative.

    I thought it would be really interesting to hear other people’s perspectives on why creativity is important - or if anyone has a counter argument for why or when it isn’t needed.

    Personally I will always be striving to be a creative person because the process brings me joy and I love surprising myself with new possibilities for my artwork. I also recognize it depends largely on the goals you have as an artist, and what you define as success. But I feel like there is so much more to the discussion and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  • The problem is that you both are agreeing that realism isn’t a creatice pursuit which it is. Capturing a moment, time of day, emotion, color, or something we see in daily life that we walk by without noticing, yet, might be remarkable is where realistit painters thrive, and illustrators rely in the same principle for the most part, but the difference is that illustrators can ellaborate on the rules of realism for the purpose of emphasis, and rule breaking. Basically realists are creative in a way of discovery, that being; looking at something people have looked at many times, but discovering something that has gone unnoticed.

    Being creative is not restricted to painters, illustrator and designers. Entrepreneurs require creativity, as well as inventors, and those who are able to drive business and culture in a way that needs an aspect of problem solving and thinking in tangents. Basically, being creative is necessary in any culture so that businesses do not stagnate. Steve Jobs is a great example of this, as well as lawyers who start their own firms. Once a company drives out creatives or they all leave, the company cannot evolve with the changing world around them i.e the music industry and their guys in suits vs streaming music. They died because they failed to recognize that the world wouldn’t stay the same, and basically had no Steve Jobs..in fact, it was Steve Jobs that destroyed them. So, you could say that an artist destroyed one of the biggesg industries in the world by taking streaming and putting it in your pocket.

    That is a more elaborate way to understand creativity in my opinion.

  • Pro SVS OG

    I`ve always viewed creativity as a core defining element of human nature. There´s no less creativity in a piece of art than in a mum finding a way to get a reluctant child to sleep, a scientist designing a new experiment in a lab or a street cleaner relating a story to his colleague. To ask “why being creative” is like asking “why being human”.

  • SVS OG

    I think creativity to me is when you can put your own personality into something. I've done realism and it is fun to paint something and make it look real but that is a craft. Using the craft and combining that with creativity and your own personality is not only where your style is hidden but also when you start having more fun... I am at the cusp of that point myself now.

  • SVS OG

    I agree with @smceccarelli - it is a human trait.

    Our ability to imagine things to be different than they are, is innate to everyone - being able to or wanting to express it varies from person to person. It is manifested in our fears and anxieties - all those stories we tell ourselves about what other people might be thinking or what if x or y happens etc. - those can be pretty creative too. I also believe not having a positive creative outlet in your life - art, music, writing, dance, storytelling etc - can lead humans to some dark places because we all need a way to express that part of ourselves. for overall balance.

  • @mira_creates

    I would strongly argue against the no creativity in realism thing. By that argument, photographers have no creativity because they 'just take pictures of what they see'. How you interpret these things becomes your creativity. You can still do 'realism' with a strong voice shining through. I know of realism oil painters who have wonderful mood and drama in their paintings. Yes, some artists replicate and create visually and emotionally dead images, but if you are a quote unquote good painter or creator with something charging you to paint, your tendencies, vision and voice naturally effect how you see. That usually becomes style. Not even all realistic painters work looks the same. Why? Not all photographer's work looks the same, why?

    I think the reason we as artists need to be creative, is to express something we can't otherwise. That is what usually motivates us to start making stuff in the first place. Even if you look at very strict traditional painters of old, you can see the translation of real world to the canvas. Whether you are creating something based on your own concept or painting a very realistic commission where you soften someone's face or brighten their eye to flatter them, you are being creative to a certain extent (in my strong opinion).

    There is also the question of what creativity is. It's definitely not exclusive to artists. Engineers, doctors, and scientists are creative. To me, creativity rests in creating solutions or solving problems, and making stuff. 'Stuff' can be a suspension bridge, a medical treatment, a scientific discovery based on years of experiments, a new way to plan cities, or a painting. To create is to cause something to come into being. And to me, to also solve a problem. Is the problem a need for automatically dispensing food from machines? Is the problem expressing your personal story? Is the problem putting into words ideas and feelings that are universal? Is the problem a logo for a mom & pop shop? I dunno.

    Creativity is important because it brings into the world new things. New needed things. Would we have cars, schools, movies, the internet, or even cutlery if someone hadn't seen the need to bring something into being that wasn't there?

    It's hard for me to see how an artist wouldn't need to be creative. Yes some things are similar to what has been previously done. Yes some things don't require the most innovative, new, or flashy solution. But if you are making something, then you are being creative.

    At least, that's my opinion 🙂

  • Is she actually arguing that artists don't need to be creative, or is she just trying to get someone to articulate creativity in words? If she does feel that artists don't need to be creative, then who does she feel needs to be creative?

    If artists don't need creativity then I suspect art history would look very different. Why do certain art movements come about and why can we associate different styles to different time periods? Why are there so many different art mediums? If artists didn't use creativity, wouldn't they be happy continuing on with the status quo, and keep using the same materials of those before them?

  • The root word of creative is create. I think that it is an innate quality of us being made in the image of a Creator. I think some of us feel it stronger than others but the urge to create and solve problems is core to being human. I think your friend is confusing the word creative with originality. You can be creative even if you aren't being particularly original. I may choose to do a realistic portrait in pencil. But I chose the subject, the medium, the size, etc. I may not have thought about it, but I was being creative, even if I am replicating the work, photorealistically.

    That being said, one of my colleagues once told me, "if you wanted it to look so realistic, why don't you just take a picture.?" That freed me from the tyranny of realism. The irony is, after I stopped trying so hard, I can do realism better than I ever could before her advice.

  • Thank you so much for everyone's replies! It's been really neat to read through everyone's insights. One thing to clarify is I do believe there is creativity in realism, I think my friend was trying to work through the idea of whether creativity is necessary to be an artist and wasn’t using a fully formed example. But as many of you have articulated, there are many ways to express how realism is creative - I’m going to use some of your points above to further the conversation!

    chrisaakins & Chris Castleman you both put it well above that with realism you are choosing the medium, size, colour, emotion, and more.

    Teju-Abiola I love your point that "if you are making something, then you are being creative." I think that really gets to the heart of my question!

    For me most the most interesting part of reading through your comments is seeing how you describe creativity and connect it to both art and other aspects of life. So thanks again! This is my first time posting on the forum and it’s really neat to see how engaged everyone is. Looking forward to posting and reading more topics. 🙂

  • Some crafting can be just technical. You just reproduce something, whether it came from your mind or someone else gave you the directions. For example, you sculpt dolls and make dozens of the same model to sell... Maybe some creativity process was involved in making the first doll or the concept drawing used for the sculpting.

    In the case of the painter/illustrator. If you just decide that you want to copy something, like the face of someone in a photo or someone that is posing for you, then there is no creativity in your decision to make that (remember, you just said: "I am gonna draw you and that is it"). What can make some of these paintings/drawings valuable is the high level of technical work that goes into them.

    If you decide to find something interesting, take a photo of that and draw it very realistically, your creativity is in finding the thing, not in drawing it, which just relies on the technical skill you have.

    If you try to find new ways to solve a challenging drawing, even if it is going to be a realistic reproduction of a person face, finding the solution is the creative part of it. For example, you come up with the idea of using sand to "draw" a face instead of just oil-painting it. In this case the challenge could be something like "come with some new way to create an illustration".

    If you have done hundreds of realistic paintings of human faces, you are good enough to not have to look at a reference to paint the next human face. You can start modifying it, adding flower, decorating... whathever, based on some criteria that you choose. That criteria and your capacity to modify the human face is your creativity. The drawing can still be realistic because your technique is realistic painting.

    Creativity can be seem as a skill, a series of processes or exercises that you can execute to obtain something that looks different from what would be just copying what we see.
    For example, an exercise that I like to do is to draw the outline of water splashes or water polls forming on the floor and use that outline as a base to draw a creature. Of course I can make several creatures out of the same outline, but there is some underlying principle in the starting of the creature creation. My decisions of adding limbs, claws, fangs, fur, exoskeleton, cute eyes, robotic parts, wings... are based on some iterations I can make out of the initial shape. Some look better than others (and that choice is based on my experience, preference, style).

    I like to think about it in this way, because I don't agree that it is something that you are born with or without (like the myth of "talent"). It is something that you can learn, practice and improve.

    Finally, let's remember a fundamental principle of the universe that even artists cannot escape from: "in the universe nothing is created or destroyed, everything is just transformed".

    You cannot imagine a colour that we cannot see. Humans cannot see what we call UV and Infra Red light... basically a whole new range of colours that we can't even imagine how they are. If you imagine an alien without limbs is because you are based on the existence of limbs to state that the alien has no limbs. And so on... This thing that we call creativity should be called "transformativity" but that sounds ugly.

  • As illustrators, if we compete with cameras we will lose. Cameras does reality much faster.
    Without creativity we can't stand out, we can't come up with something original, and we cannot create something unless it's right in front of us....
    how can we then design a character?
    a whole new world for our characters to live in?
    how can we introduce a new way of looking at everyday things?

    also we're still problem solvers since we have to work within certain printing or screen constraints and we have real materials that we can decide to mix and combine into something unique. life would become really boring if you one day scroll through Instagram and find nothing but realistic portraits. It would also make it more difficult to tell artists apart.

    Not to say that skill and strong drawing fundamentals are not necessary because they are. You couldn't possibly design a new location or a character and make them believable without those fundamentals.

    originality + believability
    we need both.

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