April 28, 2011

The True Artist Knows How To…



     In a recent movie, a substitute dance teacher, Mike, was confronted with one child in the group, Jill, whose inability to “get it” was ruining the dance recital performance. The regular dance teacher, Beth, shrugged it off, having compassion for Jill, who truly wanted to dance.

     When Beth saw the dance performed at the recital, she leaned over to Mike.

     “You re-choreographed the dance,” she said, becoming more pleased as the performance continued.

     Mike had done so. He had taken Jill out of the mix of dancers and given her an individual part that meshed with the choreography.

     His response to Beth’s comment was a cliché, but appropriate: a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” He had taken the weakest link, not only making it the strongest, but making it the center.

     What is creativity? Talent, skill, artistry—how are these concepts defined?

     I still remember an assignment in an art class. Us students were all given an 8 ½ by 11 sheet of paper. We were told to cut the longest strip we could from this paper.

     Easy, I thought smugly. How long a strip can you cut from the sheet of paper? Why, 11 inches. Which I did.

     However, I was limited in my creative thinking. Other students cut strips by not ending at eleven inches, but by ending at, say, ten and a half inches, and continuing the cut across the 8 ½ inch side, then turning and going up the opposite 11 inch side. The narrower the cut sections, the more turns one could make, and the longer the strip would be.

     In my work, since then, I’ve learned that a large part of creativity isn’t coming up with something new, but in not panicking when you make a mistake, in being able to “fix” the problem. It was a great lesson to learn—I don’t have to be a perfectionist in my work. I only need to know how to incorporate my mistakes, to turn errors into blessings, a new viewpoint.

     Thus the story I heard about a painter supports my premise. The painter had brought a valuable picture into a kindergarten art class, and told the students to be careful. The class klutz managed to spatter paint all over it. While the other students covered their mouths or glared at the klutz, the teacher calmly collected different colored paint. The students watched as he turned each spatter into a gorgeous flower. The added artwork actually made the picture better.

     This is what true creativity, artistry, talent and skill are about: turning the wrong into something better. About discovering the weakest link and making it stronger.



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