Thoughts on Creativity
By Gailand Coop

Creativity has often been attributed to external sources. Vasari, the art historian, erroneously attributed the genius of some of the 13th and 14th century artists, to being in a trance state of God-induced ecstasy. In this state, it was claimed that the artist did not know what he was doing - he just did whatever the Holy spirit did through him.

This elevated the artist to a position even closer to God than the prophets. Even John in Rev1:9-12 remains in charge of his own faculties of observation and reasoning. "I was in the Spirit.. I saw... I heard..from behind me...", etc.

It is tempting to turn to an outside source to give one's work authority, or the position of revealing significant truths that lie outside one's normal scope of knowledge, or experience. The prophet of Delphi delivered oracles from the Greek gods, while in a trance. We now know that the orifice of Delphi, was a hole in the ground that emitted natural gas, and that her trance was methane induced.

I began my college art training in the mid sixties. College art teaching was all about abstract expressionism. The source of artistic inspiration was almost totally attributed to tapping into the subconscious. Exercises in tapping in, included doing as much with art materials as possible, as fast as possible - from playing with the natural tendencies of a media, such as pouring paint, or dropping clay and discovering its connection to our responses, to using drugs such as LSD. Some of these (not the drugs), were helpful to break me away from a very tight, rigid concept of art.

I was also left totally floundering at my goal of being an artist of Christian subjects. None of my teachers could help either. They only had a concept of Christian art handed to them by the Renaissance narrative and Romanticism sentimental art. They had no direction to give me, except to ask me to "Go paint a Jesus picture and get it out of your system. Then return to the classroom and study real art."

It was only when I returned to college, that I began to formulate ideas, and apply them during nine more years of teaching. They now fill my head with many more creative ideas than I can possibly begin to discover during the process of production.

First, creativity is not my goal. It is the goal of much of contemporary art. The idea of creativity as a goal, reaches back to the philosophy of Romanticism, beginning with ideas of the 18th century and found its full flowering in abstract expressionism. It was solidified as the cornerstone of art by the shift in the financial support of art, from commissioning patrons, such as the Medici Family, to speculative art dealers.

Speculative art dealers needed a supply of cheap art and a reason to sell it to others at a greatly inflated price. They found that the unique sells more readily than the significant.

They also found, as artists have been taught, that it is more important to have a shot at some future fame, than it is to receive wages ("the servant is worthy of his hire", Paul). This motivation for art production is based on pride, egotism and desperation.

Direct use of creativity in art by a Christian, is when we choose to use it purposefully to create a work for worship, enlightenment, or teaching. Sadly most recent work of the last two centuries does a terrible job of using creativity for this type of visual art.

For me, creativity abounds when I set up a problem and then find the solution creatively, uniquely, in ways that enlighten the problem and not from the expected or pre-formulated. The problem might be an aesthetic one, like putting something in my beginning of a work that just doesn't fit, and working out a solution in design that makes it work, by the way that color or counter movements settle the problem.

Sometimes I set up a problem when I have settled on a symbol. Perhaps it is made into progressions, or morphed into another symbol or dimension, or interacts with another symbol or environment not normally associated with it.

I am now challenged by your consideration of the fig tree. I load my creative basket with the ideas you presented of planting, growth, tending, bearing, expecting, etc. I think of other ideas such as the difference between fig trees and olive trees as presented in the Bible, of the shape of figs and fig leaves and the things made from figs.

In the creative basket of my mind, many influences sort through these bits and pieces. My subconscious, the Holy Spirit, my experience in growing things, my studying of the scriptures, my sensitivity to color and shapes, and any comments that others contribute, will all sort through this basket of fig things and come up with a result in which the tool of creativity plays a part.

It is like my spirit hovers over this basket, from time to time reminding me of the creative process of God. "And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, 'Let there be light'...

  • I am not critical of anything that goes in the basket

  • I am not critical of the first things that come out of the basket

  • I critique everything I do during the process.

  • I listen to the critiques of others. Is it significant? Do they understand, do they enjoy?

  • I hover again, I adjust.

  • I judge. Some is good. Some is bad. I'm not God.
  • God evaluated His work and said it was good. Even the atheist/evolutionist may say God didn't do it, but he has yet to to challenge God's statement that it is good! - Gailand Coop

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