In my humble career as a visual artist and colorist, I continually hear the reluctant statement from others longing to pursue some form of art, “But I am not creative like you.” That statement begs the question, is being creative-artistic genetic, or is it a learned discipline just any other activity?
A lot has been said about creativity sighting the neuron pathways in the brain that make an artistic temperament, explaining logical vs. intuitive approaches, left brain, right brain and so on…. All of that seems to be true, it makes sense and would reinforce the genetic component. However, I personally observe that attitude and social influence seems to have more impact on the artistic process than any genetic proclivity. So it seems to me that…
…self confidence and the willingness to loose control allows one to give over to the creative process.
I believe that being creative-artistic does not mean that the end result is a sale-able piece of work but instead is an inspired process that may or may not produce and end result. Using my own family as an example, I come from a long line of artists that produced many end results. Some of us were trained to be professional artists, others just dove in like myself. Some of the resulting work was acclaimed, some of it so-so but some of it was invisible being simply the artistic-creative process played out in everyday life.
If “good” art is measured by it’s end result, then some of us would not have been considered talented but all of us would be considered creative as that process poured over into all aspects of life. As my predecessors did, I grew up observing that free-form thinking leads to intuitive decision-making which sparks original creativity. Society supported that for me growing up in the unrestricted 1960’s and 70’s while I watched my parents battle their own urges caught between their formative 1950‘s Beatnik years and their perceived need to be “in control & fit” in suburbia rendering them barely comfortable where they fit and creativity was often stifled. Some of their struggles imprinted me resulting in often times my own repressed creativity.
My maternal Victorian great-Grandmother Nellie. She painted small water-color still-life’s. They were good. Who knows if she would have done more but the Victorian society dictated that women confine their artistic talents to parlor entertainment.
My paternal great-grandmother Zena. She was a model and daringly modeled men’s clothes! Sadly she died at a very early age so I never knew her. I always wonder…
My free-spirited maternal grandfather Albert (AJ) Randolph in the roaring 1920s. Navy man, adventurer and finally self-employed artist. He was a sign painter, sculptor and photographer. His parents were entrepreneurs so given his formative years of thinking outside the box and the “roaring” part of the 1920’s it makes sense that he would feel more freedom to pursue creative and artistic endeavours.
My maternal grandmother Bernice LeMoine Randolph also was a water-colorist. There is very little of her painted work left to show but she also expressed creativity through massive colorful gardens sculpted carefully with hard scape.
AJ and Bernice’s children were also artists.
My mother Flora Jane worked for the US navy doing illustrations and air-brush retouch work (pre-Photoshop). She liked to tell how she worked right next to the men that would become the first Walt Disney artists. When she left the navy she had a glamorous career retouching print ads for the San Francisco Union Square department stores like Sacks. She gave it up to become a mother and suburban housewife but later returned to it as well as pursuing chinese brush and oil painting. During her absence from making finished art, she filled our home with loads of boot-strappy creative touches; decoratively painted furniture & artistic arrangements of found objects with out-of-the-box color schemes.
FJ’s sister, my aunt Nell, had perhaps the most successful & prolific art career of anyone in our family. Internationally known and making art everyday of her life, she choose a bohemian unencumbered lifestyle which I believe helped her have the freedom to express herself completely. My sister Nina maintains a website of Nell’s work with some limited-addition prints still available for sale.
FJ’s husband Bob, my father, also worked in the arts. He was a professional photographer, a print maker and lithographer. When he was doing this work, it was all done by hand without the aid of a computer using one’s own eye for judging artistic balance. His father was rather repressing and stern so maybe this was some of his hesitation when I was growing up. But maybe something was observed from his seemingly creative mother Zena that allowed him to pursue some arts.
And the next generation down – my sister, myself and my cousin John – all have expressed ourselves creatively. John (observing his mother Nell’s lifestyle) was a graphic artist, fine artist, musician, chef and oozed creativity. My sister is a photographer, cartoonist, gardener and fabulous cook and of course there is me. And my children are jewelers, painters, musicians, writers, poets and highly intuitive as I have tried to provide them with an upbringing that encouraged their urges.
Certainly being creative-artistic has to do with self-expression and the confidence to do so.
So, is being artistic genetic? Or is it environmental? What do you think?