By Tegan Heneke
There is one myth about creativity that I’d like to bust. Creativity is not the domain of painters, writers, musicians or designers alone. Everyone is born with natural creativity. Perhaps some are born with more than others, passed down to them through their genes by talented parents. But innate creativity is not a reliable sign of future creativity or greatness even – regardless of any advantage of nature. My father gravitated toward sketching at a young age. He eventually developed a love for what would translate into graphic design today and ran a successful sign company for many years. I know I inherited the vivid imagination every child does but none of his creative talents it would seem. An early confirmation of this lack of artistic skill came from my grade 8 art teacher, who confirmed, after one term, that it was probably best if I did something else – crushing any hope I had of one day following in my father’s footsteps. Although I like to tell that story often and have a good chuckle about it, I know now that my teacher was wrong. Creativity or artistic ability is a skill like any other. It is a ‘teachable and learnable skill’ that can be developed ‘through practice and hard work’ – much like an elite athlete practices his or her sport.
What I understand now about creativity is that my father’s success and that of all the great artists, musicians, creators and inventors of our time like Mozart, Picasso or Steve Jobs, is that he pursued his art with single-minded devotion, over many years and through many challenges. Unlike today’s fame-driven ‘instasuccess’ culture, these creators put in the time, or as Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Outliers would have us believe, their 10000 hours. According to Gladwell’s book, it takes 10000 hours to master a skill. It might thrill you to know that many of the most celebrated creators in history only achieved fame much later in life. Vincent van Gogh was positively ancient in the late 1800s when he had his first exhibition at thirty-two. JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series of books, first thought of Harry Potter at the age of twenty-five, standing on a train station, broke and on welfare. Her first book in the series, The Philosopher’s Stone was published seven years later at the age of thirty-two, and we all know how well that turned out. Fashion designer, Vera Wang, switched careers at the age of 40. Today she is the wedding designer to the stars and the designer every hopeful bride aspires to wear on her special day. Steve Jobs was forty-two when he returned to Apple in 1997 and went on to (possibly) be the catalyst for the tech explosion we’ve experienced in the last twenty years. My father, at the age of thirty-six, a self-taught designer and signwriter, quit his job and started his business in our garage, and built and rebuilt it over thirty-three years, becoming a hero to his children and a mentor to many more. The list of late bloomers is long and star-studded. The point is that it is never too late to start living a more creative, more passionate life. You can reawaken that greatest of nature’s gifts – your creativity.
Longing for artistic expression aside, creativity is a highly-sought after skill in every sphere of life. Look around you – from the buildings we live or work in, the products or the services that make our lives more interesting and fun – is the product of the human imagination. The ability to come up with fresh ideas and innovations that solve problems for your business, customers or even for your family, is a valuable skill and worth developing. Regardless of whether your career has followed a more academic path – mathematicians and scientists apply the same skills in overcoming problems as an artist does when facing a blank canvas.
Being in the business of creativity, we are continually working on passion projects or finding inspiration from fellow artists and learning new skills so we can offer our clients the best creative work we can. I asked some of our designers, how they filled their creative wells and stayed inspired.
Layla – Creative Director
My primary source of inspiration is Pinterest. It gets the creative sparks flying and keeps me up to date with the trends. I follow other creatives and creative agencies who share their pins and interests. I’ll wake up in the morning, go through Instagram while I sip on my coffee and view all design-inspired hashtags for a more specific feed. I follow packaging houses to see what the trends are – it gives me plenty of insight into what their best work suggestions are. This is my morning treat, so I start the day off in a creative space.
On weekends, I move over to YouTube to watch tutorials on things I need to upskill on. I’m currently doing tutorials on animations and WordPress. Then, I read lots of e-books on running a creative business; this helps to keep me in a creative space, especially when I need to tackle admin and businessy things. I’m continually working on designing in-house material like welcome books, handbooks and other brand stationery, and that helps to keep the creativity alive.
Presently my passion project is a coffee table book on the events we’ve done, a celebration of all things stationery and events, and collaboration with Pretty Little Things Catering, which brings me to my other source of inspiration – food!
Robin – Art Director
Away from the office, I find inspiration in photographing abstract shapes and compositions created by nature. I see beauty in things like negative space created by rocks or overlapping leaves. Minimal visuals and beautiful typography is a full-time passion of mine. Communicating with as little words as possible and challenging myself to bring across mood and emotion without using words. I also have a favourite quote that inspires me creatively and that encourage my clients to understand – “Don’t mistake legibility for communication,” – David Carson, contemporary graphic designer.
Nuha – Senior Designer
My creative process doesn’t feel like it’s anything special, but I do enjoy it thoroughly. My go-to is Pinterest and Instagram. I get carried away here. Animation also inspires me. Song of the Sea is one of my favourites. The use of texture, the style of drawing, the line work – I love it all. On Pinterest, I create a board of references, especially typography, that I go back to time and again for inspiration. It’s my favourite thing to do late at night before I go to bed.
I had hoped to get Jacques, our other art director, to spill the beans on the graphic novel he is working on, but he is keeping that one close to his chest. Being the creative genius that he is, it’s going to be amazing. No pressure (wink).
As for me, I always know my creativity is running low when I don’t read. Though, finding the time to read a book these days is a luxury. But I know that reading is my ultimate source of inspiration. It helps me to regain a sense of wonder about the world, often dulled by the demands and busyness of modern life. I’m patiently waiting on takealot.com to deliver a book by creativity guru Edward De Bono titled Creativity Workout: Exercises to Unlock your Most Creative Ideas.I hope to share a few more insights on creativity in a future blog where I unpack a few ideas, from a variety of sources, on how to nurture your creativity.
I have often wished I hadn’t listened to my short-sighted yet well-intentioned art teacher’s opinion, and continued to sketch and express myself through drawing. However, I have never given up on chasing a creative life, and that I know would make my father proud.