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Columns : Art Life - Susan Mackay Last Updated: Feb 6, 2017 - 2:32:04 PM

Innate Creativity
By Susan Mackay
Aug 30, 2006 - 3:51:18 PM

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Innate Creativity

My children are coming home this week and I feel like a child anticipating a birthday, awaiting their return. It’s been a long time wearing the badge of ‘mother’ yet not being in active service during their time away. I talk to them through the computer or phone, disjointed, yet sweet enough conversations. I remember their faces, listening to them talk and giggle, their personalities, energy and their enthusiasm.

I say to the little voice I hear,

“Who is this?”

“It’s me!” is the excited reply.

“Ah,” I say, “How do I know it is you and not some impostor evil princess?”

“Because I remember ‘the tree with the door’ story, Mama!”
This makes me smile beyond my fears that they have somehow forgotten me.

Stories are such an intrinsic part of feeding children’s creativity. Often too lazy or too tired to read a book, I will make up bizarre tales for bedtime - stories about aliens, angels, children, monsters, and trees with doors, leading to new adventures. I enjoy the stories as much as they do - another place to allow my imagination free reign!

But creativity is not just in books and stories. I am always deeply saddened when people claim emphatically that they have not a creative bone in their body. I never quite understand, believing absolutely in everyone’s inherent ability to be creative. It may seem quite a presumptuous thing to say, but if only from the fact that we were all children once, then the capacity to create is deeply entrenched in our psyche. The challenge is maybe more about WHAT we view creativity to be.

I know that creativity is NOT just about drawing accurately or even painting pretty pictures. That is more often about skill and technique. There are a million ways that we use our imagination and creativity every day. But so often we overlook those moments of inspiration or negate their value. From even a simple idea to bring people together, to setting a table, painting nails or fixing hair, to finding a solution to a business problem, or inspired teaching; in fact, so much of life is actually facilitated through creativity, that we have become blind to it.

Children have an instinctual urge to create. From those first marks on paper, scribbles to our adult eyes, circles and spirals initially to those that through time change into more formalised shapes. I watched my own children develop through these stages, but often pushed it further. I allowed them to experience for example, the sensation of splattering paint.

I remember my daughter sitting mesmerised as she repetitively smacked the paint laden brush on the paper. At age three, this was most definitely NOT about making a picture for my fridge! It was, for her, a sublime experience. Sometimes, during big fat hot downpours that I so love, we would dress up in our rain clothes and set the easel up outside, so that the paint would meld and run on her page. Or on hot days by the pool, inspired by
Richard Long , we would create splash pictures – my children understanding and enjoying as much as any art critic, the absolute beauty of fleeting creation.

I also remember the question stage. “Why? Why? Why?” I loved it! Loved their deep seated curiosity in life and the world around them, developed from the tasting stage; where every object is explored by a drooling mouth, to an amazing articulation of questions.

It is also fascinating how children will then use their observations of life and create imaginary worlds around them. If unfettered their imagination is endless. And ‘unfettered’ is the key here. Children and this unending capacity to ask, be curious and then create are only fostered in an unfettered environment. Specifically as it is applied to creativity, and NOT discipline!

In any biography I have happened over, any article discussing the greats of our time, from Leonardo Da Vinci to Nobel Peace Prize winners, to entrepreneur millionaires, all share a mind that has retained an ability to question, to ask, “what happens if?” They have pushed past the confines of previously held views and imagined a different solution.

I believe that by providing children with a rich creative vocabulary – an ability to question, imagine, play and be, they will grow up with tools for pushing the limiting boundaries of our life.

Anticipating a happy reunion with my children, I am not naive enough to imagine for a moment that we will be exempt from the dreaded morning rush. The inevitability of life and its ensuing chaos will push us back into the thick of living. When back on active Mummy-duty, I do know that I may fail my children in many ways, but I will continue to give them a space for their curiosity, their personalities, their creativity and their imaginations - that open door into the tree of their mind.

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