Knowing –Art of Learning

Art of Learning

What can cause a "Stop" in creativity?

with 9 comments

I’ve been reading a lot about how certain conversations and comments have a way of halting the progress of an artist. I was surprised to learn that a positive remark has the same or similar effect for some artist

What happens is that our (individual) need for approval shows up and unconsciously we try to replicate the applause. In both cases, negative or positive, the artist moves away from his or her personal intent to “what can I do that will please others or at least avoid ridicule”. As result the artist becomes “Stopped” and avoids creativity in his or her work.

Does this ring true for anyone? I ask the question looking for ways to support the teaching of art and creativity.

Check out the comments on Art and Perception


Written by Bob Martin

December 14, 2006 at 8:29 pm

9 Responses

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  1. I like the balance here of a the portrait of a dreamy romantic expression and the reality-world sport, its just like the contrast of the bright yellow with the dark skin that always works beautifully in your work, your very own strong trademark!

    Angela Ferreira

    December 15, 2006 at 1:33 pm

  2. Your faces, always deeply nuanced, are truly things of beauty.

    Robin Janning

    December 17, 2006 at 4:34 pm

  3. I think your on to something. I often find myself blocked and it often happens when, as you say, I have recieved feedback on my work. You’ve stated what happens pretty well.

    Part of the drive (for me) is to improve and build upon what you’ve done in the past. While positive reinforcement is important, so it criticism. As artists we have to always be our own critics first, so we can improve.

    Sometimes its hard to take critism from others, but its important as well. Throuig constructive criticism (constructive being a vital word here) things we may have missed are brought to our attention.

    Maybe positive comments just make us lazy.


    December 18, 2006 at 3:44 am

  4. Trollboy, Yeah, that’s another point of view, becoming lazy. Criticism can be important for an art students as well as a positive and powerful tool for instructors.

    Unfortunately some instructors just go through the motion when giving a critique, their information is neither constructive or instructive. It becomes about them.

    I am in this inquiry about stops and starts because I want to help instructors and inturn incourage students. Thanks for your feedback.

    Bob Martin

    December 18, 2006 at 12:22 pm

  5. I too have noticed that positive comments can be inhibiting or distracting-when someone admires an unfinished painting or some aspect of one, it seems to take a little time for me to find my way back to whatever track I was on before their input.

    So I’m not sure how to best comment on someone else’s work in progress(whether in a teaching situation or just visiting a studio)…we usually do feel it’s fine to make positive comments…but maybe a better approach is to first ask the artist what they’re after, and then talk about how that is or isn’t working. To hold off on purely personal response until you can do it in the context of the person’s own intentions, at least for an unfinished work.

    I really like your paintings by the way–I think I’m drawn to the strong formal elements of color and contrast combined with the sensitivity towards your human subjects.


    December 23, 2006 at 2:03 am

  6. Merry Christmas Bob xoxox!


    December 24, 2006 at 11:53 am

  7. I get what you’re saying here…this unconscious ‘need for approval’ often gets in the way for me…like when I was thinking about what paintings to submit for an exhibition last April. ..when I did recognize this ‘need for approval’ was rearing it’s ugly head in the selecting process; I combatted it by switching tactics. I had felt that I should enter something ‘typical’ of my usual style(which now I realize is so driven by what others expect); but I really loved this personally emotive portrait, so i took a chance and entered it. I was a little afraid of what responses I would hear. then the unexpected happened. I won 2nd prize!


    December 26, 2006 at 2:17 pm

  8. Hi Rebecca, asking the student/artist what is it that they are going for is a good place to start when giving feedback. Relationship has a big impact. We listen to each person differently. I know it drives me crazy when my wife says something positive about an unfinished painting, (she loves me so everything I do is good). I watched a critique by an accomplished artist and what he asked the student about the painting he was doing of a model was
    1-What do you want to say in this painting?
    2-Do you notice this background color vs some light color (the student said yes)
    3-Do you want to include this in your painting(the student said yes)
    4-Then do it said the instructor.
    End of Critique

    Bob Martin

    December 26, 2006 at 3:04 pm

  9. Sally, it goes to show how we get in our own way sometimes. Second guessing ourselves, trying to figured out what is in someone else’s mind. I wonder how many unexpected first and second prizes we talk ourselves out of.

    Bob Martin

    December 26, 2006 at 3:08 pm

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