As a boy, our family of five would load into an old copper colored Chevy station wagon and head to the mountains on summer Sundays. Below moss covered trees, we hiked along creeks that carved narrow volcanic gorges all the way to the mighty Columbia River.
Summers were separated in two. Time in the mountains and time along the Pacific coast. Steep green wind whipped slopes along the ocean. The sun slowly breaking through the clouds. By noon when friends my age were still at home rubbing sleep from their eyes, I was four hours into fun filled adrenaline adventure, walking barefoot across the toe numbing Pacific sand for miles as waves rolled relentlessly at my feet.
Late that night I would go home filled with pictures in my mind. In the following week I would find my way back to the mountains and oceans. I would spend hours sketching a face of a beautiful girl into the slope of a mountain peak; a brush of paint into the remembrance of a lone pine hanging over a cliff. This was my time. A time away from all those things that confused a young adolescent boy. It was a space in time I could hold on to in an often ambiguous world.
But something else happened during that time that I didn’t quite realize. And what ever it was would last me for the rest of my life. Not only was I recognizing the importance of nature in my growing world, I was also nurturing a place of wanderlust and reverie.
At fourteen I was given the family’s small black plastic Kodak instamatic camera with 36 film exposures. I remember clicking off a couple shots, thinking that was fun but racing my brother down a hill on a bicycle was more thrilling. Ten years later my sister gave me her 35 mm camera to use. I hiked ten miles into a high mountain lake climbing over cliffs, sliding down steep slopes to take a couple shots of a lake bordered by tree’s and valley’s. I saw elk and deer–trout swimming in the crystalline waters. When I got back home I had the pictures developed at a lab and hung several up in my living room.
“What’s that?” A friend asked.
“That’s a tree in a lake.” I said getting my boots on, readying myself for work.
He cocked his head sideways a little. I could see him trying to figure out what he was looking at. Then he glanced back at me with one of those uncertain looks that say’s you’re crazy.
“A tree in a lake?” he said again.
I nodded my head, “We better go. We’re going to be late.”
It was in one out of the thirty something pictures I saw it—a picture of the quiet lake with a reflection of a tree floating in the middle. It was a mirrored image of itself. It took me a long time to tell which way was up in the image. Between the light and composition, what was the sky and what was the water melted together. There was no one defining black line across the horizon. The colors, the composition all flowed together and at that moment I came to understand a little bit about creativity.
Where does it start? Right brain? Left brain? Or in random association?
There are loads of theories concerning prominent characteristics in which side of the cerebellum we use. The left side is more characteristic of analytical thought. The right is often regarded as the “creative” side. But being right brain or left brain shouldn’t limit us to being open to trying new approaches to old ways. We live in a privileged time when many of us can focus less on the basics of survival and more on our creative endeavors.
But using this time can be a mix of sensory overload and blank, empty episodes of bewilderment. The problem I’ve had with random association exercises is that the freedom can be overwhelming. I found restricting myself to one or two topics reduces the deluge of subjects to a mire trickle of peaked curiosity.
So if creativity being “something” everyone is born with, then as a society, what direction are we heading? Are we becoming more or less creative?
During the Renaissance period between 1400’s to the beginning of the 1600’s artistic freedom flourished. Artists, musicians, sculptures, actors, writers—the culture was alive, breathing with creativity. Leonardo da Vinci searched for answers and Michelangelo carved the world around him and a machine called a printer disseminated ideas. It was a time released from the constraints of the Medieval Era when personal freedoms were squashed in a culture marred by tyranny.
With the inevitable end of the Renaissance period there was a time known as the “High” Renaissance. A profound wealth of talent resulted. What was being created was good or better than what had been done before. Tools, technology and confidence was at its high. Art and religion soon clashed, “sacrilegious’ items were burned in the ‘bonfire of the vanities’ and the Renasence period slowly closed in on itself with rampaging armies trashing the arts throughout Italy. While we haven’t seen the mass obliteration of art, there have been attempts to stifle the spread of creative content.
Today is the age of the Digital Renaissance. A time for most people when technology empowers a creative society and inspiration moves it forward. It is a world of unlimited opportunities and the desire for personal expression. With this Digital Renaissance has come a multitude of creative content and inside this large democratized mix, some of the most talented will inevitably get drowned out.
Is technology leading creativity or is creativity leading technology?
Reading and watching the latest break-throughs in medical science, they claim technology is the driving force behind new cures and discoveries. All this creative passion comes from our wanting to better society, to have a longer, better life. Technology here appears to be the impetus for many.
In the film and movie industry, computer animated graphics or CGI is becoming more and more accepted in what we watch. Good 3D animation can take us in our mind, out of our body and put us in the middle of the action all in the comfort of our couch. For the computer graphics designer to create these effects takes a powerful computer that the average consumer cannot afford.
But creativity cannot be driven by technology alone. Technology is a tool like a paint brush is to an artist, a hammer and chisel to a wood carver. It’s the unaccepting soul that knows no bounds, that makes life a language of their own. That is creativity.
So to the dancer, the artist, the writer, the musician, the daydreamer inside each and every one of us, tonight I think I’ll go for a walk. As the sun is setting, I’ll walk along the beach into the wind with waves lapping at my feet just as I did when I was a boy. At the waters edge I’ll stop, look up to the darkening sky and when the first star appears, I’ll raise my hands—all that I am—high above the horizon and search an endless area for a place, a place only I can know . . . a place where once again I have arrived for the very first time.