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soul of fine art

Creation | Creativity | Imagination


It’s always smart to know that whatever you are doing, you are doing it on purpose. Taking responsibility for your actions is leverage that lets you know where you stand and in what direction you are heading.

Here is a good place to begin. Trying to navigate the world of art without a compass makes for aimless if not reckless seamanship. Deceitful denizens of the deep take no prisoners. Get a bearing on what follows and you will be on your way toward understanding the subtlety that is art. After a time you will come to trust your own feelings; after a time your sense of nuance about a piece of art will place you on par with the most erudite art scholar, museum director, or art critic; after a time you will come to realize that no one can know better how you feel about a thing than you do; and after a time you will find a new sense of liberation as your art enhances the quality and meaning of your life. All this happens, after a time.

Toward my last days in Los Angeles some years back when I was living in the Hollywood Hills, I had a moving sale of various items, not art. A bearded man came to the door, looked around quickly, and went directly to an item leaning against one of my easels.

“How much is that?” he asked.

I said: “Do you know what this is?”

He whipped back with: “I surely don’t.”

Hallelujah, I thought. With those two words and a contraction, the bearded man had uttered a heaven of understanding.

I said: “Then there’s no sense talking about money.”

He grinned and left. The point was keenly etched for all to see. What’s the point of discussing price, if you don’t know what you are looking at? We must all learn how to see and that is how reality reveals herself.

Let me wipe the canvas of meaning clean with several even coats of white gesso to clarify the gist of three words that are often used interchangeably and abused as being synonymous: imagination, creativity, and creation. Almost everyone has heard these powerful and abstract nouns used in one context or another, yet their meaning and place in the scheme of things often slips through the ever widening cracks in a semantically shoddy environment. If you, the artist, don't discern the difference, who will?

Imagination: Everyone has imagination, which is a conceptual ability to form images and ideas in the mind, especially of things never seen or experienced directly. Imagination, a thinking activity, is what first instigated civilization. And as wonderful as imagination is, it is not unique. An active imagination produces results based on thought. We live in a society infatuated with the power of imagination; movies and novels promise to take us places only imagined as if that were some special piece of real estate. Imagination is ubiquitous—resourceful at best, clever at worst; and limited by your own imagination says it all.

Creativity: This quality is beyond imagination itself as it strives toward an inspired level of accomplishment by rearranging existential facts or physical properties into new forms, which also have their limitations because they are based on thinking. Creativity is what transformed mankind into an inventive toolmaker. Creativity sparks of ingenuity and makes things happen in unorthodox ways.

Creation: God creates some thing from no thing, which means each creation is unique. Creation does not come from imagination or creativity—these two levels of necessity originate from within the realm of thought. Creation, each work of art, comes from intuition, which is the soul whispering the transcendental song of God to any artists who listens. And true to its transcendental nature, creation cannot be planned as it is unleashed into existence as spontaneous passion. Creation does more than rearrange reality. Creation adds to boundless and ever expanding reality, has no limitations, mental blocks, or hidden agendas. For the artist, creation is supply without end—the cornucopia of the spirit.

Words can help us sort things out. Words can be used precisely with laser-like accuracy to communicate our intent. Words can also be used with only vague notions of what they mean—which assures ambiguity and further confusion.

Now that you are aware of the distinctions between these words, you will begin to notice their constant misuse in describing art by the layperson and by those who should know better. With awareness comes responsibility. You will reflect and see why it is essential for you, the artist, to know the difference. If you see it, then you own it, one way or another. With comprehension comes power and confidence. You will come to experience that rejection or disappointment can no longer topple you. To the extent that you know your art, the stronger you will become. This is not an opinion; it is a universal law.

If you don't elevate the standard for clarity, who will? Conversely, when you do find someone who knows the difference between imagination, creativity, and creation, you will have immediate common ground between you—and that real estate is priceless.

Remember, you are on sacred ground when you know where you stand.»

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