Posted by: Liz Massey | June 3, 2008

Surf’s Up: Creativity links for June 3, 2008

As summer starts to sizzle, the waves of web-based creative news continue to provide a thrilling ride for those who love art and innovation. This week, we look at creative risk and who gets to be creative, a wonderful traveling art adventure, and a story about an art teacher who regularly helps people who see themselves as “non-artists” drawing detailed, nuanced pictures of treasures from the natural world.

1. I ran across a couple of good “think pieces” this week, one answering the question “Can innovation be taught?” and another providing inspiration for those who take risks in their creative work.

James Todhunter at Innovating to Win recently attempted to answer a reader question about whether it’s possible to teach innovation. I like the way in which James makes his argument, which references the Wallis model (preparation-incubation-illumination-verification) of creative problem-solving. He is an enthusiastic advocate of people being able to improve their creative ability, saying, “You may not have the highest level of natural talent for a discipline, but that does not mean that you can not attain some degree of mastery of the basic skill….The development of each of the component processes of innovative thinking can be enhanced through both training and technology.”

Over at the Heart of Innovation blog, the Idea Champions folks remind us that “Failure is not what you think it is.” It’s a simple listing–mostly a collection of quotes about failure–but I like how the list gets at a simple fact about the creative process: that perfectionism gets in the way of generating new, original ideas, and that, as they put it, “exploring outrageous horizons” entails the willingness to be lost part of the time.

2. We’ve all heard about the educational value of “travel abroad” experiences for students, but what would we learn if our artwork did the traveling? This is the tantalizing question posed by the Flying Pictures Project. Seven personalized sketchbooks are making their way all over the Western Hemisphere, as artists from the United States, France, Great Britain, Sweden and Italy are participating.

The project is a fantastic approach to long-distance collaborative art, and the Flying Pictures blog features extensive illustrations of the sketchbooks as they grow and change. (Many thanks to Robyn at the Have Dogs, Will Travel blog for alerting me to the endeavor.)

3. Finally, a heart-warming story from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, about Julia S. Child, whose nature drawing classes have transformed more than two dozen people, most of whom are retirees from Woods Hole and Falmouth and have had no previous art training, into accomplished artists who draw with confidence and joy. Students from her classes will be exhibiting their work this summer at the Woods Hole Historical Collection.

The above-referenced blog post has a number of terrific photos of illustrations that the site featuring the local news story on the class wasn’t able to carry. Both pieces are inspiring, and to me, Child’s classes show how a teacher’s skill and ability to focus student attention on how interesting the subject matter is (rather than their current level of achievement) can help beginning artists, at any age, make steady, demonstrable progress.

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