If hearing the word creativity causes you to think, No, that’s not for me; that’s for the gifted, then this message is for you.
About 40 years ago my wife, Jeanene, asked me to go with her to visit one of her close friends. That friend’s husband happened to be a commercial artist. I was fascinated with his ability to use brushes, watercolor, and paper to create beauty. Something inside of me said, “Try it,” but my more rational self responded, “You’ve never had any artistic ability; all you will do is prove that you can’t paint anything.” Fortunately the feeling to want to try persisted.
I got a few books on watercolor from the library, bought an inexpensive set of paints and a brush and looked for an isolated place where I could safely try my hand at art without embarrassment. With a sheet of ordinary paper I tried to paint a tree, then other objects. The results, even viewed charitably, were not very good, but I still remember the excitement I felt from doing something I had never done before.
The initial feeling of accomplishment encouraged me to read more and try harder. Later I was privileged to take five lessons from a master watercolorist and teacher, Elliott O’Hare. That experience changed everything. I began to appreciate that much can be accomplished with an understanding of basic principles. I discovered the importance of quality materials. Objective criticism from a knowledgeable friend became an appreciated source of growth. There followed other small but important seeds of reinforcement: a prize at the state fair for a modest painting of sailboats in the fog, and the first sale of a watercolor of a small boy and girl with a fishing rod and dog. Even now, many years later, these experiences bring great personal satisfaction.
It doesn’t concern me that I will never be an accomplished watercolorist. Even infrequent efforts to try to express feelings with a brush and paint continue to provide a constantly renewing source of pleasure and benefit. There is an awareness of the miracle of color, subtle transitions in value, dramatic contrasts, and appealing shapes and patterns. Every face is a fascinating study of light and shadow, texture, and hue that speaks volumes regarding character and personality. Eyes have become for me the fingerprint of the soul. Moreover the masterful work of gifted artists has become a refreshing source of enjoyment and learning. Most importantly I feel that perhaps I am more sensitive to the limitless creative genius of our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son.
Wherever I go I see beauty in ways that would not have been perceived with the same intensity and variety had I not followed that prompting to “try it.” I still have that first painting. When I look at it my mind is filled with sweet memories of much that happened in that time of my life, and the satisfaction I have received from modest personal efforts to be creative in many different areas of life.
As you look through this issue of the New Era and admire what others have done, search for feelings that prompt you to try something new yourself, and if they are not there strive to generate them. Try art, poetry, prose, music, dance, photography, clothing design, or anything you haven’t done before. Otherwise you may never know the thrill of personal creativity nor enter the doors it opens to insight, enjoyment, and wonder.
Every individual has creative capacity. The satisfaction and growth creativity generates is intended for each of us, not just for the most gifted. To “try it” takes courage. A famous watercolorist, Edgar A. Whitney, said: “No door is closed to a stubborn scholar.” The most challenging barrier one must overcome is to begin; from there it gets easier and more exciting. Then as you try, realize that you personally are going to be hardest on yourself just when you need the most reassurance. Let your self-evaluation be a source of discovery rather than of self-criticism. Believe in yourself. Doubt destroys creativity, while faith strengthens it. As your ability increases you will seek the objective criticism of others more experienced. Find ways to learn basic principles about your field of interest. Enjoy the process of discovery, not just the end result of your efforts. As you experiment with new things you will discover a great deal about yourself that likely won’t be revealed any other way.
“Try it” and you may open up a lifetime of joy and rewarding accomplishment.