Thursday, December 27, 2007

For once in my life I have actually produced something purely in photoshop that I'm happy with. I think having a tablet has made a lot of difference.
And as an added bonus, here's an animated gif of me painting it, although you'll have to click on it to get it display.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Pop Art Portraits

I'd known about the Pop Art Portraits exhibition since the end of Summer, and was gutted that I'd have to go away to university again just before it opened. As such, I made getting into town and seeing it one of my priorities of the Christmas holidays.
Pop Art has always interested me. It combines bold and exploratory styles with a probing insight into popular culture.
The exhibition was very good, although I felt some of the subject divisions were a lot stronger than others. The Marilyn section was very thought provoking, with many pieces exploring the price of fame, and the person behind the image. By contrast, the Experience and Innocence sections seemed slightly contrived. How can you define a point in history at which the public suddenly loses hope and becomes jaded, never mind having artists reflecting that? Why is Elvis being portrayed with a gun instead of a guitar an example of Innocence rather than Experience? Surely the manipulation of image and celebrities' experiences with this would suggest the latter.

The opportunity to see some celebrated pop art images such as the Warhol Marilyn prints and "What is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing?" by Richard Hamilton is always a welcome one. When you see artists' work in the flesh it is always such a different experience to seeing them in art books. Something is always inevitably lost in the translation from real world to print, even if the piece was print to begin with. Standing in front of Lichtenstein's "In the Car" is an experience beyond the image itself. You are slightly dwarfed by the scale of the piece. The car's inhabitants tower impassively over you. And yet, you feel like you are getting let in on a secret. Up close, the brush strokes can be seen, the bleeding of the Ben Day dots, an area where the edge did not mask properly.I should really get myself to some more exhibitions, I forget how much I enjoy them.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Creativity Conference

On Thursday morning I went to the Creativity and Innovation conference at the City Rooms. It was pretty interesting, and I definitely learnt some useful stuff, both about defining creativity and about where it occurs in our work.
The first speaker was Margaret Boden, attempting to answer the question 'What is creativity?'. She gave the definition of creativity as "Ideas that are new, surprising and valuable."
Many of the words in that sentence need to be further defined, however. New can mean either new in terms of all human history (H-creative), or simply new to the person themselves (P-creative). Although H-creativity may seem far more important, it must still begin with P-creativity. When teaching children, they may be encouraged to come up with their own ideas about how something works. The answer may be already known, but they are still being encouraged to be P-creative.
Value of a creative idea can change depending on the situation. An idea which may be great for an advertising campaign will probably not be as valuable for an art exhibition. When people are discussing whether or not something is creative, they are often not debating the core creativity at all, but differing about the creative value.
Surprise at a creative idea can occur in different ways, depending on what type of creativity produced the idea.

Combinational creativity:
is making unfamiliar combinations of familiar ideas

Exploratory creativity:
is working within a structure or style, and working to find the limits of a creative space

Transformational creativity:
is a new structure or style. The creator has learnt how to explore the space, and then changed the space itself.

Transformational creativity is rare and often only occurs after the creator has first mastered the existing creative space through many years of exploratory creativity. The backlash against transformational creativity can often be great, as they are challenging the current accepted system. An example of transformational creativity is the development of pointillism.

These definitions are theoretical distinctions between types of creativity. Creativity does not need to occur in one or other category, it can be a mixture.

Creativity can be discouraged by punishing new ideas, especially for being 'wrong'. Combinational creativity can be encouraged by having lots of ideas from different subjects readily available. Doing exercises such as making up a sentence or story to do with two random things can also encourage combinational creativity by getting the creator to think about the process itself. For successful exploratory creativity, the person needs prolonged experience in the area they are exploring. For successful transformational creativity, the creator should first examine other examples of transformational creativity and evaluate what they changed and how. They also need to learn to evaluate their own ideas. For all styles of creativity, the person's motivation needs to be encouraged.

The second lecture, by Claudia Eckert, was about analysing where creativity occurs in the processes of both artistic design and technical design.
Artistic design is design fields where visual or tactile appearance is key to the design and sale of the product, whereas in technical design the function of the product is more important.
I might skip to the conclusion for this one, as the main portion of the lecture compared different design processes in some detail. The main conclusion of the lecture was that creativity in technical industries such as engineering is seen as a necessary evil. It leads to uncertainties in the design process, which can mean increased production time and costs. Things are done sticking as strictly to the design process and brief as possible, and creativity occurs when a problem arises.
However, in artistic design, the process is almost approached from the other way. Creativity is factored in from the beginning, and through the design process itself the technical restraints are realised and decided upon.

It's interesting to think about where we fall in the processes. We're probably somewhere in the middle, we have a large amount of artistic freedom but we also have to stick to strict criteria.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Gender and creativity

I thought it would be an interesting idea to examine whether there are any links between creativity and gender. I did find a few papers online, most of which seemed to reach the conclusion that there isn't really any difference in creative ability based on gender alone. However, one paper did make an interesting point.
Girls in their early teens are more easily discouraged from being creative by a reward or assessment based system than boys of the same age group.

This is worrying. As creativity is inherent in pretty much every subject to varying degrees, does this mean that the discouragement of creativity is making girls less ambitious? If you are afraid to experiment, you will probably stick with what is safe and known to you. This article states that although girls are doing better and better at GCSE level compared to boys, they are still taking stereotypical subject choices.
This is a tough thing to think about. When you make decisions about what you want out of life, how often do you think of yourself as an ambassador for your gender? When I consider what I want to do, should I be considering working in the city as a high flying banker just because it's a male dominated arena?

This wasn't really as focused an exploration as I was hoping it would be, but it is at least an interesting aside.