Artist Without Imagination?

I can’t remember exactly when it started, but as a kid (about 5th grade?) I became interested in art. I’m sure a lot of people can relate to that here. Of course my drawings sucked pretty bad, gradually got better, and are now almost tolerable. A few years ago, I was introduced to Blender and, after finally overcoming the frustration of learning a complex new software, I started really enjoying 3D.

Why am I telling you this? Recently I have been thinking over the past month or so, and discovered that I am not very creative. Seriously. I can never think of anything to draw, I can’t make an original story for the life of me, I suck at poetry, and the list goes on and on. I see it in myself all the time. I am more of an intellectual, problem solving person. I can think of inventive ways to solve problems, but not inventive ways to create. Literally none of my artworks are all that creative, except for perhaps a select few that I can count on one hand.

I have recently read a few contradictory things: some say that creativity is more genetic, while others say it is learned.
Which is it? Can I learn to be more creative?

I know it is possible to be a successful artist without a hyperactive imagination, so even if I stay the same, I think I will be OK if I compensate with skill. What do you think, can successful artists be uncreative?

It’s an interesting thought, and I’d like to hear your opinion.

Lots of good artists are uncreative on there own, thats why there are artists that work in teams, so they can help each other.

I find this a very interesting topic because it is exactly the situation I found myself in a few years ago. I’m a fairly logical person but am interested in art and wanted to give it a go. Humans have a very strong tendency to stick with what they’re good at and avoid what they’re not good at - nobody likes failure and the best way to not fail is to not try.

Here’s what I did. I contribute photos to istockphoto and they have a forum called the Steel Cage. It’s for Photoshop competitions and most of the contestants are the graphic designers who are their customers. A bit dead these days but a few years ago it was a thriving place. So I engaged in a few battles, about 20 over four years or so. You challenge someone. One of you goes first and has to produce a composite image. After that each contestant has to produce a new image using some elements from the previous one. 72 hour time limit per ‘blow’ or disqualify. Five rounds. It puts a lot of pressure on you to be creative, and you have to produce something by the deadline.

My first attempts were, well, weak. However I persisted and a while back the head honcho there said he had never seen anyone improve as much as I had. Check out my battles. Go to http://www.istockphoto.com/crazychristina and in the right hand column down the bottom there is a list of my battles. Start at the bottom of the list. For each one click on the View Battle Summary link and have a look. It wasn’t 3D but persistence pays off. Also I’ve been looking at tutorials on character design, production design, environment design. Even the pro artists have ways to get their imagination working. Maybe check out the Blender Foundations Chaos and Evolutions DVD by David Revoy. Natural talent is important, but there is a technique to being creative.

I think your creativity can be boosted from forcing your right brain to engage - but it requires you to get away from the normal activities you use your left brain to do. In drawing class, we used the exercises of drawing with limitations forcing us to use our right brain. Some of these were: drawing from a reference that was upside down, drawing a complete drawing without looking back down at the drawing surface, cutting a reference picture in half and drawing the missing half next to the reference half…

I don’t mean that you would be more creative per se, but the idea of getting your right brain involved might loosen up the juices you need to get something going. An exercise I sometimes do in my sketches is to daydream random combinations of objects and creatures, drafting them as much as necessary to get a visual worked out. Like a letter opener and a grasshopper mixed together, a chair with deer antlers and a human nose, some scissors and dragonfly wings, etc. I don’t always use these drawings directly, but then I start to ‘imagine’ a story behind the drawing, and sometimes either a backstory comes to me about the thing or some other character or aspect builds beyond my original drawing. One time, I literally drew and eye, started drawing machinery around it, then finished out half a face and was in the process of imagining this cyborg and why he was crying - then it just started to flow.

I share just say that anything that helps is good medicine, and I hope you don’t confuse lack of inspiration with that four letter word (can’t).

Imagination and creativity is something you tap into. Its easy to forget too! It’s important to hold onto it. For some (politicians) its something that’s VERY easy to lose FOREVER. S.M.H.

Another way to look at it, we’re pretty much walking antennas. See my sig (:

Good thread and yes its very easy to contradict yourself on this subject. I personally feel everyone is born with it, and even when life takes away your hearing you can still impress a room full of people with your skills. Ludwig van Beethoven.

“We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls.” - from the prologue of Boy’s Life, Robert R. McCammon.

This is one of my favorite quotes and I think it applies equally to our imaginations. Ask a four year old to draw a picture of something and the ideas will pour out of their heads (although you may need to bribe them a little to get started). Ask a 24 year to draw a picture of the same topic (bigger bribe required) and they’ll spend hours thinking about what to do.

I honestly think an “artist” can only be creative when they let some of that magic and innocence back into themselves. Sometimes you just need to think and act like a kid. Let your mind go out and explore the world for a while and don’t wait up for it.

I agree with most, if not all, of what people have said in this thread and I’d like to add one thing:

Start with what you want to say (as a person, not necessarily as an artist) then look for ways to say it visually. Find a way to express your feelings about a particular subject without using words, just imagery. Use juxtaposition and contrast (in just about anything including: colour, brightness, imagery, size, etc.) to get the viewer see relationships between parts of your image.

I think if a artist don’t have good imagination than it is quite hard for that artist to find a job or to work his own. Because I think in this field it is necessary to be imaginative and yes it helps you a lot. This field just need one thing that is creative ideas and you should have that ,not very perfect or nice but yes you should have.

One the other hand I have seen many artist who don’t have such ability but they are working find, why because than they are just told to do and they do like that, it is kind of like telling some one to make something like they want and that artist will do like that and this is also not bad.

The other thing is that when you start working , time to time you will get some experience and your thinking power will increase I have seen this in me and in other friends of mine. So I think if you want to increase imagination than you should see those things in which you want to do , like if you want to make movie, start watching movies , else if this apply to game than play lots of games and so on.

Hope this helps , I know I am not professional but I just share my experience. :smiley:

I hear you. I understand you perfectly, as a frustrated comicbook wannabe I am, I put my foot in 3d to help me improve in backgrounds and character poses, and the end of the day I ended up doing mostly 3d work, and here I am 5 years later of opening blender for the first time.

There are things important to know design wise… for example, when I am doing a design for somebody or a videogame or something like that I work out silhouettes, and if the silhouette works, then the design will work well too.

Of course, Imagination wise, there are things like being inspired by other works from other people… I like to think what would be the companion of “insert x game character here” and boom! a new character idea. (you can see some of my works in my sign here).

Some times I construct somekind of hierarchy like is this human, animal, both, machine or natural (mineral, vegetal, etc) and I work from there or I grab some reference and mix a bit. Some people use a mix of known characters to make new ones.

I am still struggling to be better but I try slowly but surely. With time, patience and dedication everything is possible.

Cheers.

Depends really i guess. I, on the other hand, have so much of an imagination that I can’t sit down to play with the more technical details of things…especially blender. I mean i make a decent 3D artist but im limited to cartoons which probably aren’t as impressive as many others ive seen. Likewise, i suck at python scripting (though i think im grasping some of the concept of how it works), i can’t model trees and cars woth beans and i can barely model a decent looking building, I can make decent shaders but can’t use the texture editor to make complex image textures for the life of me.

im pretty much opposite-ish…big imagination, low to median technicality.

I think that most people thinks that about themselves. I think that the creativity itself in fact is an illusion. Most people cannot do anything creative without reference. That’s (an example) why internet is full of this kind of sites: http://www.designer-daily.com/50-great-websites-designs-for-your-inspiration-2372

We must copy other ideas and mix them with the other ones until we are happy with the results. And we don’t need to except from ourselves that we need to do everything from the zero. It’s not illegal to copy an ideas and make them better.

Most artists suffer from some form of insecurity. This combined with an extremely competitive, opinionated, and critical environment that they function within can be extremely difficult to stay motivated, inspired, and continue to produce works that they are content with.

If you were to poll people in any creative industry, and they were to answer honestly, most would probably say that they often feel like they are a fraud. They aren’t THAT creative, they aren’t THAT talented… they struggle consistently.

Most people who claim otherwise are simply masking those insecurities and suffer the same as everyone else. There are some people who honestly believe that they are a creative savant and arguably are, however I like the think that having insecurities can be just as, or more, important than confidence. It keeps you sharp, it keeps you wanting to grow (and feeling like you can), helps you catch mistakes and work out all the details, and it humbles you.

Many of the great painters, sculptures, and our historical creative predecessors created their works in a time where religion reigned more dominantly across the board and worked its way into their process. For many of them, they actually believed that inspiration was a form of divine creative intervention. So when they had a less than productive day, or worse, a failed creation, they would not blame themselves.

I assume there are far fewer people today that have the same beliefs, however in a way I don’t think they are completely inaccurate. Creativity doesn’t come from within, it is not innately enabled within everyone, creativity, and more importantly, inspiration comes from without.

If you want to be more creative and more productive, immerse yourself in a subject. Know as much as you can about it. Then forget about it, let you brain process what you have learned and immerse yourself in something completely different, something new. Walk down a street you never have before, travel to a new place, watch a new movie, listen to different music. You will start to bridge those new experiences and new perspectives with preexisting questions and problems, they will help you fill in those blanks with information you never had before.

So in a way, you aren’t to blame, your environment and your process is. Relief! …well, sort of. You still are to blame, you need to change something you are doing.

There is always this question and argument over whether it is nature or nurture. It is simply both. Some people are predisposed to something through nature, but they can change that through nurture (training, reprogramming, etc.). I think some people are born with a more creative, or visual, or musical ability and are at an advantage, but that doesn’t mean you can’t train to think and perceive more like them.

Practice. Surround yourself with aspirations. Change your scenery. Modify your process. Try new things. Practice. Practice… oh yea, practice.

Holy crap that was a long ramble, I hope some of it makes sense.

The secret to creativity is flooding your head with knowledge. When you have a lot of ideas in your head, you automatically will make connections between things other people haven’t. If your knowledge and visual library is relatively low, you have a lot smaller pool of resources to tap ideas from.

Hop on Youtube and subscribe to various educational channels about history, science, and things like that. Create a Google Reader account if you don’t have one, and grab RSS feeds from any art blogs you find inspiring. Also toss in sites like Omg-facts, and Listverse. The goal is that everyday your computer will aggregate a bunch of information for you to fill your head with over a wide variety of subjects.

Then when you sit down to design a character, you’ll be able to pull some things you learned about Mayans, and mix it with things you learned about some insect in the amazon rainforest, and things like that.

On days when your brain is fried and you just want to let loose, do some mindless studies. Sculpt a face, model a simple vehicle, and things like that. If you still draw follow some of the advice in this video (he’s got a lot of videos you should watch actually):

Seems to me that a lot of 3D artists want to jump right in to production. I’ll model this (ferrari/audi/lambo) here. Or tutorials - I’ll show you how to model this great character designed by my artist friend… Well, you have to be ‘your artist friend’. Preproduction. All the concept artists I’ve seen at work do something like produce a random mess and then see if they can ‘find’ something in it, like seeing pictures in clouds. I mentioned David Revoy’s Chaos and Evolutions DVD earllier and I’ve just been revisiting it myself for inspiration. He uses Alchemy to produce his ‘random mess - chaos’. Preproduction is an art in itself. Sketching is good. Don’t be too quick to jump into modelling.

An interesting thought and you may be right. People often rave about my acting, but I don’t feel like I’m doing anything all that special. In fact, most of the time, I don’t feel like I’m doing anything at all.

This is a good point. This is why it’s so surprising to see someone really young (and, of course, inexperienced with life in general) doing amazing art. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s a bit of a mind-blower.

Most artists will also tell you: The more you learn, the less you know. But then, that applies just about anywhere in life.

The creators of South Park don’t think they’re artists. But their animation is amazing. I mean the writing.

Definitely some great info here! When I can, I’ll try some of those creativity exercises to get my right brain circulation running again. As I said, I’m not really worried about this, but I think it is something I should definitely work on. I thought some of these points were especially good:

Lots of good artists are uncreative on there own, thats why there are artists that work in teams, so they can help each other.

I share just say that anything that helps is good medicine, and I hope you don’t confuse lack of inspiration with that four letter word (can’t).

Ask a four year old to draw a picture of something and the ideas will pour out of their heads (although you may need to bribe them a little to get started). Ask a 24 year to draw a picture of the same topic (bigger bribe required) and they’ll spend hours thinking about what to do.

I honestly think an “artist” can only be creative when they let some of that magic and innocence back into themselves. Sometimes you just need to think and act like a kid. Let your mind go out and explore the world for a while and don’t wait up for it.

I think that most people thinks that about themselves. I think that the creativity itself in fact is an illusion. Most people cannot do anything creative without reference.

Most artists suffer from some form of insecurity. This combined with an extremely competitive, opinionated, and critical environment that they function within can be extremely difficult to stay motivated, inspired, and continue to produce works that they are content with.

If you were to poll people in any creative industry, and they were to answer honestly, most would probably say that they often feel like they are a fraud. They aren’t THAT creative, they aren’t THAT talented… they struggle consistently.

Most people who claim otherwise are simply masking those insecurities and suffer the same as everyone else. There are some people who honestly believe that they are a creative savant and arguably are, however I like the think that having insecurities can be just as, or more, important than confidence. It keeps you sharp, it keeps you wanting to grow (and feeling like you can), helps you catch mistakes and work out all the details, and it humbles you.

The secret to creativity is flooding your head with knowledge. When you have a lot of ideas in your head, you automatically will make connections between things other people haven’t. If your knowledge and visual library is relatively low, you have a lot smaller pool of resources to tap ideas from.

Thanks guys, I sure learned a lot from reading all of your posts. Not necessarily learned as in knowledge (though I did get that too), but as in a better perspective. I hope you guys got something out of this too. I’m going to make a goal (a bit late for New Years) to really focus on having my art convey a message - whether that be intellectually, emotionally, creatively, or even spiritually.

Cheers!
Jonathan

Good luck with that. And while you’re absorbing all the advice, don’t forget to carry a little sketchbook wherever you go, and a pencil, and use it occasionally.

Aloha Jonathan!

Don’t think too much if you are or not creative: you are! (As one can see on your portfolio) But at what type and degree of creativity do you aspire?

Creative can be trained and improved and it has a lot of sides. It’s a huge monter. But, talking about creativity in general, there’re people that have a natural tendence to creativity and others that have to work on it more. And, as some people have said in this post, not all good artists are creative persons and not all creatives are artists or designers. (And… is all creative stuff good stuff? And what is good stuff?)

There’re diferent techniques that can help you to improve creativity skills. Once are better than others depending on your objective, but all them helps. In general, things that helps to improve creativity are to try to solve puzzles (better 3D puzzles), to open your mind to different fields than yours (don’t gettho yourself) and to improve improvisation skills (perfoming arts helps a lot here). These 3 gives you perspective, new points of view and capacity of quick thinking, nexing and reaction over pressure (no ones wants to soffer a blank in stage with a lot of eyes on you! -and this also can be apply to an empty canvas, or paper, or…etc!-). How? Per example, to beging with, you can play videogames that introduce puzzles in the story to achive the end, talk with different people from different fields about a same subject (and, most important, listen to them and how they express themselves) and do a jam-session in painting (yeah, in painting… or modeling in Blender too). Later, you can improve training incrementing complexity. There are many exercices you can do and most are fun.

Plus, a good way to train your creativity over one specific subject is to do an analysis over the subject and it’s most representative works (influences, techniques, concept, etc). This also will give you perspective and it will develop your constructive critic eye (constructive critique is a really usefull tool).

And, to conclude, the most important of all: don’t think it, do it!

Two quotes I’ve find so useful about this topic are:

“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things”, Ray Bradbury.

"Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, the just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while”, Steve Jobs.

I hope this will help you a little more to improve your creativity skills and… congrats Jonathan cause this is a fantastic topic! :wink:

(And sorry my mistakes in English!!)