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The Creativity Conundrum

What is creativity? How do we tap into it? Why is it important?

These were some of the poignant ideas that were mulled over in the Macquarie tent sessioin this morning.

Guest speakers Michael Leunig, Lucio Galletto and Janet Hawley all had their own take on the creative process – articulated through the lenses of their varying creative fields.

Iconic Australian cartoonist, Leunig discovered his creativity as a child: when a few crayons, a backyard and a vivid imagination were all he had to amuse himself. He still considers the natural, uninhibited play of a child to be an essential component of creativity.

“Children have a natural desire to make things,” he explains. “Adults need to get things ‘right,’ whereas kids just ‘do’.”

Art journalist Janet Hawley agrees. After over thirty years of meeting with artists and seeking to understand their creative process, she discovered that getting in touch with the ‘inner child’ is very important.

“Picasso and many other artists have said that they are always trying to capture that innocent curiosity of childhood,” Hawley says.

Restaurateur and passionate cookbook author, Lucio Galletto, believes creativity is something we can all bring into our lives, not just something available to an elitist group of ‘artists’.

For Galletto, cuisine is his creative palate and cooking can be a “transformative process” – even after 30 years.

“The art of pasta is remarkable,”  he says.

The demystification of long-held beliefs about artists was a pivotal topic that the speakers were keen to unravel. One idea debunked was that artists are elitist and seldom want to talk about their work.

“Artists aren’t elitist, that’s something that has been projected onto them,” Hawley says.

Indeed, Hawley should know – she has spent intimate time with Brett Whiteley, Margaret Olley and many other seminal Australian artists.

Hawley’s lifelong interaction with artists has given her some interesting insights into the way they interact in the world – which she says is quite different from other creative pursuits, such as writing.

“Writers thoughts are often already well formed, but artists think in a visual way, forming thoughts into words for the first time,” she explains.

Leunig also enlightened the audience on the inner world of the artist—revealing that images are constantly brewing in his mind, waiting for the perfect moment to come into fruition.

“Ideas go into the compost heap inside, mix around and some things will eventually return,” Leunig explains.

Leunig’s organic approach to creativity is also reflected in his belief on art schooling: which he says should be more hands on and as little theory as possible.

“You have to be careful about educating in creativity,” he says.

This view reflected the general consensus of the discussion today, as each speaker agreed that analyzing, over-thinking or following consensus ultimately undermines creativity.

“The moment you know what you’re doing, it’s an illustration, not art,” explains Hawley.

The discussion today highlighted the fact that the creative process is like the deep, dark ocean: an eternal source of wonder and speculation.

Even though it still remains one of the great mysteries of life, this fascinating phenomenon had some light shed on it today, leaving the audience with the feeling that it’s not beyond anyone’s reach. In fact, it’s at the tip of their fingertips, just waiting to be unleashed.

Madeleine Brown is a Writing student a Southern Cross University.


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