What is the relationship between discipline and creativity? On the surface, these things seem to be opposites. Discipline implies consistency and regularity. Creativity suggests variety and spontaneity. What is the image of discipline in the US? What is our idea of creativity? What is the reality?
Creativity comes from a variety of places, including trauma. Art is sometimes a response to an emotional need, to a state of shock. The thing is, not everyone who experiences trauma creates art, and not all experiences are equally traumatizing.
Will power, or the continuity of choice, is one of the factors that transforms traumatic feelings into creativity. What is the difference between someone who is damaged by a traumatic experience versus someone who is able to transfigure their pain into poetry? It is their willingness to practice. Of course, not all art comes from traumatic feelings.
Another aspect of creativity is choice. Creativity isn’t found in one thing or another. Creativity is the ability to choose. Art can be any combination of aesthetic qualities. There are no rules as to what can qualify as art. Making a creative decision, a decision to go in a creative direction and to practice a formal constraint, is definitely one of the ways to look for creativity.
What decisions have been made? What choices can we make now? What is the basis of a creative choice? What makes up an art direction?
Creativity is the conception of form.
Discipline is sticking with a program of work designed to create growth. To be disciplined is to possess self-control, to know one’s limits, to act within a safe and measured sphere of possibility. It is also to act consistently. When disciplined practice creates strength, there is more control in the execution of decisions. The strength gained from practice brings the line drawn by the hand closer to the mind’s idea.
Creativity derives from passion. Deeply caring about anything leads to opinion and the repetition of opinion creates style. A passion for form leads to the discipline of style.
The subject of a work also has a lot to do with the interaction between creativity and discipline. The loss of a love can lead to a loss of passion, and instead of being productive creativity becomes cathartic. Instead of being driven by a desire to make great work, the artist who is heart-broken uses creative expression to cope with the feelings.
Imagine Jeff Koons versus Mark Rothko. Koons is an artist who conceives of ideas and blueprints for the making of a spectacular visual object. His work is not expressive but conceptual. He is not using art to express something personal as much as he is performing for art. He is making aesthetic and conceptual, formal, choices to create something for the world.
Expressionist artists, like Rothko or Pollock, use creativity to vent their anguish, to express their tragic sense of time. Both routes end up creating something new, something valuable. The expressionists, however, ended up killing themselves and Jeff Koons is one of the wealthiest artists of all time.
The value in art is derived from the desire of collectors and institutions to preserve the work of artists for future generations. Once an artist reaches art historical status, their work is almost immediately valuable.
People get too serious about art when money is involved, and it is always involved. It takes discipline to keep a sense of humor. You have to stick to your decisions.
The tragic artist seems more authentic to us in some ways. There is very little sense of discipline in the tragic artist because they are fueled by trauma, not will power. The tragic artist is living on borrowed time. Creativity is a drug for the tragic artist, and it is just a matter of time before it becomes impossible to re-up.
The pop artist doesn’t use their public work to express their private feelings, but instead takes the task of making an art object as a kind of engineering challenge.
Discipline and creativity are never neutral forces and so it requires an understanding of an individual and their context to really get down to the nitty gritty. What is the purpose of discipline and creativity in your work? Do you tend to feel more creative when you are emotional or does emotion come out of doing the work?
The purpose of the discipline is to earn trust. Through the repeated performance of a task, we inherit an artist’s belief in their project.
Why do we need creativity? Where do we need it?
You would think that making pretty things to look at wouldn’t be super high on our list of priorities in a world that has so many serious problems.
Creativity always starts with a question about form. How would it look if we did this…? What would a viewer feel if we did that…? How do we make this art object feel a certain way? How can we inspire certain feelings in an audience? The questions create the context for formal experimentation and an artist will use their discipline, their media, to create some answers.