The Creative Personality

The Creative Personality is complex in that it has the ability to move from one extreme to another. I wanted to see how many of the 10  polar traits described by Csikszentmihalyi, I exemplify in just 24 hours.

Today I did my install at the Mundaring Arts Centre for the ‘Watch This Space’ exhibition. This exhibition is show casing hand selected works from the 2013 Graduate Shows in the Perth region. I was lucky enough to have my works chosen.

1) The Creative is both physically energetic and often at rest. Robert Davies gives an anecdote about his father who accredited his success to his desire to have a nap everyday after lunch, and that impulse drove him on (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996). I see the same drive in my own practice. It’s a personal goal of mine to never wake before 10.30am, this is not due to a particular hatred for the morning, but rather a tendency to work long hours either in my studio or at the bar I work in. So despite the Mundaring Art Centre opening at 9am, I set my alarm to 10:45.

2) There is a lot of deliberation whether the Creative is smart, I see this particularly amongst people my age when I tell them I study Visual Arts, they generally ask “An Arts Degree, what are you going to do with that?”  But there is a difference in Convergent Intelligence, which is measurable by IQ and Divergent Intelligence, which is more about fluency and flexibility.

Being intellectually brilliant “can be detrimental to creativity…as it hinders curiosity” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996). If “naiveté is the most important attribute of genius” as Goethe says, then my assumption that I could get to a place I had never been to before without map-reading abilities or adequate tools to guide me, I must be a genius.

3) There is a paradox of playfulness and responsibility that is seen in Creatives. Despite being lost and disheartened somewhere in the strange web of Perth highways, I was installing my work. I knew my own limits, if I kept driving I would work myself into a frenzy, so I pulled over and waited for a friend to take me themselves. I encounter many obstacles in my practice, hard work and perseverance generally see me through, thankfully today I could lean on someone else. To make light of the situation I made a playful ‘road trip playlist’ while I waited for my backup.

4- When I made it to the gallery, after the trauma of being lost, I had to get into my ‘Artist as a business person’ mode. In the Art world especially, networking and appearing professional in front of the ‘gatekeepers’ is integral to ones career. The ability to switch between being intro- to extro- vert plays a huge part in my Creative Personality.

5- I feel that I escape rigid gender roles and stereotyping as my practice requires me to get messy and do quite physical, almost carpentry work. I am still very feminine, but I do tend to be more dominant, aggressive and self-confident than other women my age.  The set up of my work took just over an hour, thanks to my pre-made template that I stuck to the wall and nailed into.

6- The work that I was installing was about the need for a dialogue in Australian Ideology, particularly when it comes to ‘outsiders.’ My work is quite rebellious, in that I openly scrutinize Australian Identity within a traditional framework of oil painting.

7-The Imagery within my body of work is abstract, but rooted in reality. I came up with representations of different attitudes towards Australia. My viewer may see dead kangaroos and an Australian Flag on a windless day, but I see my values being questioned and the shame I feel for the country I was born in.

8-My relationship with what I create goes backwards and forwards between passion and detachment. Even now I am still passionate about my body of work, however to get there I had to be objective and look at it with a ‘new set of eyes’ so that I could edit and change, to make the work stronger.

9- Re-exhibiting old work I feel both humble and proud. Being aware of the historical impact of other political art, for example Goya’s ‘The Third of May, 1808’ or Picasso’s ‘Guernica,’ certainly puts my work into perspective; while other artists were getting arrested, I was winning awards. Since then I have moved onto other projects and looking back, I can only see flaws. However I am extremely proud that my work was selected out of hundreds of students, and being re-exhibited only strokes my ego.

10- There is this idea that the artist is this eccentric, anxious character that creates in a response to their vulnerable, raw emotion. I would say that is a characterture of the reality. I am sensitive to subjects that do not slight others. This particular work spawned out of being asked where I am from, based on my ‘mongrel’ complexion, at least twice a week, as it made me feel othered.

Being exhibited, is opening yourself up to criticism, responses to my work often make me feel misunderstood as a communicator. But painting is what makes me happy, I get enjoyment out of the process of creating, and that enjoyment erases my doubt. When I paint, I know that’s what I am meant to be doing.

Conclusion: While I do agree with some of the points given by Csikszentmihalyi, I am skeptikal that it is these personality traits that make a Creative. I find this list rigid but also vague and horoscopic, as though anyone can insert their own personality onto this list. I agree with Bourdieu’s theory that the field generates dispositions, and those within the field think and act in ways approved by the field. To suggest that we can identify consistent dispositions and behaviours of Creatives is merely a stereotype that dominates popular imagination. The idea that the artist is ‘not like’ the ‘rest of us’ is integral to the artist’s capital, and more importantly the value of their work, monetary or otherwise (Fensham & et al, 2002).
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity. New York: HarperCollins.

Fensham, R., & et al. (2002). Understanding Bourdieu . Sydney: Allen&Unwin.

Sternberg, R. (2006). The Nature of Creativity. Creativity Research Journal , 18 (1), 87-98.


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