Putting A Box Around Creativity

One of my earliest memories is aged five years old in my school art class.  I remember the art teacher, Mrs. Bice telling us to paint something that made us happy.  And so, I painted something.  Earlier in the day I had taken my first look through a microscope and I remember seeing amazing colors, shapes and textures all blending into one.  It left a huge impression on me and so I tried to paint what I had seen.  At the end of class everyone was asked to stand up and show what they had created.  Most of my classmates stood up and proudly presented pictures of their gardens at home, their houses with long, winding paths,  or smiling members of their family.  I stood up and presented my circular blob of brush strokes with lots of colors and lines going this way and that and tried to explain that it was what I had seen through the microscope earlier in the day.  I remember Mrs. Bice saying that I had wasted paint, paper and a half hour “art” class.  I was devastated and for the rest of my school life I steered clear of “art” classes. 

Recently, on a rainy Sunday afternoon my four year old daughter wanted to do some art work.  She wanted to paint and so we got out her paints, brushes and paper and she asked me what I wanted her to paint.  My early childhood art-class memory came flooding back to me and so I just told her to paint whatever she wanted.  She persisted and kept asking me for guidance.  However, I just sat back and told her to put whatever color paint she wanted on her brush and to put the brush to the paper and just to let her hand wander.  And she did.  She created something without any boundaries, and she loved it, and I loved watching her do it.  It gave me tremendous inspiration.  

I have Mrs. Bice to thank for my venture into photography.  If it wasn’t for her ignorance of the meaning of art I am not sure I would have realized (albeit almost 3 decades later) that I desperately needed an unstructured outlet to balance the structure in my everyday life.  Unfortunately my photography has not been totally free of falling into line with the accepted norm.  After picking up a “serious” camera for the first time I went through the phase of believing that photography was all about the equipment.  Almost every book or magazine I read told me that without good quality equipment I would not be able to make a decent photograph.   I just had to become an “expert” in the equipment (hardware and software) that I was using.  It was all about the technical.  However, although the learning excited me, I still wasn’t achieving a balance.  I had a yearning to be five years old again and just create something that would somehow tell my story of what and why something caught my attention and reproduce my feelings in a way that had no boundaries.   Unfortunately the dozens of Mrs. Bice that have been my “teachers” and “mentors” throughout my life have done their very best to help me suppress my creativity.  I have been taught to keep my creativity under wraps and instead produce something that would be accepted. 

And so, if I have Mrs. Bice to thank for my venture into photography, I have my four year old daughter to thank for making me realize that it’s not about the equipment, but rather it’s about creativity.  To create something that is not part of the accepted and established norm.  She has made me realize that creativity should never be put in a box.   

The images that accompany this blog are of my “mentor” and were created using my i-Phone, while my “normal” camera equipment stayed in the closet.

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