Layered Creativity

It starts with an empty wall. At least, it appears to be empty. Created from bricks or cement, it is bound to have a texture and possibly some paint strokes on it. They might not be apparent at first, but they are there.

Then, just before the night turns into the morning when the streets are almost empty, an artist will pass by this wall and decide to use it as a canvas. And it is not just any plain canvas. It has all those imperfections – the signs of time and passersby. It has a context – the street in which it is placed. It might have a window or a door, a sign or some old paint peeling. It is a world by itself, but it is now going to be part of someone else’s creation.

And so, the artist looks at it, examines it. And in her mind, something starts to grow. She has a vision. Not in the religious sense. It is a real vision; only it exists only her mind. For now. She knows what this wall can be turned into. She sees how its imperfections can be used for her creation. And she takes some paint and starts to work.

Hours later, the sun is already in the middle of the sky, hundreds of people are passing by what used to be a plain looking wall. Some of them are slowing down to take a look. Most of them don’t. One of them works for the municipality. He makes a phone call. A crew is on its way.

The sun sets just as they finish “cleaning” the wall with the intent of leaving no trace of the unauthorized creation. But they fail. The canvas will never be the same. The white color they are using is not even close to the original color of the wall. Through it, you can still see some of the strong colors envisioned by the artist. They don’t seem to care as long as they’ve added their layer of paint.

Later that week, a young man is passing the wall, stops and examines it. He has an idea. A few hours later a new artwork welcomes anyone entering the street. At least temporarily.


[clickToTweet tweet=”There is no such thing as a blank canvas” quote=”There is no such thing as a blank canvas”]

I love urban artworks. Not when they are placed in a gallery, but rather in their natural environment. One of the reasons for that is that you can see the artwork as a multilayer work created over time. It makes it much more interesting, both visually and conceptually. And in that respect, it is a great analogy to any creative work.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Any #creative act is built upon dozens of conscious and unconscious layers ” quote=”Any creative act is built upon dozens of conscious and unconscious layers “]

There is no such thing as a blank canvas. Any creative act, whether it is an artwork, an invention, or a scientific revelation, is built upon dozens of conscious and unconscious layers made by previous works, semi-random inputs, connections, and relations. Nothing is created in a void.

The key to being more creative is to look around you and identify the raw materials – the building blocks – that will be the basis for your work. Mindfully observing the world and seeing the potential in the things others consider trivial, or the need no one knows to articulate is the fuel of creativity.

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