First a question, then a lifetime of small steps

(An excerpt from Colin's dissertation, "To Own the Art Within the Soul: A Study of the Development of Creative Voice in Professional Artists".)

Being fascinated by certain artworks by master artists, I have over the years gathered bits of information from their personal statements. One result of this informal research is a presupposition regarding the lifelong working process of mature artists. I see that the masterful artist’s special skill comes not from utilizing different cognitive processes or ways of approaching given problems that are presented to them (as is the case in many studies), but rather in their selection of a single specific problem that resonates deeply within their own person and then patiently and methodically work and rework their vision according to an inner standard over the course of a lifetime. Their creativity, being expressed through a lifetime of small, almost imperceptible shifts, amount to a total artistic vision. For example, one may say that Matisse’s question was one concerning the expression of emotion through color and compositional harmony to achieve a truth; for Giacometti, it was a question of capturing essence through representing an object in perspectival space; for Luc Tuymans, it was a question of authenticity through/despite memory and history. For each, it is about staying with a fundamental question that they cannot seem to shake. If anything, I believe it is tenacity and the capacity to be content with slow developments that sets the great artists apart from the lesser rather than the common belief that a special creative mind can take anything it is fed and reshape it into something new for it’s own sake. Matisse wrote, “to this I shall reply that there are no new truths” (Flam, 1973, p. 39). Seeming to support this claim of mine, the researcher, Lubart (2001), stated “it seems that even great works such as Calder’s mobiles, Watson and Crick’s discovery of DNA, and the Wright brothers’ first airplane involve a series of small steps, none of which require some special process” (p. 303). Having said this, these observations have been limited primarily to the experience of painters. It is possible and likely that there are many different forms of creativity, some that can be measured within a contained and time limited setting, and others that only reveal themselves over a lifetime of work in a natural setting.