What Is Professional Creativity in 2018 Really?

The idea of professional creativity or being a ‘pro’ can be disintegrating for many of us who are not in the creative industry . Though this is gradually changing due to the digital age, it is now bridging human creativity with technology.

Believe it or not, you’re a creator — an artist even. How can you be sure? Well today, everyone can ride the crossover between the empowering tools brought to us by the digital world, particularly ubiquitous mobile devices, and a much broader definition of what it means to be creative and ‘make things’ today.

We’re all artists…

Not convinced? Consider the evolution of what creativity means. This has shifted away from the act of doing something innovative, often artistic, that is powered by natural aptitude and flair and is somehow reserved for the talented. Reigning now is the idea that all of us, as unique creatures, can potentially transcend traditional ideas and patterns by relying on our imagination. We can breathe originality just by living: talking, making, moving, performing. Driven by the respect for individuality and a generous helping of the passion for mindfulness. This is sometimes called the ‘democratization of creativity’ — a global trend in which tech-enabled innovation, via the ubiquitous smartphone in particular, is seeing creative expression, including media creation accessible to and doable by everyone.

We’re all creative in how we design our homes, customize our vacations, create virtual invitations, share our bad (and good!) buying stories, approach dating, build our online brand and name our kids, and the digital world has been a huge facilitator of all of this. Once upon a time, creating an original wedding invitation typically meant consulting with a print shop designer or finding an acquaintance with Photoshop skills to help out. The newly-engaged can now design them on their own, with readily available (and sometimes even free!) tools, and they can hone their skills using YouTube tutorials.

We’re also inspired by the admissions of successful creative people that perfection isn’t necessary and that we should just do it and confidently bring something into existence: “Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here” Neil Gaiman (creator of short fiction, novels, comics and films). We’re open to reevaluating advice from the greats: “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” Vincent van Gogh.

Here’s the Urban Dictionary’s top definition of creativity showing where’s it’s at now:

Creativity: Playfulness — playing childishly with obvious, known or old information and ideas can produce something new and great. This is creativity. It is the engine of imagination and the keel of not just science and art, but all intelligence, problem solving and dealing with life in general. Every child is born creative. It’s our key challenge to help our kids preserve their creativity into adulthood.

Blame 20th century pop culture — they started it!

Opening up art to everyone is a work in progress, that’s gaining velocity each year. Millennial stylish basics clothing brand Uniqlo, launched “Art for All” in their New York flagship stores at the end of January 2018. This will bring accessible art products, talks, and art production workshops for the public, inspired by 20th century pop duo Gilbert & George who made the motto “Art for All” their mission statement.

Punk’s hard-edged songs such as God Save The Queen, with their stripped-down instrumentation and singing style as well as their anti-establishment lyrics and worldview, catapulted the idea that anyone could create into the limelight — and suddenly, you didn’t need Elvis’s voice, or The Beatles’ ability to invent super catchy riffs. This DIY ethic was made real by the way that many bands self-produced recordings and distributed them through informal channels, too. Being a ‘pro’ was not only unnecessary, it was discouraged. Dada and Surrealism got there first though, as proponents questioned long-held assumptions about what art should be and how it should be made. Marcel Duchamp’s “readymades”, presenting everyday mass-produced objects as art, showed his punk-style attitude to conventions of taste and beauty. In doing so, he disrupted centuries of thinking about the artist’s role as skilled creator of original handmade objects.

The global fad for adult coloring books is effortlessly riding this trend. Not just kids but mature office workers, mom bloggers and clubbers are unwinding by creating in this way. Recent titles like “Doogle Zen: Finding Creativity and Calm in a Sketchbook” show the overlap with the quest for self expression and inner peace, but this genre is branching out into new territories, like humor, with “Adult Coloring Book of Memes”.


Digital life as bridge to creativity

The digital world has helped millions more people tap into their artistic side by dropping creativity-enabling tools into their palms. Digital art paved the way by disrupting artistic conventions, using digital technology as a core part of the creative process. After some initial resistance, its impact has transformed activities like drawing, painting, design and music composition so that digital art is often seen as contemporary art facilitated by technology.

Just in terms of what we can know and learn about, digital culture has led to an explosion of inspiration into our lives via smartphone, extending the trend of art for all. Daily Art — Your Daily Dose of Art is an app that sends you an inspiring classic, modern or contemporary masterpiece daily and a short story to match . The Enlight Photofox app and other mobile photo editing software, feel liberating to users. The proof is in the Instagram account, flooded with people merging into backgrounds, crowned with graphic design elements or with galaxies for eyes, attest. Books called things like “Painting Without Paint: Landscapes with your tablet” and “Mobile Digital Art: Using the iPad and iPhone as Creative Tools” explore the idea of digital tools as latent talent enablers too.

The revolutionary hobby of creating on mobile

Smartphone apps have been defying some doom and gloom critics of tech-led digital life as stultifying, with refreshingly creative tools via app. Users report feeling empowered by such apps which let them engage with diverse interests like writing communities (HaikuJAM calls itself a multiplayer writing game), overcoming broken dreams or creative block (Coffitivity recreates the ambient sounds of a cafe which research shows boosts creative work), Etsy for global crafts, the ability to realize fantasies by manipulating images, innovative play, knowing more about art, and creating your own videos to capture moments or to make art.

Let’s consider the creativity of image editing on mobile. We know that our phone cameras are our best cameras because they’re always with us — especially for snapping unexpected public moments. But for many, the initial snap is just the beginning — the raw material for a new and entertaining creative process that’s become a creative hobby. It hardly matters that many mobile phones take duller photos than expensive pro cameras (although these days, newer cameras like the iPhone X and the Google Pixel 2 are giving pro cameras a fight), because visual editing apps let people transform them on-the-move into magical images.

Mobile photography has helped free our artistic selves. Whether we’re editing our daily lives or our selfies, free moments are an opportunity to take and craft images. The ease and availability of photo editing apps have accelerated the creative process and allowed people to be highly inventive more of the time for no or little cost. Assorted surveys show that instantly sharing images on visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, is more popular with Millennials than using the more text-focused Facebook. This activity has made mobile photography fun, sociable and interactive for people who wouldn’t otherwise have experimented with images at all. And feeling bolder, everyday people are doing more than ’gramming the familiar pets and parties, also snapping and exhibiting unusual scenes and random characters they meet with unprecedented artistic flair.

I am inspired by making sense of contradictory global consumer and cultural trends such as hyper-connectivity, and the desire for luxury and instant gratification alongside the celebration of thrift, sharing and authenticity.

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