What's your Personal Creative Philosophy?
Updated: Feb 4
The term “Creative Philosophy” came to me while writing in my journal and asking myself if I had any creative beliefs. And if so what are they?
Here’s a definition:
A Creative Philosophy is a personal set of steadfast beliefs and explanations around the nature of creativity.
Most artists have a creative philosophy. It’s a basic part of any creative endeavor and has an impact on decisions big and small. Having a personal creative philosophy can help you understand why you create work and your beliefs behind your creativity. It can shine a light and illuminate past creations as well as inspire current and future work.
An analogy could be that you are on a road trip and your destination is the art you create; The route you choose to travel is your creative philosophy.
A good philosophy is short, concise and around 20 words or less. In addition, it's personal. It is specific to the artist who wrote it. It is not a generalization of creativity but rather an intimate understanding of what motivates an artist’s work.
Here are some examples:
“Make live theater. Work with people you love. Everything else is just details.”
- Theater Director
“I create for mixed up kids, misfits, the girls who sneak out of locked bedroom windows to discover what love means.”
“The world needs less noise and more music.”
“You have to eat well, be well housed, have a screw from time to time, smoke your pipe and drink your coffee in peace.”
“Build cool shit”
Recently I went to see the Los Angeles exhibit of the street artist Banksy. He is motivated by capitalism, advertising, politics and humanity. He uses humor and a sardonic wit to get viewers to contemplate his underlying seriousness. He creates his art on the street and improvisational public places, guerrilla-style, with a resistance to being commercialized and being anonymous is a driving force behind his work. You might say his Personal Creative Philosophy is:
“Anonymity removes the status of artist as celebrity and focuses on the artwork. It also allows for the freedom of telling one’s unapologetic truth without regard to consequence.”
Another example is Ken Burns. I recently watched the documentary Here and There which tells the story of his life in documentary filmmaking and there is no question about his continued devotion to America. At the end of the documentary he said this, which could be his creative philosophy:
“Let them say of me I was one who believed in sharing the blessings I’ve received, let me know in my heart when my days are through, America, America I did my best for you”
It’s easy to look back at someone’s work, like Ken Burns, that spans decades to be able to determine their purpose and direction, therefor their philosophy. Hindsight is always perfect vision. But the take away from this is allowing yourself to look at your own creative history to see what similarities might appear as a way to articulate your own artistic philosophy.
For myself I've created work that deals with family (The Human Project), social issues (The Wasteland), friendship and love (Surviving New Year’s), the environment (The Seed Perfection) and most recently, how mending relationships are important before death divides you (The White Room).
Furthermore, I would say that I’m driven to create with a conscious eye towards my available resources. In a sense, I’m very scrappy when it comes to working within my means and I use it as inspiration. I like having financial limitations, I think it breeds creativity. I also like making my work easily available, giving it away for free, so that everybody has an opportunity to experience it. Which is why I’m attracted to the philosophy of street art as it's created in public spaces.
Of course, these ideals change over time. What you like this year might be different next, or even next month. And that’s okay. You can always change your mind. These things evolve and that is something great creative minds often do.
It’s also important to note that you are under no obligation to reveal your philosophy to anyone. You can share it and say it out loud to friends to sort of test your own understanding of what it means to you. But it’s also personal and it can be private. It’s perfectly acceptable to use it as a personal guide without need to declare it publicly.
"I tell stories that investigate relationships of family, friends, love, social issues and the environment. I'm passionate about the way human beings communicate to each other to solve personal crisis. Whether it's comedy or drama it must be truthful. I like a collaborative work environment that is fun, educational, personal and makes the best of my resources. When finished, I want it easily accessible for anyone to experience"
Okay that might be more than 20 words.. but it's a work in progress! :-)