There is More To Creativity Than Just Intuition
“Artists are intuitive. They wait for inspiration. That’s what art is about, the intuitive, not the intellectual. Art about ideas stimulates ideas, but art that comes from inspiration stimulates feelings of happiness, innocence and beauty.”- Agnes Martin
So what’s this intuition Agnes Martin talks about? Intuition can be described as a gut feeling – knowing what to do without knowing why you know. Intellect on the other hand has got to do with reasoning and logic -thinking things through.
Creative people are often described as people with great intuition. And statements like the quote above reinforce this. But is intellect useful in creativity, at all?
Yes it is. And I believe creative people should and do use a dose of both intuition and intellect. An emphasis on intuition alone doesn’t create great work. Intellect helps an artist critique the quality of their intuition. Also, I believe the use of intellect in concert with intuition not only results in great designs but also eases the learning curve for the artist.
For example, consider this sketch that I originally drew with inspiration from a musical rhythm. Using my knowledge of the good elements of design, I re-sketched it several times trying to improve the quality of my initial intuitive composition. I could just have easily jumped ahead to creating the piece intuitively; couldn’t I?
Yes! However choosing to sketch it several times, gives me the opportunity to intelligently critique my work. So that I may come up with the best option at the intersection of intuition and intellect.
Could this learning by thinking through the process not be achieved as you actually create the piece? Absolutely!! The thing is, in order to create as many completed pieces as the sketches I’ve created above, I’d have to use lots of supplies (fabrics, dyes, sewing machine needles, fusible web, threads etc). And that’s not to mention the countless hours needed to put it all together.
Leopold Auer, a talented violinist in his time, explained it this way to one of his students.
“Practice with your fingers, and you need all day. Practice with your mind and, you will do as much in 1-1/2 hours”
Stopping to do some intentional reasoning about your creative work has benefits. After having gone through the intentional thought process some things in that process become second nature to you- intellect morphing into intuition, perhaps? Then when an observer sees you creating, all they see is intuition at work. Soon enough, even you the creative person, begin to chalk your abilities to intuition and not intellect. And yes, they are those who will want us to believe that their creativity is all intuition.
Art ( and creativity for that matter), in my opinion, is intuition rooted in intellect. Or as I said earlier, creativity occurs at the intersection of intellect and intuition. In fact, a psychologist called Seymour Epstein PhD described intuition this way: “Intuition is just the things we’ve learned without realizing we’ve learned them….” If that be true, then alas, there’s no argument that intellect is embedded in the foundation of creative ability.
Now it’s your turn to weigh in. Does intellect have a place in creativity? Do you use intellect or intuition when creating? Share your thoughts below. As always I love to hear what you’ve got to say.