126 - Four cores of creativity

Hello and welcome to the The Spark & The Art creativity podcast. Thank you for subscribing to our weekly podcast, where we alternate between interviews with creative folks from all different career levels and insight and inspiration episodes. All with the intention you’ll get what you need to get your creative projects started and, more importantly, finished.

I’m your host Tucker and this week we're going to talk about what I've come to consider the four cores of creativity. 

I've been doing creative work as a job for about 15 years now. I've worked as an employee and as an independent contractor and as part of a small design company started by myself and a couple friends way back near the beginning. 

I've been doing creative work as a hobby for about 30 years. Short stories, audio essays in school, songwriting and most recently kids books and play-dough. (Ugh, I really need to finish those last two)

I've been doing this podcast for just over 2 years now. During that time I've interviewed about 60 artists, writers, musicians, authors and more and talked about how creativity plays a role in their life and work.

Based on all that, and the numerous books I’ve read, I’ve kind of been building my own concept of what creativity is. If you’ve been listening with any consistency you’ll probably hear these concepts being built in my brain over time. 

Last week I was asked to speak at the Calgary meeting of the GDC the Graphic Designers of Canada which is Canada’s National Certification Body for Graphic and Communication Designers. (I guess I’m officially a public speaker now :)

While putting together the talk it really allowed me to stitch what I’m calling my four cores of creativity. And I thought why not talk about them here on the podcast as well. 

So, here is my initial stab at my foundation of creativity. This isn’t really describing process but it’s more about the things that make up creativity. 

1) Curiosity - I’d been trying to place where curiosity sit in creativity for a while and it really started to flesh itself out in the episode with Whitney Hess TheSparkAndTheArt.com/111. In our conversation she says 

“My process of discovery is a curiosity of the world. It’s truly a deep curiosity of how the universe works - Of how people connect with one another.” 

What it boils down to is this. If you are out of curiosity you are out of creativity. Curiosity is the driving force behind everything creative. How could I make this better? How this go faster? What’s the difference between this and that? Following that curiosity is what leads you to a creative solution or creative expression. 

I’ve heard it called Having a Beginner’s Mind. It’s what makes children so creative by nature. That’s why they ask so many questions. They are using their beginner’s mind to figure everything out. Having your curiosity with you at all times gives you that open mind to make new connections and find new ideas. 

The internet says that Albert Einstein said “I have no special Talents. I’m only passionately curious.”

Without curiosity you have nothing to answer. No problems to solve. No interest to explore. You can have curiosity without creativity but without curiosity there is no path to creativity. 


2) Problem Solving - "Design is just problem solving”

Design is solving problems others bring you. 

Art is giving yourself a problem to solve. 

I can hear you asking “Tucker, What are the parts to problem solving as it relates to design?”

Well I’ve just happened to have written that out for you. This is somewhat focused on user experience design and project work for clients but there is stuff in here for personal project work as well. 



Who are the people we are designing for (who will use it)?

What are the things they need to do?

Ask, observe and communicate with those people.

Who are the stakeholders (who will pay for it)?

Is this a brand new solution or rebuilding something that exists?

Every question you can ask, you ask.

(With the understanding that new questions will always come up later)


What if we did it this way?

what if we did it that way?

What if we took part of this and part of that?

Draw, sketch, wireframe, mime. This is about ideas not final designs.

Every way you can try it, you try it.

(With the understanding that a solution is never perfect and you are usually choosing a direction to move in)



Build it in pieces

Build the whole thing at once

Build it out of pixels, bricks, wool ...

Build it however you need to.

(With the understanding you will have to go back to 'Understand' and start again once you're done.)

3) Expression - Whether it’s for a client or yourself expression is the act of bringing your creativity to the real world. Otherwise you are just thinking and having ideas. 

You can express a clients message into a consumable format their customer can understand and resonate with. 

You can express your own idea in any way you wish. 

The luckiest are those that get to use their expression in their client work. Jorge Gutierrez directed the animated film The Book Of Life and watching it is like watching an expression of Jorge’s beliefs and view of the world. But it’s creative partnership with the major studios. It was the studio’s money that funded the film so there were confessions that needed to be made to get it done. Scenes were removed because they were deemed too scary and songs had to be rewritten to create a different atmosphere. 

On the other hand Jorge also did an art exhibition for the Gregorio Escalante art gallery In Los Angeles 

You can see the art at: http://www.gregorioescalante.com/border-bang/ I’ll have a link in the show notes at TheSparkAndTheArt.com/126 

The paintings are an expression of pop culture through a mexican filter. He wanted to play with the concept of the counterfeit products sold at the Mexican markets when he was growing up. They are true expressions of his feelings and thoughts. His Donald Trump portrait is a particularly striking example of this honesty of expression which never would make it through any levels of approval anywhere. 

So even though you may get to use your creativity for clients or a day job and you may even feel lucky enough to be able to express yourself in that role. Personal projects are vitally important to allow for a truer expression of yourself. 

4) Habit & Ritual - In the talk I just planned to play my Creative Habits. Creative Rituals episode of the podcast TheSparkAndTheArt.com/85 so you can go listen to that episode after this to hear me explain this in detail and I for some reason use dragons as the analogy. 

In a nutshell - when it comes to your creative work strive to:

Do it in a similar place. 

Do it at similar times.

Do similar things before you get started.

Create that space inside you where you can reach your flow state.

In my interview with artist Dulcie Foo Fat we talked a bit about her habits and rituals. On days where she paints she starts at about the same time and spends some time on the computer answering emails and the like and then after that’s complete she heads to the easel where everything is set up and waiting for her to just start. She works for about 8 hours and then near the end she puts on The National, Canadian news show on the CBC and winds down listening to the news of the day. This is a process that has allowed her work to be shown internationally and be part of private and corporate collections including some national museums. 

Early inklings of this concept can be found in my ebook The Three Most Difficult Things guaranteed to transform the way you do your creative work. If you haven’t read it yet you can get a free copy at TheSparkAndTheArt.com/ebook

So, there they are, my four cores of creativity. 

Curiosity. Problem Solving. Expression. Habit & Ritual.

 - out - 

Get me on twitter @sparkartpodcast by email tucker@thesparkandtheart.com or join our small and growing group of creative folks at TheSparkAndTheArt.com/Facebook

An honest iTunes rating and review is always helpful and very much appreciated. If that’s something you’d be inclined to do you can visit TheSparkAndTheArt.com/iTunes and you’ll be taken right to the show page. 

Thanks for listening and remember: you won’t get the art without the work and you won’t do the work without the spark. 

- Links for this episode -

Jorge Gutiérrez Border Bang - http://www.gregorioescalante.com/border-bang/ 

Jorge Gutiérrez Interview - TheSparkAndTheArt.com/26

Habit & Ritual - TheSparkAndTheArt.com/85

Whitney Hess Interview - TheSparkAndTheArt.com/111

Dulcie Foo Fat Interview - TheSparkAndTheArt.com/123