Creativity is the key to self-discovery

Painting, drawing with pastels and creating clay pinch pots are a few of the projects that students at Panther Lake Elementary School in Federal Way have accomplished for art lessons in a gifted third, fourth and fifth-grade class.

The kids are fearless about tackling new art projects. With a smile and twinkle of curiosity in their eyes, these students are all too eager to jump in and get started even before the directions have finished.

Teacher Brian Rosand’s classroom of students at Panther Lake is intelligent, but I doubt that this class is any different from other classes. These students are unafraid to use art as a medium for creativity. They relish rather than fear the idea of adding lines and color to a blank sheet of paper. In fact, many of the kids look forward to the art lesson on Friday mornings. Children want to create, regardless of whether the task requires a sharpened pencil or paintbrush.

Compared to adults, children are more than eager to accept the challenge of using their imagination. In contrast, I think about how many adults would fear any request of artistic design, bemoaning their inadequacies and lack of talent before they have begun.

Why does this change take place? When as adults do we start to doubt our own creativity and artistic abilities?

Sometime during adolescence, our curiosity is replaced by uncertainty and fear that we are not capable of the task or will be negatively judged by others. At about that age, many young people decide they have no artistic ability and will embarrass themselves by trying. Instead, adolescents give up the innocence of creativity and all of the gifts they have to offer. Before adulthood is reached, our “internal critic” becomes so loud that we start to listen, self-edit and belittle our own efforts; we decide we are not good at art and berate any attempts at creativity.

While our fingerpaintings from kindergarten, collages in grade school and ceramic projects in middle school collect dust in the basement or attic storage, we decide that Rembrandt, Michelangelo and our artistic great-auntie are the only people really capable of art.

Feeling defeated and without artistic ability, we leave art to the professionals (people who have been schooled and educated in the mediums of art, people who have dedicated themselves to art as a career). We leave art to the serious artist, not the novice who wants to have fun. We lose touch with the innocent, childlike aspect of our own being, the part of ourselves who was not afraid to put pencil to paper and draw.

Rather than pursue art for a living, swallow some of your own self-created anxiety, quiet the critic that resides inside and do something creative in order to discover a new aspect of yourself. Unearth some of the hidden talents that have lain dormant. Plan to have fun.

Don’t be an adult. Listen to the child within by giving expression to your own creativity. Live a deeper, fuller life while learning something about yourself.

Jennifer L. Gray, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist who provides individual, couple and family counseling. She can be reached at (253) 653-0168 or Psychotherapy Associates, Parklane Executive Center, 31620 23rd Ave. S., Suite 318, Federal Way, WA 98003.

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