Mural by students from Golden Gates Middle School

Creative Thinking 101: Creativity is not Competitive

Creativity is not Competitive.

This is a hard one for most people. In the western world, we’re so programmed to believe that life is a contest to be won. We’ve always been inundated with contests in all forms.

With a narrow worldview of winners and losers, no wonder people lack creative confidence. We shy away from creating something because we think if it’s going to suck, some terrible shame will befall us.

Filmmaker Woody Allen has never attended the Academy Awards because he has a deep-seated belief that artistic expression is a neutral and rather sacred endeavour. To make it competitive is to demean it, and miss the point. If he becomes remotely concerned with what his critics say, he will create for them and not for himself. For Allen, all art forms should merely be enjoyed, and never judged.

We all should know that Diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their colour.”

— Maya Angelou

We can’t speak for all creative people, but we see the world as a giant pie where everyone is a piece and has a unique, creative part to contribute. There is an open curiosity about what each person will express creatively, and what can we learn from each other. Most artists we know, seek out, appreciate, and respect, the creative efforts of other people, and have an admiration and curiosity for work that is well executed. We look at the work of others to fuel our own inspiration. This is the kind of attitude you need to generate and maintain a creative environment. Be open to what others want to express. No judgment, and no critics allowed.

The great painter Marc Chagall said, “If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing.”

When we fear our efforts won’t be any good, we’re stuck in our ego and our head. Move into your heart space. Make something just for the joy of it. Think about all the things you do just for fun. Do you play an instrument or a sport? Do you expect that you’ll play Carnegie Hall or be in the Olympics one day? Probably not, but you play anyway, just for the joy of it. Art and creative endeavors are the same thing. We make art for fun. Just because, just for the pure pleasure of creating something. So create for your own joy and curiosity, and always ignore the critics.

*Mural by students from Golden Gates Middle School, Winnipeg, 2015. Under the guidance of artists Carmela Wade and Dianne Cameron.

“Using Paul Klee’s painting as our source of inspiration, we wanted to create a Winnipeg landscape rich with vibrant, colourful flags from around the world. We referenced many Winnipeg landmarks including: The Human Rights Museum, The Legislative/Golden Boy, the Place Promenade Bridge, Golden Gates Middle School, The Red and Assiniboine River, and finally paying homage to rural Manitoba with the grain elevator. The students created the words in the background. They were asked: What does Cultural Diversity mean to you? Their list included: love, tradition, connection, culture, peace, respect, and thank-you.”


The Languages of the Soul Can Be Learned

You have always been a creative soul. Seek it out.

The language of the soul at its finest, is about unfiltered expression of the authentic self. Kids have no inhibitions about this kind of thing, but for adults, it’s scary and risky, and there is deep fear about judgement and getting it wrong.

We agree with education guru and TED Talk champion, Sir Ken Robinson (Do Schools Kill Creativity? TED 2006) who said that we get educated out of our creativity, because our education system is based on linearity and conformity. The crayons get taken away at about grade 6, and those who aren’t interested in art, can potentially never lay hands on art materials again in their lives.
If all of us were required to take real arts expression throughout our schooling (not the conformist and rule bound kind, as was the experience for most people) as adults we’d all have the ability to translate our unfiltered authentic selves into an art form, be it music, dance, theatre, creative writing, and fine art, to name some. Adults who claim, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body”, very likely have a story about some kind of shaming about something they made or tried somewhere along the way. Someone told them it sucked, and they decided to shut down and never risk their creative expression again.
Like any language, the arts is a language that can be learned. It requires your interest and attention, and the proper conditions for it to flourish. Authentic and unfiltered creative expression is a muscle that can be worked and strengthened. If you haven’t had opportunities and the right conditions to express and develop your creativity, you won’t have full awareness of your creative capabilities, and their limitless potential. How do you get better at anything? With practice, practice, practice.

If you have a soul, you can learn how to express it.

Your only roadblock is your own fear.

Cut and Paste Your Life

Changing landscapes, a collage of a girl in the ocean with walruses

Nothing is original, so embrace influence, school yourself through the work of others, remix and reimagine to discover your own path.

-Austin Kleon

This is a quote from one of our favorite books called, Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative, by Austin Kleon.

The book is about how creative people come up with new ideas by essentially stealing and reorganizing from existing ideas.

We love using collage in our workshops because it’s a perfect metaphor for how this principle of creativity works. Creative people metaphorically steal, cut, remix, and paste together raw material and ideas from all of life. This involves much playing and experimenting. Many artists, including us, use collage as a way to unblock and generate new ideas for projects.

The plethora of used magazines is an incredible resource for art making and idea generating, for magazines house images from our entire culture, virtually every subject matter under the sun. (Check out your public library for a great variety of used ones).

Imagery is a powerful universal language that strikes a different cord in people than does written or spoken words. Images go deeper, and touch your subconscious, emotional, and intuitive sensibilities. We find that using images adds a richness and uniqueness to generating ideas because it accesses a different part of the brain than does written or spoken language, and when collaging, we’re always surprised with what we come up with.

Try cutting and pasting random elements and ideas together, with images. Create a new product, a new creature, a fantastical world, a new story. Try to solve any current problem using only images. Choose images that resonate with you, then just play with them, mess around, experiment, throw incongruous elements together.  In art, there are no rules. Steal, cut, and paste your way to something new.

We bet you’ll come up with answers you never thought of.

Creative Thinking 101: Take Your Imagination Seriously

Take your imagination seriously

Imagination grows by exercise, and contrary to common belief, it is more powerful in the mature than in the young…

– W. Somerset Maugham

All creative people take imagination seriously.

We pay a lot of attention to it, we honor its power, we believe in the importance of stretching our own imagination, and using it to challenge the mindset of our audience.

All humans have imagination. 
You possess the inherent capacity to be creative, simply because you possess imagination, which is the ability to form mental images. For those who believe that they “don’t have any imagination”, you just haven’t paid attention to it, and don’t recognize that you’re already using it every day. We humans, anticipate everything first in our imagination.

Why is it that we can always clearly imagine our worst fears? Or what we’d do if we won the lottery?

Yet, there’s a strange belief that it’s foolish or childish to allow your imagination any free reign outside the boundaries of perceived reality.

The author Somerset Maugham, perceived that imagination is more powerful in the mature than in the young. When we’re older, we have more life experiences, knowledge and wisdom to draw from than children do.  If we combine life experience with our inner child-like playfulness, and a willingness to cross perceived boundaries, we have a great recipe for imaginative creativity.

An artist will never feel foolish about daydreaming, for we call it work.

We allow ourselves to wonder a lot and imagine how we want something to be, rather than how it is. It only requires a small tweak of the mind, and permission to let it wander. The beauty about daydreaming is that no one ever has to know you’re doing it.

Let yourself linger in that daydreaming realm. There is a great deal of fear associated with this kind of rule-breaking,  but all the great innovative ideas on this planet come from that realm.  All innovators are rule breakers.

Imagining something is the beginning to creating anything.

It’s also a powerful tool for getting what you want in life.

This is why imagination a serious endeavor.

My Creative Journey

I also discovered that I was a creative person later in life. My discovery came under the guise of decorating and craft. But, the undeniable feelings of the “lightning bolt moments” charged me and brought me to life after completing a creative task. About 20 years ago I was asked to join a monthly craft group, where we would create different things. We made wreaths, cards, etc. It was the responsibility of each person to take turns hosting and teaching the monthly class. I was TERRIFIED! I wanted to join, but thought: “I have no skill, or talent to teach anything.” (Remember this was all before Pinterest). I came home from those gatherings literally vibrating with excitement because I had created something!

Carmela Wade early craft group creations Carmela Wade early craft group creations JOY

Some of my early craft group creations.

From this, I knew I wanted more. I enrolled in the School of Fine Art in 2000. By 2001, in Basic Design, I met Sandra. Our stories were very similar and slowly we discovered that we both enjoyed reminding people that they were born creative. Over the years, our meetings and collaboration continue to fuel and ignite our passion for creating opportunities for people to create. The formula is quite simple: provide the materials, the time, and the guidance and exercises, and the rest is nothing short of magic. We are inspired by people re-discovering and re-connecting with their creative voice.

The Next Step to our Evolution: The Creative Revival Company is born.

Sandra and I have been doing extensive reading and research in the area of Creativity and Business. The bottom line is that Creativity is actually an everyday activity and at its best, should infuse the way you live your life. Couple this with the fact that we live in a world that is constantly changing, we must embrace ourselves as creators, makers, and doers to keep up.

We bring the materials, the time, and the guidance. You make the magic happen.

 Man making collage art


Detail of a Van Gogh painted on a chair

The Inspiration for the Creative Revival Company

I discovered that I was a creative person late in life. It was an absolute surprise to me. What stunned me most was how I could be so unaware of it for so long. I liked art as a kid, but it was never strongly encouraged by anyone, and so I didn’t pursue it. My interest came to life again twenty-one years ago, while helping my young niece redecorate her bedroom. I transformed her old furniture with a coat of colorful paint. I was so taken with how paint could dramatically change an old surface, that I continued painting on lots of other pieces of furniture. I incrementally challenged myself to more complex designs on chairs and dressers, and eventually copied famous paintings by Van Gogh and Picasso, just to see if I could pull it off. It felt like a mysterious dormant force was waking up inside me.

When someone suggested art school, I thought it was completely absurd, for I didn’t see myself as an artist. But the idea kept percolating, and eventually, I ignored my fear, and ended up going to art school part-time for ten years while staying home to raise my children. I met Carmela on our first day in Basic Design class. She too was surprised by her mysterious, late-blooming, creative energies. We both wondered how many others have similar creative forces buried deep within? We both found the challenge of art assignments so invigorating, and our creative voices began to grow stronger and braver with each new creation. During our time in art school, we became intrigued by this idea of untapped creativity living inside everyone, and we wanted to find a way to coax it out of people.

Sandra Brown Van Gogh painted on a chair
My Van Gogh on an old chair.

If You Create it, They Will Come

In 2005, Carmela and I created an interactive public art project called You Seem to Have Forgotten, as a reminder to people that they were born creative beings, and likely felt creative as kids, but forgot that along the way. We left collage kits in public places and invited people to create collages and post them up on our bulletin board. We had a great response with lots of submissions. We learned that if you present an opportunity to be creative, people will respond.

We brainstormed about how we could create other art-making opportunities for people. Then we started to notice the buzz about creativity in all the business literature, about how the future economy will be about human novelty and innovation. We surmised that if a business wants to be more creative, and we’re creative people, maybe sharing our world and way of thinking will be of benefit? As artists, we continually need our own strategies to keep our creativity flowing and our creative confidence strong. We found that our strategies lend themselves well to anyone seeking to be creative.

A white wall covered in art collages

We Don’t Just Talk About Creativity. We Make Stuff.

We’ve designed simple exercises to help anyone access their inner voice, and begin the process of listening to that voice. We know how creativity is buried deep within everyone, usually under piles of negativity, fear, and limiting stories about ability. If there are zero opportunities to be creative, how are you ever going to know that part of yourself? In our workshops, we dig a little deeper. They are not a “How to Paint Class”. They are more like a “What’s Inside Me Today? Class” Really interesting things germinate when you begin to express yourself creatively.  You’re hard-wired with that ability.  We create the setting to coax it out.  We do it all the time. We’ll show you how.

People creating art at a Creative Revival Co. workshop