Final Reflections

“Starry Night” by Edvard Munch (1893).

A message from Edvard Munch

This painting was made in 1893 by Edvard Munch. We could argue that is not what comes to your mind when you talk about “Starry Night”. I saw this painting for the first time in 2017 during a visit to the Getty Museum in LA.

Up to that moment, I thought I was getting to know my way around art. After all, I’ve been practising since I was a kid and it has already been 3 or 4 years of “taking it seriously”. I knew about materials, colour, art theory, perspective, you name it. Everything changed when I saw this painting.

I entered this room and I was utterly overwhelmed with emotion, I cried. I couldn’t understand what was happening. I sat there for hours. My friends were looking for me everywhere. Until they found me there, just speechless. Years after this experience, I now realize that I was being transformed.

Patterns of transformation

I remember this story because I noticed a pattern repeating itself in my experience participating in this course: I thought I knew about creativity. After all, I’ve worked in creative departments in advertising and NGOs. I’ve worked as a teacher, musician, painter, photographer, curator, you name it.

At first, it was a feeling of “hidden resistance” that was masked as a feeling of “superiority”. “I know this”, “I already did that”, etc. (I guess all those years in advertising still have a residual effect). After the first class I decided to take it as an art project: be free of expectations and let the experience transform you.

And it did. More than I expected.

Transformations, Op. 21 by Samu Carvajal (2021)

Letting yourself be transformed

One of the key teachings I got from this experience is that creativity is not something you learn about: it’s something you experience. When you learn something (let’s say doing a mathematical equation) you retain the information in your brain as memory to be accessed on demand when needed.

In the case of creativity, this information is always changing, because creativity (and especially art practices) is never landed. They can’t possibly be put in a can to be studied, they need to be experienced and experimented on to come to life.

And that’s a key to learning creativity: you need to let go of trying to know what it is and embrace the constant novelty of it. True creativity is always fresh.

Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.

Socrates

As the weeks went by I was absorbed by the humbleness of being a student again, not knowing what could it happen, and a lot less sure of my creative abilities. This granted me a huge relief. No expectations meant more space to experiment, make mistakes, and be authentic. Not looking for a result, but instead, trying to observe the complete movement of the experience.

When you are something (let’s say an artist in this case, just for the argument) you limit yourself. Oscar Wilde wrote: “To define is to limit”. I feel that this quote applies greatly to anyone that considers themselves to be a “creative person”.

Embrace the unknown, look with fresh eyes, and open yourself to experiences. Learn to observe and imagine the possibilities. Question where things come from and where are they going. Feel the wind, count the leaves, make a portrait and ask yourself if that thing in the mirror is you or just a fleeting image.

A final word on the Creative Practices Experience

I would like to finish by giving a few key points to anyone looking to learn to be “creative”:

  • You already are. Creativity is not a skill but a way of operating.
  • “You are what you is”. Find what excites you, spend time with yourself and ask the mirror what makes you, you. Ask your gut: “how am I creative”?
  • Spend time with others: Creativity doesn’t form in a vacuum. Is a collective iteration between the field and the value that you can add to it.
  • Open yourself to be transformed: You’ll never know when your next transformation is going to find you, so you better be ready to receive it with open arms.
  • Practice often. Make it a habit. Make it fun. Make it automatic. 
  • And once you learn to be creative, empty your cup and start again.

I really enjoyed this part of the MCISI. It’s been a deeply transformative experience.

Even though I practice art, I have never done something like this before. It was a very profound experience that I really took seriously and enjoyed immensely.

Thank you for reading,
Samu Carvajal