When work gets too overwhelming, a trip to the store always soothes my mind. Being a creative person, I’ve noticed that I require many breaks while working on a project. These breaks allow me to process information in a different way. Often times, these breaks lead to better ideas than I had while working.
A few months ago, I took a break from writing and went to South Coast Plaza. All my troubles dissolved as I looked at the endless racks of clothes. Sequins, lace, and vivid colors enveloped me. In that magic moment, I had no more deadlines. There was just me and an infinite supply of amusement.
There is no specific thought in my mind when I shop in this way. All I want to do is have fun and, perhaps, create something beautiful. I pull garments off the rack that interest me. Certain colors or fabrics speak to me, so I grab them. Then, I try to make an interesting combination.
This particular trip was a surprise. I created a beautiful outfit. But I was stunned when I had it on – it reminded me so much of Degas paintings of dancers.
Dressing Room Confession: The subconscious mind works in mysterious ways. Even though I had literally forgotten about work, it resurfaced in the most unusual reference. I went back to writing refreshed, and with a new perspective. Who says a shopping trip can’t relieve writer’s block? It certainly helped me finish my work before the deadline.
My previous posts have illustrated my interested in creativity and the mind. One of my favorite topics is synesthesia and how it can impact the artists and designers. (Click the link to see my article: Synesthesia in Fashion and Art)
Artwork by Jon Sarkin
A new phenomenon I’ve become familiar with is called sudden artistic output. This is an extremely rare neurological condition that affects the brain’s breaking system. So what does this mean? It means that the brain can no longer inhibit certain behaviors. In the case of sudden artistic output, people who have this condition has a compulsion to create works of art.
Painting 10 by Tommy McHugh
There are only a handful of cases, but the most prolific were investigated in an amazing show called Secret Life of the Brain. There are only a handful of known cases, and the show introduced me to three men: Jon Sarkin (American), Tommy McHugh (British), and Tony Cicoria (American). John and Tommy are compelled to paint and sculpt, while Tony has become obsessed with playing the piano. The most interesting thing about all three of these men is that none of them had a previous interest in the arts. None of them had ever paninted, sculpted, or played a musical instrment. Sudden artistic output was a byproduct of a traumatic accident for each of them. Tommy had a brain hemorrhage, Jon had a stroke and brain hemorhage, and Tony was struck by lightening.
This leads me, and neuroscientists, to wonder – are our brains somehow repressing or inhibiting our innate creativity? It turns out that, yes, there is part of our brain is preventing us from reaching our creative pinnacles.
In a sense, we may all well have hidden talents, we ma all well have artistic talents, musical talents that our inhibitions and the life we lead controls and stops from being expressed. And there is, perhaps, some suggestion that many of us would be able to reveal our hidden talents if we only knew how to access them. – Professor Tom Solomon, Chair of Neurological Science
With sudden artistic output, all of the artists suffer from a total compulsion to create and express themselves in their artistic medium. It has strained their personal relationships. Creating art has quite literally taken over their lives. Yet they have all been able to create extraordinary works of art. Look below to see some of Tommy and Jon’s work:
Painting 26 by Tommy McHugh
Painting 24 by Tommy McHugh
Painting 18 by Tommy McHugh
Painting 15 by Tommy McHugh
Self-portrait by Jon Sarkin
Collage by Jon Sarkin
Jon Sarkin at work
So how can the rest of us unlock the creative part of our brains? It really all begins with the outlook you have on life. With Jon, Tommy, and Tony the traumatic experiences they had somehow stripped them of creative inhibitions. What we must, then, is figure a way to bypass our inhibitions. This means filtering out the negative, limiting beliefs and thoughts when trying to create. We’ve all been guilty of this at one time or another. Think of these common expressions: “Oh, I’m not a very creative person”, “I’m not very good”, “I don’t know what to do”, or ” What will people think?” If we could some how turn off these excuses and inhibitions, I suspect with a little effort every single person could be exponentially more creative. It really is our thinking that limits – or frees – us. Jon Sarkin related a personal anecdote that can benefit all of us in search of limitless creativity:
I had been painting on the beach. Hours had gone by, and I had done the most intricate and detailed painting. When I was finished, I threw it in the water. Wow. I realized that creating was so much more important than possessing.
Enthusiasm in the process of creating is key. Another example of this if Tony Cicoria’s Lightening Sonata. This was the music that played over and over in his mind until he was able to learn the piano and share it with us.
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