Creative visual thinking is fundamental to us all as human beings as we strive to understand our sense of self and the world. Chartwell seeks to deepen understanding about the importance of art and creative thinking for our future and our wellbeing.
Chartwell is an explorer of the visual world. We want to know more about how and what we see. When both the eye and the mind are active, the creative process opens to the artist and viewer. The Chartwell Collection provides the viewer many examples of creative visual thought in action.
Chartwell supports artists as they make and think. Making is an active and connected process, involving the interaction of intention, intuition and intellect with the mediums of the world. Chartwell is making too - making a difference through philanthropy and enabling access to creative activities and research.
Chartwell encourages everyone to think about art and the creative process with a commitment to drive an understanding about the significance of the visual arts to general creative thinking. We share a curiosity to know and learn more: an imaginative, ongoing investigation.
Menlo Mana by Joe Sheehan (2005), Chartwell Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 2005. Installation View at Christchurch Art Gallery (2019) - Image Credit: John Collie.
Originally published in The Possibilities of Creativity, ed by Peter O’Connor, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016
Being invited to contribute to this book on Creative Thinking seems remarkable to me, as I hold no academic qualifications in the field. However, over many years (I am 82) I have been active in the visual arts and have developed a particular interest to understand the creative visual thinking involved. I use the term "creative thinking" rather than "creativity" to emphasise that creative processes originate in both mind and body. Philosophers have long speculated about the origins of creative thought. In the third century BC, Pythagoreans named the ultimate source as "Monad who begat Dyad which begat mathematics which begat dot then line." Over the centuries, others have published opinions about the nature of creative thinking: introspection on the topic has led to a strong history within religious, transcendent, and origin belief contexts. However, here I examine creative thinking within the context of an increasingly secular, democratic, liberal New Zealand, with its new freedom of thought, increased exposure to global influence (due to travel and immigration), and access to new knowledge sources. Todays neuropsychologists are able to contribute concrete knowledge of the functions of the mind to assist in formulating propositions about how creative thinking happens.
Art-making, and drawing in particular provides an opportunity to gain understanding of creative thinking and the phenomenon of dual perception involved. By resisting conventions of depictive representations, we can best identify two domains at work: the thinking done by an object's maker, and that done by that object's observer. Both domains are heuristic, in that they allow people to discover or learn something for themselves. Arthur Koestler says, "creative activity is a type of learning process where teacher and pupil are one" (1967, p. 23). Thus the act of drawing is the primary heuristic; where the acts of making and observing are combined and the acts of observation of an existing drawing is a secondary heuristic. In this essay I closely examine the maker's thinking processes to help explore the functions of creative thought involved.
Drawing: Where creative thinking begins
Divergent line drawing is creative thinking in action. The process is found in the unique characteristics of line-making itself: private, primal, playful, sentient, innate, self-organising, expectant, exploratory, and rewarding. These are all intuitive mind functions. Sense-based impulses, interactions with the material world and remembered data, and intuitive mind/body responses have evolved with the rational deductive mind from a survival tool to our modem creative and innovative mind. The combination of natural and conventional cognition processes engaged in drawing is powerful and unique. It involves complex interaction between the predominant sensing system—the eyes—and that part of the body essentially characteristic of being human—the hand. Other senses reinforce this awareness, including the tactile/spatial/kinetic/visceral.
A line-making hand is a thinking hand. Through the operation of light on the eye and the observed object, the thinking eye (as part of the brain) perceives the interaction of fine motor functions of the skin, muscles, and bones of the fingers, hand and arm. It also perceives the emergence of the mark from the marking tool or medium onto the support surface. The behaviour of the medium as it engages the surface of the support contributes its own input to the experience. The physical and material phenomenon that emerges through the interaction of hand, material, medium and recording surface stimulates the mind to think conceptually, divergently and creatively.
The time-delay in sensed information reaching the brain during the drawing process generates degrees of awareness that create space for new ideas. The delay fuels the creative system and provides opportunity for arbitrary disruptions via interactions with space, time and materials. Making a mark and adding another engages further time in the making. Creative drawing is putting together new sequences of data in relation, morphing them to form new ideas. Time-impacted and physically sequenced pattern-responsive outcomes happen dynamically. Meanings can attach as finalising events.
Line drawing is both subjective (of private experience) and objective (in its realisation). It is a construction revealed to the first viewer (the maker) via sequential recorded acts and simultaneity of view. Reactive and reflexive functions of mind are exercised as a real time and space event. Through it one connects with the world, seeing it as it really is: connecting eye and hand, self and the world. As the mark attaches across the page, it becomes an index of the movement of hand and eye. Optical data is delivered via the cones of the eyes directly to reasoning brain functions, and via the eyes' rods to intuitive mind functions. These dual "seeing" functions inform the deep intuitive nature of the mark-making processes involved, which are subconscious, spontaneous, preverbal, systemic, free and divergent, but mentally and physically real. They pre-empt disciplined intentions, and negotiate medium, chance influences and arbitrary choices during the line-making event. They engage emotional perceptions and their accompanying meanings: feelings. They enable movement from the abstract to the symbolic, the general to the particular, and the amorphous to the clarified: and they reveal and utilise the physical effects of the maker's expressive acts in their realisation. Feedback effects during its making enhance the drawing's potential: ideas morph in juxtaposition; divergent impulses disrupt anticipated outcomes; allusions become active. Focused and unfocused expressions, reductive generalities, fragments of images echoing opposites, prior learning and memories can all have a feedback input during the process. The result may approach the semantic or remain aloof from meanings, seeking a state closer to mystery. Drawing is a direct communication outside words. It can be outside meaning and cultural constraints, even as degrees of descriptive intent inform the final work.
Handwriting has a relation to drawing, but is constrained by the conventionally embedded meanings of its signs (words and letters) which can limit the creative stimulus for the open mind. In drawing- there is more room for divergent observable process and more scope for creative outcomes. Degrees of inattention become influences upon the creative act, disrupting pattern-forming impulses and creating alternative outcomes. The attention function switches on and off as the actions of mark making proceed: a kind of automatism can operate. The completion of the drawing is a determination of the subjective senses, as desire for wholeness operates. Desire to begin is matched by desire to complete, and is innate. Joy and expectation underpin the impulses involved, and are primal energies driving the actual marking acts. Preferences of form impact aesthetic quality decisions during the making of the drawing. The drawn lines—which can be perceived as stationary dots extending to become moving line—focus awareness on the immediacy of the drawing acts in time and space. This prompts the maker's reading of multiple overlapping lines, expressed emotion and memory (conscious or subconscious), acceptance or rejection of arbitrary influences, and the ultimate decision that completes the work as a realised idea (gestalt). The product, as a new concrete idea, is open to immediate, uninterrupted reflection by the marker. It exists in 2D space on a flat surface area, defined by boundaries creating relationships between edges and the marks, establishing dynamics of composition in relation to its environment.
Drawing springs from the desire to make something of the experiences of self and world. It arises from mark-making and the perception and cognition of it as observed event. It operates within cognitive functions of reactive speculations, which create knowledge and joy simultaneously. It enhances vital mind ideation skills and procedures, transferrable to all thinking activities. It benefits increased personal understanding of mind, body, community and the world. It works best as a sustained, non-judgemental, creative thinking practice.
Drawn ideas are visual thoughts. Each is a truth in itself. Sustained creative mark-making established creative neural pathways in the brain. The infant develops skills in hand/eye use and continued exercise of those skills facilitates creative thinking into adulthood. Advancements in mathematics and language are directly realised by the development and use of the fine motor system.
Origins of Creative Thinking
Start with a mark on a page, allow it to grow into a drawing, and you will have witnessed the evolution of creativity itself. Line-making is a primal specific domain of experience and is both a source and product of humankind's creative thinking ability. This thinking skill dynamically energises the creative potential of all domains of human thought.
Contemporary knowledge of humankind's evolution indicates that our pre-human ancestors developed generative thinking capacities over eons. They used these for millennia before inventing verbal and written language and symbolic sign systems to expand communication. In the pre-lingual era, dominant senses would have been visual, tactile, temporal, spatial, kinetic, visceral and proprioceptive. These senses were important for scavenging and hunting, which involve reflexive interpretation of animal tracks and one's own marks.
Through standing, early humanoids were better able to see their hands operating, and learn to hold stones and tools. Simultaneous observation and contemplation of the interactive processes of hand tool and material use provided the formative functions that developed the imagining human mind. Some degree of synesthetic inter-sentient functions probably operated before specialised brain/sense/mind relations evolved to enhance perceptive accuracy. These new perceptive abilities were still accompanied by fast-acting emotional triggers necessary for physical survival. The 'old' brain was capable of rapid recognition of information, subconscious feedback and physical response—abilities that remain basic and necessary to the operation of the modern, reasoning mind. This sense-based imagining mind supported introspection on the motor functions operated by the intuitive nerve/neural systems involved.
The evolved brain devotes more neurons to the visual and spatial senses than any other. Sentient- based image recollection is a primary mechanism in enabling productive use of remembered information. Drawing engages context as part of its necessary processes, directly developing awareness of that context. Orientation and perspectives influence awareness and impact on meanings: recognising this enlarges cognition. Recollection and memory actively access past ideas, from which new ideas are constructed.
Although humans may seem to experience original ideation, they generally copy received ideas and vary them in relationships with other copied ideas. Such copying is primarily subconscious. It generally happens during "mindless" activity (such as play or tinkering), without overwhelming directives from reason and will. Ideas are combined with other known ideas, using learned procedures of mind to produce variations. Such variations operate like the mutations within evolution. Variations arise in greater numbers through interactions with extravagant, unconstrained and unrelated ideas. Chance circumstances also contribute to interesting and novel combinations. Our ancestors discovered tools through these combinations of introspection, chance and empathetic observation of actions in relation to the material and social environment.
The creative, imagining mind emerged through, generations and over millennia via collective communal processes that contributed to the development of individual minds. All humans are part of an interactive body of thinkers (in modern terms, the "culture"). While the capacity for creative thought necessarily lies within individual minds, the stimuli essential to generating ideas are a communal resource. Creativity is therefore a thought process involving individual minds within the context of the physical and communal environment. Individuals can create ideas for sharing; if one person accidentally stumbles on to a good idea, others can simply copy it. Thus the copying function (whether copying one's own prior actions or another's) is the major driver of creative thinking.
Curiously, the copying that is most successful in generating many new ideas—imitation, rather than emulation—is often considered "bad copying." Yet this simple mechanism of copying and incremental change is a process that has operated for billions of years as part of evolutionary natural selection. Biological organisms copy their genes when they reproduce; sometimes these genes mutate and/or combine in novel ways to make a new species. Although genetic mutation is random, some mutations improve on the original genes, and natural selection ensures these survive and spread, The ingredients required are life forces, interactions with environments, chance, and time.
Imagination and fine motor skills have always defined us as human. Modem advances in evolutionary theory and discoveries support the assertion. Today, neurological research can offer significant new findings about the processes involved. However, many people adopt a jocular or defensive attitude towards these phenomena, if they stop to consider them at all. They assume thinking is (and should be) confined to the reasoning brain, without recognising the value of sentient thinking functions. This can lead to a kind of moral determinism, as explored by neurologist Antonio R. Damasio in his book Descartes' Error (1996).
Paying insufficient attention to the importance of the imagination and fine motor skills has social implications. It limits educational pedagogies, and impacts negatively on political and parental support for creative thinking education that would maintain students' generative ideation abilities. Effort is invested in imposing predetermined, received and "reasoned" teachings, to the detriment of intuitive sentient learning that energises creative thinking in both the rational and intuitive domains. The corporate world is similarly hesitant about investing in—or even appropriately utilising—the creative thinking resources within their organisations.
Drawing develops out of the sensory physical and mental functions involved in marking in childhood play. Mark-making is a formative event in every childhood: the experience shapes the development of self in relation to the natural world. The first mark is as significant as the first step. Through mark making, the facility of creative thinking emerges in the individual. The discovery of a line, apparently and mysteriously appearing and moving across its support surface, yet also staying still, allows the eye and mind to contemplate the line and create meanings. This sparks and establishes primary processes in the brain, which become highways for general creative thinking abilities. Reinforced by repetition over time, this thinking structure becomes a tool informing all creative functions. Applied to other domains of learning, it becomes an embedded, self-patterning, managed process. When combined with memory formation, it enables both analytical and synthetic ideation to occur. The process is a joyful stimulating of creative satisfactions and provides a source of personal fulfilment.
Human lives are clearly shaped by experiences in infancy and childhood, despite debate about the relative contributions of nature (innate natural facilities) and nurture (lived experiences within a culture and environment). That first stage of life is all-important to the development of all aspects of body and mind, including creative imagination. In some respects, an infant's development mirrors the evolutionary history of the human species. The parallels provide a way to reflect on probable similarities in the development of the imagination itself.
Every new-born human begins actively exploring the world. Initially, infants develop awareness of self in relation to objects. They progress to using a series of innate sensory responses; these mental and physical acts are tools that, through repetition, become remembered procedures and events available for testing future experiences. The responses progressively build memory systems, which the infant uses for all learning within a continuous and innate search/play process. Through curiosity and testing, infants develop increasingly sophisticated and knowledgeable thinking resources. These thinking tools evolve organically and dynamically as a self-organising learning facility within integrated sentient, motor, emotive and neural systems. Thus, through repetitive actions, experiences and observations of self and the world, the child develops a procedural memory recall system. When operated in mirrored reversal, this provides the envisioning ability known as the human imagination.
Most early learning is driven by aesthetic need. Desire (for safety, security and joy) develops a deeply embedded sense of aesthetics, differentiating between degrees of ugliness and fear, beauty and truth. Each person has his or her own aesthetic need (aesthetic individuality is the source of the debate around beauty and truth). The aesthetic driver is not simply "recognising beauty" or "seeking pleasure": it provides the full range of sentient subjective reactions to everything an individual perceives.
Uninstructed, silent, free, personal drawing has the most productive creative effect on habits of mind. Children's drawing processes are focused in this way, as they immerse in the actions needed to create the drawing. Drawing is seeing with the body, and more than just the eyes are involved. Deep visceral responses inform the seeing and drawing process. Activated feelings arising from the senses directly influence actions, as they inform all thinking. The body projects its combined sentient capacities to identify with the observed object through the embodiment process. Focused drawing intensifies these functions and a deeper shared identity is experienced physically and emotionally.
Drawing heightens consciousness of the person's solitary individual state, increasing awareness of, and confidence in, one's unique being. However, emotional outreach also creates an anthropomorphic intuitive identification with other people and objects. This facility is deeply human and social, and is extended through the functional processes of drawing. Through empathy and embodiment, the mark maker takes on the state of the Other, whether living or inanimate. In this "looks like" creative cognitive process, creative thinking originates. Moreover, that kind of creative thinking can be expanded through practice. For adults, this means revisiting the innate childlike (not childish) mark making processes of active free drawing.
Visualisation skills are enhanced by sustained drawing practice, as memory of one's past drawings are accessed. The rewards of sustained habitual line-making include a childlike joy in discovery (adapted to adulthood), and fulfilment of creative outcomes as the process is applied to accumulated experience. The lifelong plasticity of the brain expands the potential of drawing for every person at every stage of life.
There are recognised sequential stages of mind-based creative thinking:
Direct expressive hand/eye drawing enables the morphing of a number of these stages in a making process that involves mind and body simultaneously. However, they usefully describe the functions of the creative thinking mind, which sustained drawing develops.
Anticipation excites the processes of drawing. Pleasure in starting—including assembling materials and tools, initial observations, past drawing experiences, and speculations concerning discoveries of meanings —fires imaginative thinking processes, which excite action. Productive drawing relies on being conscious of the desire to create, bringing enthusiasm, belief; and excitement to the process.
The role of aesthetic desire contributes to the generative function. We seek beauty of form and order as an innate need. The process extends to, and is embedded in, reasoned search (as in mathematics or business entrepreneurship) and intuitive search (as in personal relations and drawing). Gestalt desire (the urge to have something finished) stimulates interest beyond boredom: its disruption energises efforts to achieve it, and operates as a self-organising dynamic impulse. Intuitive aesthetic functions precede reason, but once applied, the two imperatives work together.
To draw productively, it is first necessary to really see and know, developed through observation and awareness of objective and subjective realities. Attentive viewing of objects delivers understanding of their characteristics; developing resources for creative outcomes. Sustained experience of making and viewing drawing, especially if accompanied by formal analysis, subjective aesthetic empathy and reflection, deepens perceptional experiences. The outcome is increased satisfaction at seeing everything: colour, texture, space, rhythm, pattern, echoes, and differences in intensity of expressions, direction, relationship and meaning. Development of aesthetic appreciation (enjoyment of beauty whilst recognising its lack) enriches experience and we operate more productively in our environment.
Materials have a "voice." They speak through our senses and the process of making. The physical manipulation of the medium, paper, fingers, hand and arm, in contact with eyes and mind, is primal to the evolution and development of creative drawing/thinking. Attentive analysis of processes of production, and subject references outside of it, inform the production of the work. Regular such practice enables matching of deep emotional responses to formal qualities in play, enhancing awareness of one's judgements and motivations. These are self-generated, not received judgements of others. There is pleasure in fulfilling these functions. Everyone has deep aesthetic sensibilities which direct their lives and of which they are generally unaware and often resist knowing. Subconscious emotionally energised actions happen all the time in everything we do including drawing.
Deep and active questioning is a dynamic driver of drawing practice. The enquiring mind is an insightful, creative mind. It seeks knowledge and speculates regarding its possible uses. As the mind's investigative functions engage, openness to the new becomes a given. Questions arise: "How does that work? Where does that come from? Why did that happen? When did that start?" This "what if...?" thinking actively stimulates new ideas.
Managing the body and recognising its influence on drawing is important. Using varying speeds of thinking and of movement enlarges creative drawing effects. Slowing quietens the mind: speeding excites it. Each speed delivers different results and ideas.
Being willing to commit and engage spontaneously develops attitudes towards actions that are important to full realisation of all experience. Opening the mind (relaxing and submitting with an embracing attitude) becomes important to creative outcomes, allowing multiple ideas to bubble up. The joint engagement of reason and intuition can be willed, using rational application of provocations to stimulate divergent outcomes. In drawing, such strategies include the asymmetrical oppositional choices of marks and materials, and deliberate use of disruptions and chance.
Sustained habitual drawing requires commitment. It is through sustained participation that desired outcomes happen. Discipline is necessary to achievement of beneficial outcomes from the practice and significantly influences outcomes. Habits of creative thinking developed through regular drawing are self-generative, becoming influences on expression and goals. Rituals of drawing practice become structures of behaviour in action. Start young if you are young; start old if you are old. Avoiding others' judgements and negative self-criticism is also important. Developing confidence in one's own judgements is essential.
The imagination never sleeps. It is a dynamic constructive energy that willingly collaborates with reason when a person is awake. However, it also operates when a person is in a subconscious state, such as sleeping or dreaming. Albert Einstein claimed "imagination is more important than knowledge." The word imagination itself derives from the word "image"; and to say "I see" means "I know" (that is, "I can imagine"). Aristotle argued that "to think we must speculate in images." Imaginative conversion of an observed object to an image on the page is imagination in action, converting the sentient to the concrete, creating the new from the given. Mark-making and meaning generation directly exercise the human imagination.
Being aware of, and valuing, one's imagining skills is important. The intuitive engages the resources of the imagination in mark-making, before secondary closure processes operate, and meanings are attached, as in language. Repetitive drawing practice, used as a means of activating the energies of the imagination, deepens potential for production of original ideas in all domains.
Free exploration of mark-making and ideas in adulthood mirrors the practices and joys of childhood play. Outside of rules, whether received or self-created, free aesthetic play accesses the potential of arbitrary, sentient and intellectual discovery. In Einstein's words, "to stimulate creativity we must develop the childlike inclination to play." Childlike should not be confused with childish. The former term references the origins of joyful self, which is always present in us but which adult inclinations often seek to deny. The child's joy in creative activities and thought processes enlivens the mind and emotional development and is vital to essential creative impulses throughout life. Einstein said "the pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain as children all-our lives." It is vital to retain this quality of living: too many carelessly distain it in adulthood.
An adventurous spirit and willingness to explore enable access to a wider range of experiences, and become energies for the creative mind. Being open-minded, adaptable and prepared to change are crucial to all kinds of creative thinking. Drawing provides rich, low-risk opportunities to experience and develop these attributes. Deliberately adopting strategies to disrupt fixed/given meanings and habits stimulates opportunities to increase flexibility in thinking of all kinds. Tolerance of adversity and willingness to consider different options is key.
Human brains are programmed to seek patterns. Seeing or using repeating data starts the mental processes that construct meaning. Similarities, sets, analogies, metaphors, echoes, alliterations, shadows, partial repetitions, allusions, suggestions, hints and evocations all become tools. They share characteristic variations and divergences, with greater or lesser degrees of reference to pure pattern. Juxtapositions, coincidences, conceptual connections, chance effects and ambiguities expand this potential. Drawing is rich in pattern-recognition practice and enhances every kind of thinking based on patterning, from mathematics to music, sculpture to science innovation, brushstroke choices to business choices.
The self-observed drawing event is rich in idea generation and is experienced as free independent dynamic ideas suddenly entering consciousness: the "AH HA" effect.
Drawing is sign creation: it assigns a learned meaning to a mark. Signs may be understood via received knowledge (supplied by another), or by individual decision. The sign may carry elements of the referenced subject or be totally arbitrary and abstract, allocated by rational determination and convention. Degrees of content clarity are possible so that emerging sign structures inform the making of the drawing. Signs may be discovered in the process of formation, or be deliberately created to invoke by allusion.
Drawing deepens understandings of cognitive processes and how they manage learning and thinking. Heightened awareness of how the senses and the cognitive mind operate (both separately and together) enhances knowledge of self and the world—consciously or subconsciously. Drawing practice offers opportunities to experience and understand the interaction of intuition and reason, where both play roles in cognition. A synesthetic perceiving facility—the ability to "feel with the eyes" or "hear marks"—is an important aspect of drawing, and a transferable creative thinking skill. During drawing, rational temporality merges with timeless, intuitive thinking experience. Time is perceived to be "drawn out" with each individual line. In drawings that prioritise the identity of individual lines, this way of experiencing of time is enhanced.
Reflection on the drawing when felt to be complete will include private judgement on its novelty (that is, assessing the aspects that are new to the maker). It will include a judgement as to merit (again self-assessed). Questions arise, such as whether to work on the drawing further or not. Gestalt recognition emerges as an insight through the drawing process. It is based on feelings of appropriateness, completeness, unity, novelty, personal aesthetic value and power.
Work seemingly complete is opened to new beginnings by way of additions, variations or revisions. Marks may invite mutations in a continuous process of variations influenced by future chance and environmental effects. These then invite further mutations. This stage actually becomes a first stage for future drawings.
Sustained meditative drawing practice accesses multiple mind functions, enabling deeper self- awareness and understanding. The ability to be still and calm (in mind and body) while in patient extended contemplation and reflection is vital to understanding of self and world. Drawing engages and enhances this experience as it happens. It invokes a state of mind and body characterised by stillness, awareness of flow, openness, and feelings of connectedness with everything. This allows the intuitive and rational mind functions to cooperate and balance input into deep awareness. Drawing opens the space between the imagined and the real. It delivers rich access to self-discovery. It uses small ideas which can grow. It opens the mind to experience the unknown. Accepting mystery (the unknowable) is achieved through regular, deep, silent, submissive drawing.
The creative mind is tolerant of, and interested in, mistakes and failures. It is willing to explore apparently impractical ideas that might seem useless from a commonplace perspective. Pure aesthetic generative practice is non-judgemental in every way, enabling selection of possibilities. Aesthetic functions in drawing are open to the full range of measures of perceivable experience— from beauty to ugliness, practical to impractical, enjoyable to offensive. Sustained mark-making (drawing) has always served all humankind's enterprises, not just art: engineering, science, manufacturing, business. While drawing may seem solitary, it requires observation of, and creative engagement with, natural, cultural, and social environments.
Political and corporate sectors worldwide are increasingly interested in understanding the processes underlying product innovation. This interest is, of course, driven by the bottom line (financial profit), which is the primary purpose of business enterprise, investment and economic management. Under shareholder pressure for returns, corporates are not ideally placed to invest in humanist enhancement projects, regardless of the clear benefits to their enterprises over time. However, owners, managers and political opinion-makers need to understand the relationship between creative thinking and innovation, and invest accordingly.
Innovation (which is what companies want) is part of the "elaboration" stage of creative thinking. A full ideation process always precedes the "act" of innovation which is the concrete realisation of a selected idea. The full process is the product of mind and body, originating in sentient, pre-lingual thought. It springs from the innate human survival faculty for sensing and discerning similarities across all domains of an individual's empirical emotional and intellectual experience. This thinking process uses observed and remembered data, along with recognition of repeated forms and their disruption, to generate original ideas without predetermined purpose. These are then sorted and matched to practical needs. Allocating abstract meanings to sentient-created ideas (signs) extends the creative potential of the process. This is how languages, writing, and arithmetic developed as the second heuristic level of generative thought.
The creative thinking process produces syncretic outcomes: elements from disparate sets of data combine to form new products (ideas) that share characteristics with their origins. The process is largely unconscious, but can be learned and directed, enhancing general creative thinking skills. The more varied and deep a person's sentient and intellectual experience, the greater their potential for generating practical and impractical new ideas. Business and political leaders need to promote wide community access to, and use of, all stages of creative thinking, recognising that the full process has powerful potential to deliver benefits to the economy. It is creative capital at work.
The impact of computers has been enormous. As writing by hand is increasingly replaced by keyboard use, sentient experience becomes limited. Offline drawing becomes more significant and valued. This shift in production mechanism has triggered greater interest in creative thinking activity as a defining human faculty. Sciences and arts share this interest, with science seeking to explain the imaginative thinking involved. Science increasingly perceives the matter-filled universe as having a structural truth of harmony and order: a "beauty" that humankind echoes in its sentient perceptions. Scientist David Bohm respects the visual arts for their ability to see in new ways, recognising that they deliver important general understandings of structures, at the perceptual level, relevant to every field of experience.
Some measure creativity by practical outcomes. However, such practicality needs to be widely defined, including ideas that complete gestalts of personal emotional and sentient experiences. Only through understanding the full process of creative thinking can individual and communal resources of creative capital be utilised effectively. Research needs to focus on the visualising functions of thought to deepen knowledge of the functions and stimuli involved in creativity generally. This means research into the cognitive perceiving tools (brain and body) involved in image-making.
Neuroscience suggests that the conventional right brain/left brain dichotomy provides an inaccurate picture of how creative thinking happens: it is not limited to a single brain region. It is simply a way to describe different mind functions used to process information. Many motor functions, such as those driving the hands and eyes, use a mixture and crossing of neural connections and pathways within the body and brain. Creative thinking likewise involves many interacting cognitive processes (both conscious and unconscious) and emotions. Different brain regions are activated depending on the stage of the process, and what an individual is attempting to create. Various regions work as a unified interactive feedback system to get the job done. Evidence suggests that cognition results from the dynamic interactions of dispersed brain areas operating in large-scale networks.
Cognitive awareness develops as the intuitive brain interacts in complex ways with the slower, more reasoning, modem brain. Research has identified constant interaction between the subconscious intuitive state and the conscious reasoning state when a human is fully awake. However, recent research has focused on what happens during moments of downtime, rest, and daydreaming. While the reasoning brain demands more energy (and thus must sleep or rest), the intuitive brain works constantly. Even when the reasoning brain system slows to rest, the intuitive brain remains active through day-dreaming or similar meditative states. These are the primary creative states, with the brain unconsciously seeking connections across all domains of its experience. Using its memory of learned creative procedures, the mind operates dynamically and unceasingly to seek out statistical aesthetic similarities within increasingly complex patterning. Through processes of sentient recognition—the ability to feel, perceive or experience subconsciously—individuals develop perception of pure, sensed form, and ultimately attach meanings. Sustained creative thinking exercises the neural and nerve connections involved in this process, strengthening, and thus increasing the capacity for general creative thinking.
Drawing is an excellent and accessible way for organisations and individuals to exercise and develop creative thinking processes. While many creative pursuits (in business, science, politics, or the performing arts) have financial and social barriers, drawing has no really significant access limitations. It-allows democratic participation at modest financial cost and investment of time. Drawing is a creative mind development activity of great potential for everyone. All that is needed is pencil, paper and the commitment to draw.
Damasio, A. (1996). Descartes' error. Emotion, reason, and the human brain. London, UK: Putnam Publishing.
Koestler, A. (1967). Drinkers of infinity: Essays 1955-1967. London, UK: Hutchinson & Co.