Tag Archives: creative brain

‘Space for my Mind to Move Into’

Fractures v, mixed media, 22cm x 19cm

Fractures v, mixed media, 22cm x 19cm

Someone has switched on the rain in car-wash mode.  I’m stuck waiting for the lashing at my windows to abate so that I can take the dogs out, and where I can indulge in my daily ritual of walking as a ‘space for my mind to move into‘ (Virginia Wolf).  So whilst I’m house-bound, I’m going to jot down some notes about the nature of creativity and the new visual philosophy outlined by the Horizon programme last Thursday, while it’s still fresh in my memory and for anyone who might have missed it.  It explains so much about how the creative brain might innovate……

Horizon BBC 2, 14.03.13, The Creative Brain outlines a new theory of creativity:  Left brain is the analytical one, right brain is the creative one – we knew that – but its been proven with some very pretty digital imaging of internal brain wiring.  Divergent thinking, so named after it was clear war-time pilots were using something other than mere intelligence to outwit their opponents in the sky, has become the area in the brain where scientists have discovered insight takes place.  This is the area where flashes of inspiration occurs.  Where seemingly random thoughts are brought to the surface and hover just before being ‘grabbed’ by the conscious mind.  It involves a temporary ‘mind-blink’ where – just before you come up with that light bulb moment – your ‘visible’ brain is momentarily cut off.  You don’t need to close your eyes for this but it’s like when you look away from someone when they have asked you a question and you are considering the answer.   It happens in the back portion of your brain, and occurs just before all the connections go mad in your right cortex.  It is this functioning of the brain that scientists think is what makes us intrinsically human.

OK, now try the brick test.  Think of all the crazy things you could do with a brick.  The more things you come up with the more creative you are.

Whilst I leave you working out how creative you are, the next bit is about improvisation.  Jazz improvisation, for instance, is considered the ultimate creative activity.  Here the frontal lobes (also known as the gate-keepers) are put into lock-down mode and where you are able to lose your inhibitions.  (Is this what happens when you take mind-bending substances, I wonder?).  It’s like releasing mental hand-cuffs, allowing ideas to flow and opening your mind to creativity.  It may even be transformative and life-changing.

Of course, we are all capable of creative thinking.  After all, our great innovators cannot innovate without it.  From my perspective, I recognise all these modes when I am in the act of painting or creating, ‘in the flow’.  I think all these brain functions – the divergent thinking, the improvisation, including the left-brain reasoning mind – all come into play at different moments in the process.  I’ve always described it as like being in a very aware state of meditation.  It allows you to take risks – like children do in play mode – to discover new things you might not have thought of.

IMG_6224So how can we be more creative?  Kick-start our creativity and break old cognitive habits?  The answer seems to lie in changing our routines to overcome functional ‘fixedness’.  Look at your daily activity.  Most of it is unscripted, improvised anyway.  Apparently the key lies in looking for unexpected opportunities to experience new things and indulge in some ‘mind-wandering’ activities like walking or any action that is repetitive and doesn’t require too much mental effort.  No surprise that Beethoven apparently enjoyed walking.

It’s still pelting down………and the dogs are crossing their legs….have to just go and get soggy whilst I’m thinking about all the things I can get up to with a brick……a suitable case to boggle the mind!

P.S.  One of my ‘followers’ kindly recommended a book written by one of the contributors to the Horizon programme, The Master and His Emissary. The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, by Iain McGilchrist.  I have started reading it and it is fascinating.



Filed under Art Works, my sketchbook pages, Nature / Nurture Project, Personal Philosophy

Musical Interlude

new book jacket

new book jacket

Dropped off 21 ‘stock’ paintings to local sale room (David Lays) yesterday for their upcoming picture sale next month.  I’ve left a reserve that covers the cost of the frame so if they don’t sell I can at least recycle the frame.

Just read in one of the artist’s blog posts in Artists Talking, (‘an’ magazine) about being rejected by Axis.  I’m pleased I’m not the only one!  Rejection is a normal part of the critical times we live in.   We must just keep buggering on (as Churchill famously once said – I know I’ve quoted this before but it’s a favourite).  I’m going to apply to join the Newlyn Society of Artists ……hope I have more joy here.

Attended an inspirational symposium, The Work Of Art In Critical Times, hosted by UCF last week-end in their recruitment drive to enroll people on their new MA courses.  I decided, finally, I would bite the bullet and submit an expression of interest to do a research degree.

I now have a week before the submission deadline to come up with a compelling argument.  The last few days I’ve been thrashing about as I do at the start of any new project trying to transform the scrabbled egg bits of my brain into a calmly analytical, matter-of-fact missive, like this sort of thing is an everyday occurrence for me.  Which it’s not, especially when it matters….don’t want to fall at the first hurdle on this one.  I’ve written several drafts, each one trying to bore down closer to the truth, my truth, and chucking away great chunks of fluffy prose by engaging the ‘mind blinking’ parts of the brain to come up with the insight I need.  (Did you see that fascinating BBC Horizon program last evening about the Creative Brain?)  However, the closer I get to what I need to say, the more excited I become about the project.

Had a nice surprise this week.  Michael (see Deep Blue) sent me a picture of the new jacket for the book they have published, From Boulanger to Stockhausen (published by Boydell & Brewer, a small academic publisher based in Suffolk) with my image ‘Deep Blue’ on the front.  As Michael explained when discussing the book with the author, “…….I showed him the blue abstract on your web page and told him we should use something like that on the jacket, thinking he would ask one of his contacts in Hungary to find an abstract image.  Having seen it, Bálint has taken instantly to your painting and wants us to use that one on the book jacket.”

Of course, I’m delighted and I think the result looks great too.  I do hope it helps attract attention when they take it to the London Book Fair in April.  Here is his description of the book:

In From Boulanger to Stockhausen: Interviews and a Memoir, the Hungarian-born musician Bálint András Varga presents interviews with noted international figures in twentieth-century music. Varga’s subjects include such luminaries as György Ligeti, Eugene Ormandy, Alfred Brendel, Isaac Stern, Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, and Artur Rubinstein. The interviews are complemented by Varga’s memoir, a fascinating account of growing up in postwar socialist Hungary and of his career in radio and music publishing.

Stockhausen was a bit a controversial composer but I really like some of his more abstract ideas on phonics.  I’m looking forward to my complimentary copy!


Filed under my sketchbook pages