Imagine you’re painting a picture. You find a nice spot, on the beach. You find an appropriate angle, where you will have an interesting view of the sea, with the beach and a palm tree coming in on one side. In the distance, there is a city skyline. It’s a perfect scene.
Now, many would assume that the creative process involves simply transferring this beautiful image onto a canvas, that this is what it takes to be creative. I’m here to tell you that creativity is in fact a much deeper process than this. It involves many layers of thought and meaning. The good news, is that this in fact makes it easier for anyone to get in touch with their creative side.
The Subject Matter Layer
In this example, nature has already given you a piece of art that anyone with a camera can share. Nobody should have a problem finding this layer. It is simply an observation, something interesting in the world around you. For a story teller, it could be an event that happened, or is imagined. It’s what your piece represents.
The Creation Technique Layer
In a painting, the next layer is the artist’s personal brush technique. A professional photographer will add this layer in a similar way with their choice of lens, filters, exposure etc. A writer will use their practiced techniques of arranging sentences and paragraphs. Any artist’s use of their tool of choice makes their work different from anyone else’s interpretation. This is a special layer of the piece that requires a lot of attention and is developed over an artist’s entire life.
Style is a very important part of this layer. The same image can be drawn in watercolor, charcoal, or pencil. Shading can be rendered in various ways, even the choice of paper is part of the creation technique. In all forms of creativity, including writing and music, there are infinite possibilities for style.
The Perspective Layer
Painting or photographing a picture is only the beginning of a creative exercise. What turns a generic photo into a piece of art, is perspective. The human holding the camera will always be an integral part of the piece.
In the case of our painting, it is the artist with the brush that provides this layer. They can chose how to present the picture. The audience should be forced to ask themselves, even if it is subconsciously, why has the artist chosen this perspective?
The Interpretation Layer
This is the layer where a piece will really begin to stand out. While the artist’s perspective gives a lot of depth and personality, their interpretation is where they have the opportunity to show something that might not be visible at first. Remember our painting. Well, the artist could see the city in the background as tarnishing the beautiful natural scene, and paint it in a way that makes it look grey, dull, maybe even sinister.
In this layer there is much scope to represent the scene in a way that is based on what it means to the artist, and the confines of reality need not be a limitation.
The Depth Layer
Your view of a cityscape from a beach has a lot more to it than meets the eye. Why is that city there? Who lives there? What are their lives like? What is their history? What does the future hold for them? Any of these factors can be brought into the painting if the artist wants to. As a very simple example, if the artists feels that the people of the city have been mistreated, he can draw something into the picture (or emphasize something that is already there) that represents this, such as a person looking sad.
Another way to represent depth is to think about the ways certain parts of the painting interact with each other. For example, the palm tree that frames the city brings shade to the beach, but it is still brighter than the city. Perhaps this illustrates how nature is more forgiving than the hand of man.
The Emotion Layer
All of the other layers will mean nothing, if your piece doesn’t provoke emotion from your audience. Quite often, your other layers will provide this simply with the story they tell, but perhaps they won’t. You should make sure that whatever else is going on with your creation, you think about how your audience is going to feel when enjoying it. It doesn’t matter if they’re happy, sad, angry, or shocked, just as long as they’re not disappointed. The emotion layer is so important it can almost stand on its own without the other layers.
Connecting with your audience emotionally is an art form in itself that takes a lot to master. There are many ways to press people’s buttons so I recommend you research this topic further. Ultimately, you must relate to their hopes and fears. Learn what makes people have certain emotions and incorporate this into your creations in whatever measure you see fit.
You could probably stop here, and you will still have a phenomenal, multi-layered piece of art that stands out to its audience. However, there is one more layer that you can add to your creations. This powerful layer can turn you from a hobbyist into a respected professional.
The Focus Layer
When you feel like you have enough layers to your piece, add one more. This layer does not add to the creation, but actually takes away. It hides many of the details, but those details are still present, underneath. They still affect the characters in our story. We have just focused in on what is important.
Poets understand this layer better than anyone. It is the metaphorical layer – the images they use to hide raw emotions.
Add this layer either by hiding the creation’s true meaning behind a metaphor, or by telling it from a perspective that does not give everything away. Your audience will still see the meaning, but it will give your piece even more depth. This is the magical layer, the layer that transforms an idea into a story.
Anyone can be creative
Although I used a painting as an example, these techniques can be applied to any and every kind of creative outlet. If you’re a writer, take an interesting event and write about it in your own unique style, using the perspectives of your characters. Give your characters history, emotions, and needs, and guide them using your interpretation of the story. Connect to your readers emotionally by relating to their hopes, fears, and dreams. Finally take this story and express it through a metaphorical veil, refining and clarifying the main points of your story.
Never again will you be able to use the excuses “I can’t draw”, or “I can’t play a musical instrument”. Even if you find yourself held back by your lack of creation technique skills, you can now create powerful pieces of art with your utilization of all the other layers. Learn how to bring perspective, meaning and depth to what you see, and you will become a true artist.