The Creative I: Defining Creativity

Creativity: such a subjective term that  causes quite a problem of definition.  Reading through Punya Mishra, Danah Henriksen & the Deep-Play Research Group’s article entitled “A NEW approach to defining and measuring creativity: Rethinking Technology & Creativity in the 21st century,” had me questioning and wondering why it is so difficult to define what is “creativity” or what being creative actually looks like. “A creative solution is NEW, i.e. it is Novel, Effective and Whole or creativity is a goal driven process of developing solutions that are Novel, Effective and Whole,” (Mishra, et. al., 2013, p. 11).

Shane Konte at his Art Show on 6/3/17 at BrassWorks Gallery in Portland, OR. Source:Facebook

To further understand and define creativity, I interviewed my friend Shane Konte who is an artist (and in my opinion, all around creative person) who currently resides in Portland, OR, a major hub for creativity, art and talent. Through our conversation I found out that Shane has always had a knack for being creative and that he felt that it was something that was innate, passed on through genetics.  His mother, to this day, is “crafty,” and does a lot of sewing.  During his high school career, he won several Scholastic Art competitions and as a young adult he has been drawing, tattooing and now currently painting as part of his income.


I asked Shane how he would define creativity and he said this: “I think creativity is being able to come up with ideas that aren’t the mainstream and apply it in ways that are unique and captivating to other people.”  And when I asked him what inspires him to be creative he said, “I like doing things that other people haven’t done and I like finding ways to do things that other people have done but do them in a different way. I like the fact that I am able to create things because it makes people happy. When I do my paintings it’s very rewarding to know that I made something that was unique and one of a kind, and that someone smiles when they see it — they really cherish it.”

Shane also states that to be creative, you should be open to every idea you come up with. “I would even say in an entrepreneur type-approach, just seek new ideas. Even if the first idea out of your mouth is not something that would be successful or be turned into something – that idea could always spark and grow into another idea that could be the success or solution to something that you’re looking for.  So, I think creativity comes down to not necessarily questioning yourself, but also being confident. In order to express yourself in a creative manner you have to be confident because you’re probably pushing the norms in a lot of ways,”he said. “You have to be ready for people to judge you and say ‘no, I’m not okay with that.’  That can be a real personal thing. So just having the confidence and encouraging your students (for example) to speak up and have new ideas and be open-minded to those ideas, because everyone has good ideas and they come from somewhere.”

His final tips or advice to people who feel like they lack creativity, such as myself was to: “basically allow yourself to be open, allow yourself to be confident, and encourage others to do the same.” He also said, “take a risk and don’t second guess yourself. Keep it simple. Take the dive and try something out because that’s the only way something is going to change and things will go anywhere.”

I normally don’t ask Shane about his creativity or what inspires him, I usually just look at his work in awe and tell him that “I wish I could do that!” This assignment inspired me to think about my classroom and how I can take his advice to heart.  His points about brainstorming ideas and being more open-minded to them is something I’d like to incorporate.  

In my professional life, I think that I normally second-guess my initial thought process and I don’t have a lot of confidence in the ideas that I come up with. I want to turn that mentality around and push myself to take on a new idea for my class and test it out.  The worst thing that can happen is that it flops and we are back to ground-zero and I have to re-teach the topic (or unit).

In my personal life, I’d like to try picking up a new artistic hobby — maybe drawing or painting and just push myself to create the first thing that comes to mind and not second-guess it. Just let it flow and be open to others’ opinions after creation rather than be my harshest critic and scrap the creative process entirely.

Check out Shane’s work here:

Mishra, P., Henriksen, D., & the Deep-Play Research Group (2013) A NEW approach to defining and measuring creativity. Tech Trends (57) 5, p. 5-13.

Pattern Activity: Recognizing the pattern of Human Struggle in Latin Art

Recognizing and forming patterns through the topic of Latin Art this week was a challenge as I was considering what the true definition of patterning means.  To me, patterning is the development of similar ideas or guidelines in a specific construct, based on previously created schemas or biases.  According to Robert and Michèle Root-Bernstein’s “Sparks of Genius: The 13 Thinking Tools of the World’s Most Creative People,” a pattern is “…a repetitive form or plan,” and that to “…perceive a pattern means that we have already formed an idea of what’s next,” (Root-Bernstein, 1999. p. 92).

Prior to this class, recognizing patterns within Latin art was not an element (or “spark,”) that I focused much on with my students when finding connections (or discussing) pieces of artwork. Because Latin Art is a sizeable topic, I can say that finding a patterns within this topic can be quite the feat to conquer.  Previously to this course, I have introduced my students to some Andean traditional art (specifically art created by Indigenous people of Ecuador, Peru or Chile) and show them the intricacies and elaborate color schemes of these pieces. I’d have students point out things that they recognized in the work and then we’d talk about them as a group and eventually I’d give my students an opportunity to create their own similar art but in drawing form.  Students usually point out the pattern formations that they noticed – both in color and in shape.  For example, in the following Peruvian woven textile, here is a dualistic pattern of two serpents:


In the above piece, students would point out the double pattern on each side (both top and bottom, as well as side to side), which is specific to dualistic art.

Or here’s a Peruvian Wari Tunic, again showing us a continual pattern both in color and geometric shape:


I think there is a point in discussing Andean art in the class, because it allows students to see the consistency of pattern creation across a traditional culture in South America.  When my students get that opportunity to create their own (or mimic) traditional Andean art, they enjoy the simplicity of setting up a very visible pattern and then providing a pattern of color in it as well.  

Although I show my students traditional art, I personally find more modern Latin art to be more entertaining and interesting for the fact that it is more communicative and represents something much larger than the paintings/drawings themselves.  It communicates to the viewer information about the time period of when it was created and also emotes the feelings and sentiments of the artist and/or the Latin people portrayed in the art.

As I was thinking about finding and forming patterns in this module and doing my research on modern Latin art work, I noticed a recurring theme or rather a pattern for viewers to be able to feel and understand the human struggle during the 20th and 21st centuries for Latinos. This same pattern continues to present day Latin art, which even rolls over to Mexican-American (or Chicano) artists today who portray the modern day struggle through their art work (including graffiti murals and paintings).

The pattern of portraying human struggle in latin art isn’t as obvious as the patterns in color and shapes, like that of the Andean traditional art.  In fact, it wasn’t until I was doing research on different Latin artists that I came across this pattern.  I noticed that many pieces of art were portraits of people using darker-toned colors (blacks, browns, deep reds, navy, etc.) and showed a story.

Tasking my students to identify patterns, I would show them something like this ThingLink I created with different pieces of Latin artwork:

With my students, I would keep this pattern of the human struggle in the back of my mind, but I wouldn’t mention it to them at first. I would show them different pieces of Latin art (by different artists) and ask them to describe what they see in each painting.  From there, I would task them to get in small groups and use their senses to first perceive (use all of their senses) the painting and write that down.  Then I’d ask for them to find a pattern – I’d ask them:

  1. What similarities do you see in each of these paintings?
  2. What differences do you see in each of these paintings?
  3. Is there a notable pattern that you have found?
  4. Do you see any emotional connection to these paintings?

After working in small groups, we would get together as a large group and discuss the recognizable patterns that are easier to find (such as color similarities), and then through that discussion, I’d hope eventually someone would turn out a response about the human struggle pattern. If not, I would allude to it or ask probing questions to get to that response.  From there, I’d give my students an opportunity to relook at those paintings and see if they can find that pattern and denote what elements clue into the pattern of human struggle; what colors, what expressions, what shapes or what images within entire painting as a whole allude to that pattern? This way they can not only interact on a deeper level with the painting but also grasp a historical perspective of Latinos at the time in which those paintings were created.


Root-Bernstein, R. S., & Root-Bernstein, M. (1999). Sparks of Genius: The Thirteen Thinking Tools of the World’s Most Creative People. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.


Perceiving Activity: A perception of Frida Kahlo’s “Self Portrait with Cropped Hair”

I chose to pick a specific painting that I would show or use in my Spanish class to introduce and teach my students about 19th Century Mexican Art. I really enjoy Frida Kahlo’s art and I think that she shows  many different perspectives of Mexican culture and self-portraiture through her work.

As I was exploring which piece I specifically wanted to work with, I was thinking about what may open the minds of my students and question some of their own thinking about norms and normative behaviors. Which is why I chose to re-imagine Frida Kahlo’s “Self Portrait with Cropped Hair” from 1940.

Here’s the original piece:




At the time that Frida created this piece, she was divorcing her husband, Diego Rivera (another famous Mexican artist) who had been unfaithful to her (Source: MOMA).  My original thoughts and perceptions of this painting was that Frida was expressing her more masculine-of-center side. The side of her where she could and would feel more independent and maybe even do more (especially in the ‘40s and in Mexico).  I honestly took the painting as a way to express a feminist perspective on the “machismo” societal views of Catholicism in Mexico and the times of 1940s.  A viewpoint which was very gender-binary, you were either male or female, no middle ground and on top of that, masculinity was much more valued than femininity.

For the most part, when we look at a painting or piece of work we analyze or perceive it as it is. What does this painting do for us? What is this painting telling us? What is the story behind this painting? Often times we question the artist, asking them why the artist painted it the way they did and what does it symbolize? And we even question what kind of emotions are evoked when we look at this painting?  To re-imagine this piece of work, I decided to do the opposite and think about what it was like to be Frida Kahlo in that painting.  What was she thinking, feeling, seeing, doing?  And what was Frida’s perception sitting in the chair looking back out?  What was she wanting to tell the viewer about her feelings and emotions at the time of this creation?

In my re-imagination, I wrote out spoken word (poetry) and playing around in GarageBand on my computer, I created some music with loops to put behind the following spoken word: Link to Frida Perception Activity.

As I’m sitting here, peering out into an empty home.  

Thinking about every beautiful moment we had together.

Ruined by your unfaithfulness.  

I sit here with your ruined perception of my beauty.

I say goodbye to my hair.  Goodbye to my traditional clothing and goodbye to your words:

“Mira que si te quise, fué por el pelo, Ahora que estás pelona, ya no te quiero”

 “See, if I loved you, it was for your hair, now you’re bald, I don’t love you any more.”.

The faint smell of fresh empanadas and mole linger in the background as I cut every inch of my silky black hair.  Falling to the floor, each lock of hair unties me. Letting me be free, letting me be who I am as an independent person. Independent from your norms and the norms of our people.

I sit here before you with a lingered pain but also a feeling of freedom and comfort.

This loose suit just barely grips my shoulders and waist. In a way that doesn’t force me to sacrifice the person I have always been.

And for that, thank you for what you have done.  For now I am who I am, independent of who you are, both as a man and as an artist. I can sit here, perceived as an equal.

Originally, my thought of what perception is, is the idea of how we initially look or view our outside surroundings. However, after this module, I am understanding that perception is more than just visual. It includes perceptions using all of our senses — hearing, smelling, thinking and touching. Perception can also push the boundary of what we are perceiving physically and try to flip ourselves into understanding what that person or thing we are perceiving is perceiving upon us (like an inception).

I really enjoyed this module because it pushed me to think beyond what I normally do for my own classroom.  I want to take this activity and give my students an opportunity to pick pieces of art and instead of looking at what the art tells them, have them come up with their perception from the art’s perspective.  I’d even try to get them to write their own poem, spoken word or rap; and then teach them GarageBand and how to create a music to accompany their spoken word.

Inspiring Creativity: Creativity Around Us

Welcome back to a new year!  This assignment is for my CEP 818 class I am currently enrolled in for the Fall.  For Module 1, I chose to do this assignment in my own bedroom because other than my classroom (and my car), this is the only other place that I spend a lot of time in.  It’s also the place where if I am to be inspired by any creativity, it would most likely happen in here.  I feel like my bedroom is comforting and makes me feel welcome and secure.  It provides me that safe space to allow me to the opportunity to think and feel.  It’s the place where I can shut the door and get away from any outside stresses, sit in any emotions that I am feeling or just ponder to myself without outside distractions.

The only part where I feel that it dampens my creativity is the fact that it is such a small space, 10×12” and if I have a hectic week and leave clothing everywhere or shoes everywhere, it makes me feel claustrophobic and anxious which pushes me to leave the room.  To find another location to relax or even dream.

I think this room impacts my creativity because it surrounds me with everything that is mine.  I have everything I need in here to do creative things — create music, read, write, draw, dream or find resources online that can inspire my own creativity (ie. “Get the juices flowing”).

Based off of my experience, I’d say that my optimal creative learning environment would be a much bigger room that had blanks walls of canvas that I could paint on, a large desk area where I could keep my DJ equipment out all of the time and mix music whenever I wanted.  It would also have tons of notebooks for me to pull out when I wanted to write and most importantly, it’d have a walk-in closet so I can put all of my clothes and shoes away so I don’t always feel so squeezed in the space that I currently have as my bedroom.

The following is the document created in 1 hour of the 5 things I found in my bedroom that inspire my creativity: