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  • Writer's picturecarolyn land

Expressive or Creative

Between beauty of expression and power of expression there is a different function.  The first aims at pleasing the senses, the second has a spiritual vitality which for me is more moving and goes deeper than the senses.” Henry Moore

Today I am “thinking out loud” so to speak. Creative or expressive, can you have one without the other?   A colleague said recently that she was expressive but not creative.  That made me pause and has given me a lot of food for thought. And yes, I have given the comment a great deal of thought and research.  I have looked at it many ways.  At first, I thought I agreed with her, but the more I thought about it, I could not totally separate the two words, until I saw a 3-year-old having a temper tantrum and said to myself, he is being very expressive, but not very creative.

Acrylic painting by FL artist Carolyn Land


The dictionary says that expressive means conveying thought or feeling. That seems simple; but if you look further at the synonyms for expressive, you see words like: artistic, colorful, dynamic, passionate, energetic, vivid, evocative. Are those not the things that you want to see in creative work? When one is creative, is he not being expressive?  I dug deeper and read articles on both words. The authors used the words inter-changeably, or together like you could not use one without the other:  I read about: creative expression, expressing yourself creatively, and that by expressing yourself you allow your creativity to shine through.

Let’s take the word “fine art” out of our conversation. Look at, poetry, literature, dance, music, beautifully decorated homes, gardens, or amazing food, in looks and taste.  Are they not expressions of a persons creativity?

Everybody is creative. Where on the continuum of creativeness you fall is something else. What keeps individuals from moving up the continuum of creativity is usually fear of failure. After all, creativity takes guts, because you are expressing something of your most intimate self.

Pastel by FL artist Carolyn land

Breaking Through

Is it that people think that to be “artistically” creative, you must be abstract, nonobjective, or “cutting-edge”? Do people think that if you choose to express yourself realistically you are not creative? Let’s look at the creativity that is involved in realistic expression: picking the subject, editing the subject, the mood you set with your color choices, how you choose to use your medium or mediums, what you choose to accentuate.

Just when I think I have it all settled in my mind, I stop and think about the 3-year-old in the supermarket having a temper tantrum…expressive but not creative.  Not every act of expression is creative, obviously, but can you create something that is not expressive of who you are?  Are you not being creative just by trying to put your expression “out there”? It might lack vibrancy, but the act itself, of making something, and exploring your talents, is an act of creativity.  Maybe it has to do with where on the continuum of creativity the creator falls.  I don’t have an answer. This question is like, nature being my motivation for art making.  Expressive or creative, is something I am going to muse about for a long time.  What do you think?  Are you expressive or creative? Can you separate the two?

“The act of creation is a kind of ritual.  The origins of art and human existence lie hidden in this mystery of creation. Human creativity reaffirms and mystifies the power of ‘life’.”   Keith Haring        

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