During my Masters I took part in a focus group for a PHD student studying the relationship to Right and Left Brain functions in relation to creativity.
The aim of his study was “…to better understand the impact of interactive technology on the creative process.” In order to do this he also needed to “understand how creative practitioners make sense of their own creative practice.”
For as long as I’ve been using a computer for Photoshop, Illustrator, etc., I’d been told that, in order to be truly creative, ideas must be generated on paper first and that creativity could not, cannot, originate at the keyboard or mouse.
I always struggled with this. Rewind a few years back to the 10 years I had spent working full-time as a graphic designer in a various local authority art departments. Rarely was there time to get the sketchbooks out and spend a morning doodling before gathering into a creative huddle and spend a week deliberating over a leaflet. I wouldn’t say that everything we put out was a creative masterpiece, but as individuals and as a team we were creative, we had to be!
The key argument for zero-creativity at the computer is because we engage the wrong side of our brain…
The left hemisphere specializes in analytical thought. It is responsible for dealing with “hard” facts such as abstractions, structure, discipline, rules, time sequences, mathematics, categorizing, logic…
The right hemisphere specializes in “softer” aspects than the left hemisphere. The right hemisphere is responsible for intuition, feelings, sensitivity, emotions, daydreaming, visualizing, creativity… (the old belief that left-handed people are more creative does hold some scientific credence). The right hemisphere also has a holistic method of perception that is able to recognize patterns and similarities and combines those elements into new forms.
Taken from The Art Institute of Vancouver website
So at first glance one can understand the argument but, with more and more creatives sat in front of computer screens, does it tally with the reality of peoples processes and creative output?
One of the conclusions the PHD student had come to was based on the observation of his girlfriend, an architect used to using a tablet for creating plans as well as concept sketches. Her feeling was that this ‘idea’ of stunted creativity at the PC was historically linked to older, slower computers, there wasn’t the immediate creative feedback that occurred with pencil and paper. But that’s not as true today. Modern professional level computers are powerful enough that filters, brush strokes, etc., are as instantaneous as their analogue counterparts. So perhaps the original theory outdated!?
That’s not to say that I can do without a sketchbook, it’s nice to have the option, but similarly some things can be done more quickly on the computer. I also found that I would create ‘digital sketchbooks’, creating multiple variants of my work during the creative process that I could go back to and contrast with later pieces. So, in effect there’s not a right or wrong way, they are just different processes.
So, I was reminded of these theories recently while using a new (to me) photo editing app on the iPad called Snapseed. The interface is so intuitive – stroke up and down for men pallets and left to right for intensity of the filter.
The relationship between the movement of my finger and the changes in the image are instantaneous and because of the touch screen there is nothing between me and the work. Not even a pencil!
In particular I like that the menus are where ever my finger happens to be, as opposed to the iPad edition of Photoshop where I’m still navigating via specific sections of the screen and the delay between what I want to do and how long it takes me to get there feels too long in comparison to Snapseed where it’s just there!
After a week of using Snapseed I found myself craving an A2 sized iPad so that I could get to work on my DSLR images and see more of the detail at one time. Surely this is the future!?
Obviously, this is only one area of what Photoshop is used for, but there is no escaping the fact that for colour correction, cropping, and filters, my workflow is quicker and more creative on the iPad than it could be on my MacBookPro.
So, to answer the initial argument – can I be creative on a Mac without a sketchbook? Yes I think so. But there are clearly ways possible now that are better and are a glimpse of what’s just around the corner!
It’s all very exciting.
Get Snapseed from the App Store for £2.99 (worth it!) – or if you took part in the Apple 12 Days of Christmas giveaways you might find that you’ve already downloaded it for FREE (even better value!!) and just not used it yet.