According to the experts, creativity is not something you inherit. It’s not in your genes and no one is born with a creative advantage. Okay – if I take a look at my own life, I can buy into that.
The creative Gatten clan (that's my dad petting the dog)
I had a really creative mom (I wrote about her in an earlier post) and my dad’s side of the family is thick with creative types. I have three aunts and an uncle uncle who paint. One cousin was an artist, one is a photographer, and another is a stained glass artist. My grandma even tried a sketch or two in her day. Looking at all these relatives, it seems like I might have inherited some kind of artistic bent, until you consider music.
My grandparents (left) were part of a musical group in the late 1940s.
Grandpa wasn’t a painter; music was his thing. There was an organ and a player piano in the living room and on Saturday nights the place came alive. Whoever was there picked up an instrument – banjo, mandolin, ukulele – or sat down at a keyboard. The singing and playing went on all night. Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey. Good Night Irene. My dad was one of those Saturday night musicians. He could pick up just about any instrument and make it sing. If creativity was packed into DNA, I would be a great musician. But although I was raised with music all around me, I don’t have an ounce of musical talent. As the saying goes, I can’t carry a tune in a bucket.
So maybe those researchers are right and I wasn’t born with a creative gene, but I sure was nurtured.
The cowgirl from Ohio
I can remember the first bit of art instruction I was given. It came from my dad. Like a lot of little girls, I was in love with horses. I had never been around a real horse at that point in my life, but I had lots of plastic toy horses (not to mention my Annie Oakley pistol and gun belt with real plastic bullets). I would sit and sketch my horses, which all looked like stick figures until my dad leaned over and gave me some guidance. “Look at their legs,” he said, pointing to my toys. “See how the sides of their legs are darker, more shadowed? That’s what makes them look round.” A light bulb went off in my little head and I began to look at things differently in that moment.
Still Life - pastel on newsprint, copyright Delmas L. Gatten
I know my dad doesn’t think of himself this way, but he’s an artist, too. I have a stack of pastels he painted long ago, all rolled into a tube. He used newsprint so they’re very fragile, but I carefully unrolled and scanned a few of them so I could share them here.
OT Gatten - pastel on newsprint, copyright Delmas L. Gatten
He painted these while he was in the Air Force, a few years before I was born. He was stationed in Arizona for a while and a lot of them have a southwestern theme, but this one is of his dad, my grandpa.
Treescape - pastel on newsprint, copyright Delmas L. Gatten
Today is Father’s Day, so I guess that’s why I’m writing about my dad now. But every time I talk to him, every time I use shadows to give things shape, every time he gives me words of encouragement, I am mindful of how much he nurtured my creativity and allowed it (and me) to grow. Thanks, dad. xoxoxo
Note to self: always nurture creativity, in yourself and in others.