“Creativity” is almost impossible to measure. You can, of course, measure time spent being creative, and you may be able to detect qualitative changes and stylistic variations.
But is it possible to assign any such changes to a single agent – such as a drug?
I don’t think so. I do, of course, only have one subject upon which to report (me) – but I have a unique insight upon that subject. I will do my very best to be objective…
I definitely spend more time on art now, possibly more than at any previous time. But the drugs are, I suggest, only a small element in a mass of reasons.
My circumstances have a lot to do with the variation. Before my children were born, I had been engaged in learning more about the history and practice of art. I was also working full time. I still managed a fair few paintings, but I considered them to be part of my development and was not exhibiting. Then, of course, there were a few years during which artistic endeavour was put on hold because the children were very young and required my full attention.
Then I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. The youngest child was three years old.
Then my physiotherapist told me about art being a therapy (ooh!) and about the Mervyn Peake competition (double ooh!). I subsequently painted the picture from which the banner image of this blog is taken.
One after the other, the two children started school. I didn’t have a job at the time, so I had more spare time than I was used to. I started this blog. I painted. I dared to use the canvases I had bought years before but not used because they were too serious (the cost was distant, and one of the first canvases was painted as a special gift).
I had always known I had the potential, but I had lacked time, subject and style. The first I now had. The second I found in the local landscape (we had moved house when our eldest child was two, and I was walking the hills in preparation for a sponsored walk). The third, I had been developing prior to starting family.
In the interim period, my personal access to technology had increased; the internet had developed apace and opportunities to display work (on a blog, on social media, on collective online galleries) were manifold. And new.
I put a few photographs of the results on Facebook. Encouraged by the responses of my friends, I started an art blog. I started taking myself more seriously as an artist. I started spending more time doing art. Because I enjoyed it, because I was good at it, and because of the interest it was generating. I got invited to sell my work at a charity coffee morning via a friend and her parents. I didn’t have much that was saleable, but I still sold some paintings. I did more, this time with the intention of selling.
And you know what? They do sell. Sometimes they sell themselves, sometimes they generate commissions. I have almost achieved my long-held ambition to “be” an artist.
All of that should be enough to explain why I spend more time painting than I used to. Perhaps the drugs – with their reward bias – are contributing, but I don’t think that they are a major factor.
Now, other people will have different circumstances. But let’s hypothesise a “typical” Parkisonian creative. First of all, let’s assume that their age is more typical than mine. They’re in their 60s. If they haven’t already retired, you can bet your bottom dollar that they will soon after diagnosis with Parkinson’s. What do people do when they retire? Some of them take up a new hobby. Many of them take up art, some with no prior experience. (It’s relatively inexpensive and doesn’t require a great deal of physical exertion. There are also – apparently – loads of programmes about how to paint watercolour on daytime TV. I honestly do not watch daytime TV and I find video instructions very difficult to follow anyhow. But it does seem as if the how-to-paint programmes are targeted at retired hobbyists.) People who post to free online galleries (Painters Online is one such); exhibitors at local libraries; hopefuls at the Royal Academy Summer show: all include a disproportionate number of retirees.
Because I Have Parkinson’s
There’s another factor. I know I have Parkinson’s. I know that my future life, and my future ability to paint (especially on hillsides) is affected by this.
I do not want to let go of my artistic ambitions. Perhaps this is affected by the drugs. But the ambitions have been there since childhood. Have you ever heard people talking about having a novel inside of them? I have images inside me. Images that I want to make into paintings.
And I know that my time is limited.
So I take the opportunities where they occur.
Technical Improvement (Quality of Work)
If you practice something a lot, you get better at it. This is something that we know.
My work has improved. It has improved during the time I have been taking Parkinson’s drugs. You can see this in the sequence of paintings of the same hill shown on my art blog. But the improvement has been gradual and I do not attribute it to the drugs.
In 2002, I sketched Wayland Smithy from “life”:
In 2013, I used photographs (from 2013) to create more images of the same neolithic site:
The main differences are:
- an increased confidence in colour
- a “looser” style
Colour confidence comes with practice. I also attribute some of my colour confidence to a Fauvism workshop that I participated in in 1998.
Looseness is a quality that many artists strive towards. It is a movement away from excessive detail, overwork, and attempts at photorealism. My initial reason for using painting knives was to move in this direction. Working quickly, directly from the subject, has also been a factor.
Might Parkinson’s drugs have helped me loosen up? They coud have contributed by reducing my inhibitions. But getting older (becoming more mature) – and having children – has also affected my inhibitions. And – to be truthful – that first sketch of Wayland Smithy is fairly loose already.
This post is getting rather long, and I have things I want to say about style, so I will continue…