The ThinkerIs the creative process that one goes through when conceptualizing a piece of art philosophical thinking? I think so. There is a lot to consider when thinking about a new idea (or even an old one), creating and displaying something that will capture minds and/or hearts, or generating something ahead of the curve that is both creative and practical in form and function, especially when weighing environmental factors as a responsible and caring human being.

All of it requires critical thought, especially when asking daring questions or going beyond the realms of the usual–to expand boundaries, illuminate the mind, and evoke emotion, and/or change behaviors or world views. It is precisely that type of thought that makes it philosophical in nature.

Think about Leonardo da Vinci. The first thing that pops into my mind is the Mona Lisa and that he was a famous artist who painted and sculpted. The fact that he was an architect and inventor is merely an afterthought. But, he was much more than that–he was a progressive thinker and a man of deep curiosity who thought about life vastly different from others by exploring what mystified him through mere thought (documenting as they manifest) or exploring through the creation of experiments to learn. In that process he often invented practical solutions to a number of problems for their era. He was a problem solver. Out of those problem solving skills often came new insight and creative innovation, as well as his art.

Now, I’m not about to give a lesson on Mr. da Vinci. I am no teacher and am certainly not qualified. I do, however, find it interesting that out of all the philosophers we ever studied he was not one of them. Perhaps they do at different universities, I don’t know, but, as usual, I digress.

On the other side, I believe when people think of philosophers they think of the usual suspects–old, dead white guys of the western sort (ahem…da Vinci fits that profile). Unfortunately, all too often, we do not discuss those from the east and all they contributed or downright offered. However, from a modern perspective, the philosophers of today are often considered to be those who think, experiment, study and/or write about various disciplines, within the sciences, that we have separated out into other categories (psychology, medicine, astronomy) or in the realm of political science and/or legal theory, etc. Most of those people have a PhD. A PhD is a doctor of philosophy, after all.

Now, I wonder why we do not think about art or artists this way. The idea that practicality, critical thinking and art mesh well together is something we should be more cognizant of as a whole and would certainly make for interesting class material, especially for younger students grappling with the forever daunting question about career choice.

Unfortunately, in general, I think our society sends the message that one had better go to college to find a practical career and art (any form of it) just isn’t it. Or, if you choose some form of art as a major in college you had better find something to “fall back on,” as they said in my youth.

I get it–we as parents, or as a society, generally want to see students become successful adults (whatever that really means anyway) and not end up as the stereotypical starving artist continually waiting for the next big break that inevitably never comes. However, there are a number of ways that one can attain a VERY well-rounded education that invokes critical thinking within the creative and finds the practicality in various forms of art–architecture and interior, graphic or landscape design happen to be just a few of them.

While I realize this thought has deeper tunnels to explore, the moral of this meditation is simply to convey how very wrong I once was in believing that critical/analytical thinking and creative thinking were two very different spectrums. I have since changed my mind. While each side of our brain may rule over certain cognitions, those hemispheres are highly collaborative and complement each other well enough that one can be both artistic and philosophical, which breeds practical creativity and can become a lucrative career.

Sleep tight for me! I’m gone.


By the way, thanks to my much wiser younger sister, the doctor of philosophy in psychology, for confirming that my train of thought was in the right direction relative to the hemispheric collaboration of sorts.

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About Jan Rain

See the About page. View all posts by Jan Rain

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