Creativity : A Japanese Aesthetic jump-start

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Jump-starting Creativity

In a previous post we examined the importance of knowing what you want to say. We stressed the need for a strategy combining both technical skills as well as message.  In this post we take this further.

Stuck for inspiration? Wondering how to jump-start your creativity? Something that I have found particularly useful is to set some constraints to work within. Yes, ironically, constraining yourself sets you free and gets your creativity flowing. By forcing yourself to work within constraints you make it necessary to think. You need to use your technical skills to overcome the self-imposed constraints.  With necessity being the mother of invention, you are literally forced into being creative. As you think yourself out of the constraints, you will be surprised how well you can jump-start your creativity.

One such set of constraints is the aesthetics of Japanese art.  My apologies up-front for any errors in my interpretation and understanding of Japanese art and aesthetics.

Japanese Arts

There are many traditional Japanese art forms. Geidō (芸道?), “The Way of the Arts”, refers to various disciplines of traditional Japanese arts. Each with it own set of rules designed to teach appreciation of the process of creation as much as the final product.

  • Geidō (The Way of the Arts):
    • Noh (theatre).
    • Kadō (flower arrangement).
    • Shodō (calligraphy).
    • Sadō (tea ceremony), and
    • Yakimono  (pottery).

Each of these art forms requires deliberate, precise execution in order to achieve the desired aesthetic.

To introduce discipline into their training, Japanese warriors followed the example of the arts of systematised practice through prescribed forms called kata, or detailed choreographed patterns of movements. Just practising, over and over with your equipment to get a fluidity of movement.  Getting to know your equipment and how it operates.  Dare I say, becoming one with your equipment.  All this helps free your mind so that you can focus on creativity.  The less time you spend thinking about how to set your f-stop and instead focus on what it is you are trying to say, the better.

Ultimately, the objective is to reach a state of “Mizu no kokoro” or “mind like water,” which refers to the reflective quality of water; or the instantaneous ability to react to stimuli.  Being so familiar with your equipment that you can instantly react to an opportunity will open the flood-gates of creativity.

Japanese Aesthetics

The second element of this strategy focusses on the message itself. What is it they you are trying to say through your photograph.  Once again, setting constraints can set you free.  Try focussing on Japanese Aesthetics as a framework and see if you can create images to express the following aesthetic concepts:

Japanese aesthetics

Using Japanese aesthetics as a framework to jump-start creativity

    • Miyabi (elegance, refinement, courtliness).
    • Shibui (simple, subtle, unobtrusive beauty).
    • Iki (simplicity, sophistication, spontaneity, originality).
    • Jo-ha-kyu (modulation, timing).
    • Enso (perfect circle).
    • Hondadori (alluding to a previous form).
    • Kintsugi (golden repair).
    • Wabi-Sabi:
      • Datsuzoku (unbounded by convention, free).
      • Shizen (without pretense, natural).
      • Seijaku (tranquility).
      • Koko (basic, weathered).
      • Kanso (simplicity).
      • Fukinsei (asymmetry, irregularity), and
    • Yugen (profound, mysterious sense of the beauty).

You might want to consider these aesthetics to jump start your creativity.

Take Home Message

Jump start creativity by setting rules. Try creating an image that embodies Hondadori, Koko, and Yugen.  What springs to mind is to emulate an Ansel Adams black and white print (Hondadori), of a weathered landscape (Koko) giving a sense of profound natural beauty (Yugen).

Give it a go and see what you can come up with.  Mix and match constraints, challenge yourself. Create your own constraints. Aim to see if you can create images that speak to people, allowing them to appreciate the intended aesthetic quality.

2 thoughts on “Creativity : A Japanese Aesthetic jump-start

  1. Pingback: Story-telling part of your Creative Strategy » Richard Perry

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