Creativity Around the Edges

Expression of ideas

The work and teachings of the great artist Paul Klee, have captivated me for the past several weeks. One of his ideas is at the core of my ambition: to be able to express my inner world, visually. Klee defines art as follows: “Art does not reproduce the visible, but rather makes visible.” Perhaps I haven’t read enough of Klee’s teachings to understand how to ‘make visible’, but I will continue to try.

If you can’t get in the door, try the window

As with any endeavor, if one approach leads to a dead end, it might be helpful to try a different one. Thus, I am looking into the work and philosophy of Hans Hofmann. His words also support my ambition:

“A work of art is a world in itself reflecting senses and emotions of the artist’s world.”

“Just as a flower, by virtue of its existence as a complete organism is both ornamental and self-sufficient as to color, form, and texture, so art, because of its singular existence is more than mere ornament.”

It seems that Klee and Hofmann would have agreed with one another: Art is more than just ornamentation and art reflects the emotional inner life of the artist.

Flowers are symbols too

Hofmann uses the flower as a metaphor for art. Flowers have been used as symbols by artists for a long time. The article Obscure Symbolic Meaning of Flowers in Western Art History, lists a few of them:

“Iris represents Spring, regeneration, replenishment

Dandelion is symbolic of innocence, childhood, nostalgia, longing for the past

Violet symbolizes courtly love, courtship, spring, innocence, virtue

Tulips symbolize wealth, prosperity, commerce, trade”

Art as idea

Since artists express their thoughts and feelings in their art, shouldn’t there be a flower that symbolizes ideas? It’s about time to replace the tired old light bulb as the metaphor for idea. Time to get organic.

Today, I saw this collection of buds in the front garden where I thought the hydrangeas were. My sister-in-law told me that I was indeed looking at the hydrangea plants. I was surprised, since I remember their flowers as full, round balls of petals. What I saw in front of me was a collection of buds arranged in a planar disc. Some of the buds were blooming on the periphery.

I thought, that this flower would be the perfect metaphor for an idea. Admittedly, some ideas come to awareness all at once, like the light bulb. Others require much conscious thought and struggle and sometimes they come when one is unconscious. There are many examples of ideas revealing themselves in dreams. For instance, the chemist August Kekulé, had a dream in which he saw a snake biting its tail. He realized that benzene had a ring-like structure, a problem he had been working on for some time.

Then there are ideas that nibble away from the outside in. I therefore nominate the hydrangea as the symbol for the ‘idea’. Not just the flash of inspiration, but the combination of inspiration and perspiration that results in the full bloom of originality.

Photograph - Hydrangea


It will take a lot of perspiration to think of an appropriate icon for this new metaphor.

(Note: Today’s watercolor experiment didn’t pan out – more experiments tomorrow)

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