Children are Instinctively Creative and Curious. . . Why Aren’t Most Adults?

By Phawnda Moore in Art Business Advice > Motivation

Artists, compared to the general population, are known to have unique traits.

One of these is curiosity. If you find that you’re more curious than others, you know what I mean. In school, you might have been the one to ask “why” while your classmates silently looked on. A friend in kindergarten actually asked me why I asked so many questions!

We can learn much from children. I’ve had the opportunity to teach a group of gifted students (grades 4-5) and incarcerated young adults (16 and older) to do a collaborative lettering design for a county office of education’s holiday card.

The goal was for each student to make a stroke with one tool and color and then it was the next student’s turn. Although both groups had the same assignment, the results were wildly different.

The incarcerated students were excited to “do art” but lacked the focus and trust to collaborate. I felt very sad when I collected their projects, the words Hope, Joy and Peace, because the lesson was lost without high creative abilities.

In contrast, the younger students’ instinctive participation far exceeded my expectations. Take a look at their creation:


My experience supports the theory that adults lose their natural creativity because they’ve learned non-creative behavior. You’ve probably heard someone sigh and say, “I’m just not creative.” What they have forgotten is that at one time, they were.

In 1968 a researcher, Dr. George Land, led a five-year observation of children and adults to determine levels of creativity. He tested the same group of children at ages 5, 10 and 15, and as adults.

Out of 1,600 subjects, at age 5, 98 percent were creative. At age 10, this dropped to 30 percent; at age 15, down to 12 percent, and as adults—just 2 percent.

The list below (which I compiled from a variety of sources online) defines additional traits found in creative people.

Commonly recognized traits of a creative person:

(Most creative people have at least half of the following traits.)

1. Curious, often child-like – explore, examine, question everything
2. Tolerant of ambiguity – comfortable with not having the answer all the time
3. Intuitive but also logical, move back and forth to process information
4. Open to emotions
5. Sense of humor, playfulness
6. Risk taker – yet also have a Plan B, C, D
7. Persistent – especially in what they are committed to
8. Self-disciplined, but comfortable with purposeful chaos and disorganization
9. Wide ranging interests
10. Sensitive – deep feelings, willing to care and commit
11. Sense of destiny to fulfill

Those of us who are creative need to nurture our gift. Hang onto the essence of childhood no matter the cost and no matter what your age. Keep a journal of what experiences renew your spirit. Collect inspiration in colors, shapes, textures, quotes, and objects. Have faith in your creative visions!

In my next post, I will speak more specifically on how calligraphers can apply these same principles—so if you enjoyed my first calligraphy lesson, make sure to check back next week for Part II.


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