Technique vs Creativity

You may have heard that the mastery of technique is superior to creativity and that it is only through the mastery of technique that one will achieve a higher level of creativity. In my opinion, they have it backwards. Creativity should always come first. I believe an artist needs to develop technique in response to his or her creative needs and not the other way around.

How people learn

As an art educator with over 20 years of experience, I have found that people learn “technique” quicker if they work on their own paintings and drawings rather than some boring old assignment or exercise I assign. It seems to work every time. This being said, assignments and exercises are beneficial if they have problems or need to experiment with the materials they are working with.

Worst case scenario

The worst thing that can happen to any creative person is to have some authority figure tell them that they are doing something wrong or that everything they have learned is erroneous, which by the way, is commonplace in most technique-oriented classes. Please understand me. I also believe that learning technique is equally important.

Balanced education

The balance between creativity and technique is essential if you want your student to learn faster. Certain teachers offer technique classes because they know that they can make a lot of money at it. Similarly, I’ve seen landscape painting classes divided up into “how to paint trees,” “how to paint rocks,” “how to paint clouds,” and “how to paint grass” instead of giving people the whole package and letting them decide if they need to come back or not.

Who do you believe

If you “spoon-feed” technique to a student and stifle their creativity, and feed their insecurities, then you can keep them a long time. Consequently, if an authority figure continues to tell them that they haven’t mastered something yet, then there is a good possibility that they will come back again and again. Who does this benefit?

On creativity

We are all born creative.  Therefore, you cannot teach creativity, but you can guide people through a process to help them rediscover it for themselves. Ironically, creativity is within each of us, but so few think of ourselves as creative. Therefore, creativity is something that many of us hold back for one reason or another. As an educator, your role is to provide people with tools to work with and help them re-discover something they already have. Everyone I have ever worked with is incredibly creative. Some creative re-discoveries have been exhilaratingly beautiful.


What is of the utmost importance is the emotional support of the art student.  Artists and art students alike are very fragile in nature. They need a tremendous amount of support and encouragement.  Our creativity is an extension of ourselves. It contains our emotions, our ideas and our vision.  Any criticism is taken very personally.  A good teacher supports, nurtures and feeds his or her students’ creativity.

Not just a select few

Creativity doesn’t belong to the chosen few.  We are all creative and are born with it inside of us. We explore it and celebrate it as children.  Your first step is to begin exploring and celebrating your creativity as an adult!

Today’s inspirational quote

But out of limitations comes creativity.” ~ Debbie Allen ~

About the drawing above

Title: The day after New Year’s
Size: 11.69 x 16.53 inches
Medium: Mixed media on paper

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