Jennifer C Vigil

The Secret To Increasing Your Creativity: Be Curious, Not Critical

TLDR: Being curious, not critical, transforms your art practice and teaching by increasing your creativity and making you more open to new ideas. When you have a negative response to something, be curious instead of beginning to mentally critique. Ask yourself, “Why am I having a negative reaction to this?” 

Victoria Veedell Jennifer Vigil and Carmen Mariscal in London UK
Victoria Veedell, Jennifer Vigil, and Carmen Mariscal in London, UK.
Follow up with the 5 whys–after each answer, ask yourself why again at least 5 times. Go deeper, and you will be surprised by what you discover and how you can use that information in the studio and elsewhere.
 

I am fascinated by where creativity comes from.

Unlocking the secret to increasing my creativity so I can share it with others is a minor obsession of mine.

This is what led me to lead creativity retreats in Florence, Italy. People have been trying to crack the code of what was the magic combination of factors that made Florence the epicenter of creative output during the Renaissance, and that is why I believe it is the perfect backdrop for a week-long creativity retreat.

The Uffizi Gallery along the Arno River in October in Florence, Italy Jennifer C Vigil Jennifer Vigil
The Uffizi Gallery along the Arno River in October in Florence, Italy. ©Jennifer C. Vigil 2017

MINDSET

Our mindset plays a big role in expanding our creative potential. While having a daily gratitude practice is linked to increased creativity, I believe the true secret is being curious. 

Curiosity is the key.

I notice that my creativity diminishes when I am more critical, judgmental, or negative towards my work or others. 

I began to embrace the mantra: Be Curious, Not Critical.

Being critical closes off thinking and brainstorming. Judgment and criticism tend to come from a negative emotional place. It is linked to scarcity, fear, and restricted thinking. 

Curiosity comes from a place of wonder, exploration, and expansiveness. Being curious invites abundance. The more we welcome abundance into our thinking and lives, the more easily creativity and multiple solutions flow. 

HOW TO APPLY THIS

At the beginning of February, I traveled with my dear friend and fellow artist, Victoria Veedell, to Paris and London to see various exhibitions. In London, we saw the Philip Guston exhibition at the Tate Modern.

To be honest, I wasn’t familiar with his work. I may have seen it before, but if so, I didn’t remember it. 

The curators visually illustrated Guston’s artistic journey from his early Futurist-esque work to more Surrealistic pieces, abstract compositions, and his final stylized representational work.

When Victoria and I got to his abstract compositions, I noticed I had a negative visceral response to those paintings.

Philip Guston retrospective at the Tate Modern Museum in London, UK Jennifer C Vigil Jennifer Vigil
Philip Guston retrospective at the Tate Modern Museum in London, UK

Victoria asked me what I thought about those pieces. I blurted out, “I don’t like them. There is just something that is off-putting about them.”

I could’ve left it with that and moved on to the next room in the exhibition. Instead, I leaned into being curious. I started thinking out loud and sharing my thoughts with Victoria:

You know there is just something ‘off’ with these works. So disquieting that makes me cringe. 

I am trying to figure it out. It isn’t the composition per se…hmmm. 

I KNOW WHAT IT IS!!! 

It is the pink! 

It is a very disturbing color. 

What do you think? 

It reminds me of something. 

Oh, I know what! 

Francis Bacon’s work! 

It reminds me of how Bacon painted meat. 

THAT’S IT! THE PINK LOOKS LIKE GROUND MEAT! 

That’s why it is so disturbing. It looks like ground flesh. Damn, this makes his work even more powerful! 

Now, I want to go to the studio and figure out the range of emotions I can create with color.

Victoria Veedell at the Philip Guston exhibition at the Tate Modern Museum in London, UK Jennifer Vigil Jennifer C Vigil
Victoria Veedell and Jennifer Vigil at the Philip Guston exhibition at the Tate Modern Museum in London, UK
Francis Bacon, Painting, 1946
Francis Bacon, Painting, 1946.

Had I not leaned into being curious about why I didn’t like these works, I would have left the show thinking that his art just didn’t resonate with me. That I just didn’t like it. 

Because I paused to explore why I had such a negative response to his paintings, I learned so much more about his work and his art historical influences, and consequently, I want to explore color more in my own work.

A BONUS

My observation about Guston’s pink became a dynamic conversation topic when we stopped to chat with one of the museum guards at the Tate Britain (the companion museum to the Tate Modern). 

We asked him if any other Rothko pieces hung with Turner paintings were currently on display. 

Victoria Veedell at the Tate Britain comparing the William Turner painting on the left with the Mark Rothko on the right. Rothko was influenced by Turner's layering of color to create luminescent compositions. Jennifer C Vigil Jennifer Vigil
Victoria Veedell at the Tate Britain comparing the William Turner painting on the left with the Mark Rothko on the right. Rothko was influenced by Turner’s layering of color to create luminescent compositions.

This led to a lively discussion of theater productions he suggested we see while in London, tips on getting last-minute cheap tickets, and sharing our exhibition reviews (as an art historian, I had lots to say about the exhibitions we saw 🤣). 

He raved about my “Bacon pink” observation in relationship to Guston’s paintings, quipping that I should be on the tele talking about art. I laughed and said, “Sure! Sign me up! I can talk about art forever!!” Of course, I thought, “Damn, I’d need a stylist and a serious makeover if I were to be on TV! 🤣

The truth is, I love it when I walk through my day leading with curiosity. 

Those days, I am full of wonder. It is as if the sun shines from within me, emanating a warm glow. I am in awe of the magic that unfolds before me. I make sure to take pictures with my phone, jot notes in my pocket journal, and collect little treasures from my adventures outside.

Horizontal Icicles at Snow Mountain Ranch, Granby, Colorado. ©Jennifer C. Vigil 2024 Jennifer Vigil
Horizontal Icicles at Snow Mountain Ranch, Granby, Colorado. ©Jennifer C. Vigil 2024
Driftwood covered in ice. North Point Snack Bar, Lake Michigan, Milwaukee, WI ©Jennifer C. Vigil Jennifer Vigil
Driftwood covered in ice. North Point Snack Bar, Lake Michigan, Milwaukee, WI ©Jennifer C. Vigil

It’s easier to be curious about neutral or pleasant things. 

The challenge is being curious when we don’t like something or it brings up negative emotions like:

  • Anger

  • Jealousy

  • Envy

  • Fear

  • Revulsion

  • Dislike

  • Hate

  • Scarcity

When something triggers this response, our default is to be critical immediately or put it into the “dislike” column and move on.

So I invite you to embrace my mantra: be curious, not critical.

Let me know how it goes. 

Do you have “wonder” days? I’d love to hear about something you discovered during a recent “wonder” day. I love reading your comments.

 
 
 

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