What Does It Mean to Be Creative?

A couple weeks ago I went on a rant concerning what I believed to be improper criteria for defining art and artists. Today I am going to give a few thoughts on another elusive word in the art world today: creative. As I was doing a little research on the definition of “creative”, I did what most would do, I looked it up in the dictionary.  As I was doing so I think I immediately discovered at least one of the reasons this word is so difficult to apply properly in the art world.

The word “creative” has homonyms. A homonym is a group of words that share the same spelling and pronunciation, but have different meanings. For example, the word “orange” has four homonyms. You can usually tell which word is intended by the context. It would not make sense to say that you ate a color, but rather the citrus fruit. If you think about it, most words have homonyms, including the word “homonym”, but I digress.

The problem with using the word “creative” in the context of art is that two different words can be applied in many cases without clarity on which is intended (Whose on first?). One word “create” means basically “to make”. Art usually involves making in some sense. The other common word “creative” used in the context of art means “resulting from originality of thought”. So it is possible to be creative (making things) without being creative (resulting from originality of thought) and visa versa.

If both meanings can be applied to the artist or art in question, then there is usually not a quarrel on the validity of the art or artist in question. It is when one of these two words for “creative” does not apply that controversy sets in. If an artist has all of the original thoughts but does not partake in any of the making, then then his art will be questioned. If an artist has incredible talent to make something with precision but does not have much original thought, the art will be questioned. What do you think? Do both of these words always need to apply under one person in order to appropriately call the finished product art or the person an artist?