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How Observing Art Improves Creativity

When it really comes down to it, the best way to improve your creativity is to create. Do the work, put in the time, don’t be afraid to fail, and just try. The more you create, the more creative you will be. That said, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other, more passive ways to improve your creativity as well. Even the simple act of observing art improves creativity. Today, I want to talk about why that works so well, and how to take advantage of it.

How observing art improves creativity

It’s kind of surprising that simply observing art improves creativity, but if you think about it a little more, it starts to make sense. Observing art improves creativity because:

Observation (in general) improves creativity.

Being observant and being creative often go hand in hand. In fact, some studies have led researchers to believe that observation may be a key ingredient to more creativity.

This is because observation clues you in to the details of the world around you. You notice differences in colors, textures, shapes, and styles, but also in ideas, concepts, and forms of expression. 

People who are observant are better able to tune in to the subtleties of the human experience. This, in turn, allows them to tap into their subtle observations and use them to create powerful things for other people to observe.

Attention and awareness factor in here as well. Observant people are better at focusing and being present and aware in any given moment. This also aids creativity as it promotes focus and mindfulness, both of which are tied to creative thinking.

Art education helps improve form.

Art education—studying paintings or sculptures, reading literature, analyzing musical pieces based on theory, etc.—is more observation than creation. And yet, it is an essential component of quality creativity. 

There is a reason people who want to create observe and study the masters that came before them: it is a great way to learn different techniques, determine what does and doesn’t work, and apply what you learn to your own style. Once you know the rules, you can follow them or break them, but either way, you need to know them.

Observing the art that is out there—and knowing how and why it was created—is only going to help improve your own creativity.

Observing art invites inspiration and broadens perspective.

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”

Edgar Degas

Art is inspirational. Every one of us can probably think of a painting, book, song, poem, design, or other work of art that left us feeling something. It helps us see and experience the world in new ways.

Art isn’t about simple depiction. A painting isn’t painted to show you what a tree looks like; you already know what a tree looks like. A song isn’t just telling you about someone’s breakup in order to pass along the gossip. Art is meant to evoke emotion, to make you see something you wouldn’t have seen before. A photograph of a bowl of fruit can make you think about abundance, or beauty in nature, or the power of simplicity, or the fascinating quality of light. A song can make you think about your past relationships, your dreams, your self-worth, or your career. The power in art isn’t about what’s there, but about how it makes you think and feel.

Observing art improves creativity because it broadens your perspective by introducing these new ways to look at the world. It invites inspiration by helping you think things you wouldn’t have thought before.

In the end, the art you observe inspires the art you create. 

Observing art connects you to the world.

Similarly, observing art improves creativity because it connects you to the world. When you observe others’ art, you get a glimpse into their worldview, their experiences, their opinions, their passions. It gives you another data point to help you get a clearer picture of the broader human experience. 

This connection to the world, and to other people, is going to improve your creativity. You’ll become more familiar with human emotion (a powerful driver of creativity), and the interactions you have with others will fuel your creativity in more human, meaningful ways.

Observing art to improve creativity

Now that we know why and how observing art improves creativity, I’d like to offer three quick tips for making the most out of your observations.

Be deliberate.

It’s great to enjoy art for the sake of enjoying it, but there is also something to be said for deliberately observing it, too. Every once in a while, observe art deliberately. Don’t just listen to a song; think about why it works so well. Don’t just look at a painting; write down what it makes you feel. Take the time to notice what it is about the piece that is so powerful.

Try a variety.

Observing the same type of art over and over again will likely get you the same ideas over and over again. Mix things up by exploring different kinds of art that you wouldn’t normally be interested in: a different style, an unknown genre, or a different type of art altogether. This will help expand your horizons and apply what you observe about different kinds of art to the art you want to create.

Don’t use it as an excuse.

Observing art improves creativity in real and meaningful ways, but you have to be careful not to use it as an excuse to not create your own art. Consumption (observing) needs to be balanced by creation in order for your creativity to really flourish. So make sure you don’t get stuck in “research mode.” Force yourself to actually do the work as well.

Observing art really can improve your creativity. As you get inspired, fine-tune your observation skills, hone your craft, and connect to the world and the people around you, your creative thinking will flourish. So take the time to slow down, observe, and enjoy the art that other people have created. It will only make you a better creator in the end.

Discover your inner creative.

Creativity can benefit your life, but only if you let it. Take our assessment today so you can start learning how to live a more creative, fulfilling, purposeful life.