One of the first articles I wrote about when I was getting my MA Creative Thinking was In Praise of Convergent Thinking, by Arthur Cropley. I was a fan of divergent thinking, and praised it often! I was intrigued by the idea that convergent thinking should be praised in creativity, as well. After reading his article, I agreed! Convergent thinking and knowledge are super important parts of creativity. Look: “In the area of convergent thinking, knowledge is of particular importance: It is a source of ideas, suggests pathways to solutions, and provides criteria of effectiveness and novelty.” (Cropley, 2004, p. 2) Makes sense, right?
Then I discovered the work of Teresa Amabile — among other things, her componential theory of creativity. In a working paper summary from 2012 she writes that the componential theory of creativity “specifies that creativity requires a confluence of four components: Creativity should be highest when 1) an intrinsically motivated person with 2) high domain expertise and 3) high skill in creative thinking 4) works in an environment high in supports for creativity.” (Amabile, 2012) Domain expertise includes, — you guessed it — knowledge.
I spend a ton of time outdoors and enjoy playing around with plein air watercolor painting. The other day, I stowed my new travel water color set — 24 colors — in my backpack and set out. Reaching the summit I broke the kit open and began. I quickly realized there is a plethora of different colors in nature, and I wasn’t sure how to create them from my 24.
What was I to do?
Funny, at that moment, I saw the beautiful faces of my kindergartner artists asking me the same question. I told myself what I tell them. “Do your best and don’t fret!”
So, that’s what I did!
I wasn’t sure how to make the many colors I saw, but I did my best. I had a blast! I looked at the beauty before me for a long time — soaking it in. I sketched some rough ideas, and looked some more. I noticed shapes, colors, gradients, clouds, glints of light and much more. Finally I picked up my brush, made my best decisions, and ended up with a rather pleasing product.
But, I hadn’t forgotten what I’d learned from Cropley and Amabile, so when I got home I got out some sheets of watercolor paper, created a grid, opened my watercolors, poured myself a glass of sparkling water, and set to work. I was amazed, and really quite surprised, by the colors that were created when I mixed the paints.
This chart contains the colors obtained by combining only two colors at a time. Imagine what might happen if I mixed more than two at once!!! Or, just think how much more I might learn by contemplating the chart and noticing characteristics about each color.
The possibilities are endless.
This was such a simple, pleasant lesson about the importance of convergent thinking and knowledge for creativity. Of course I can be creative with the knowledge I already have. I understand some things about color theory and how colors combine. But, I learned so much by doing this work. I have no doubt it will impact me next time I paint. I’m excited to see how this will increase my creativity — not my talent — but my creativity.
To further sing the praise of convergent thinking and knowledge, several times I had to use them as I created the chart. I would absent-mindedly move to wash my brush in my sparkling water, and once even lifted the brush-washing water glass towards my lips! Thank goodness for convergent thinking and knowledge which reminded me that it might be unique, but not at all useful, to wash my brush in my sparkling water, or to drink the brush-washing water that was in the small glass!
Long live convergent thinking and knowledge!
Amabile, T. (2012, May 22). Componential Theory of Creativity. Retrieved August 18, 2017, from http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/componential-theory-of-creativity
Cropley, A. (2006, July). In Praise of Convergent Thinking. Creativity Research Journal,. Retrieved August 18, 2017, from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/247807708_In_Praise_of_Convergent_Thinking