It is always a joy to hear Grayson Perry speak about art and the creative process. I discovered an article by Clare S Ryan on the UCL Website – a couple of years ago Clare was lucky enough to hear Grayson speak and has shared in her article his seven lessons in creativity.
Grayson Perry, the Turner-prize-winning-cross-dressing ceramic artist, is fast becoming a national treasure. So when you get the chance to go and see him speak in the flesh, at the inauguration of the Centre for Humanities Interdisciplinary Research Projects (CHIRP) and the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters (CELL), there’s nothing to do but go along and be dazzled.
And dazzle he did. Fresh from his wildly successful Reith lectures and dressed up to the nines in a glittering kimono, Grayson Perry lived up to his reputation as one of the most alluring personalities in British art today.
After being introduced by Professor Lisa Jardine, and with a cheeky glint in his eye, he took to the stage at RIBA with a certain confidence, which seemed to say: “Listen up academia, I’ve got a thing or two to tell you. Yes, even you, the Provost in the second row. And don’t think I haven’t noticed you, Sue Lawley, at the back…”
Fittingly, his lecture was about something I think the new UCL President & Provost Professor Michael Arthur approved of – how to inspire students. Specifically, the response to a question that a student asked him last year – how does he decide what to make his art about?
For those not lucky enough to be there, here are Grayson Perry’s seven lessons in creativity:
- KNOW YOURSELF
We are swimming in an ocean of information, all with the potential to inspire. But, as the student who inspired this lecture had no doubt already realised, brandishing an iPhone is not enough.
Grayson describes himself as “walking around in a vast plain of culture”. In order to stand a chance of whittling this down we have to know who we are and what we want.
He commands artists to take the terrifying road of ‘doing your own thing’.
- PQ + CQ (Passion Quotient + Curiosity Quotient)
Intelligence has now been reduced to Google. Passion and curiosity and the power they have to motivate are key to being creative.
Of course, motivation differs from person to person. He jokes that another artist, in India for example, might be motivated by the struggle to survive, whereas a student in the UK might be more motivated by looking good on Facebook.
- PLAY SERIOUSLY
This point is about not dismissing ‘silly ideas’. Grayson describes ideas as furry creatures – you have to be nice to the first one that comes out of the forest otherwise the others might not follow.
He’s also gotten a lot from playing drawing games with his daughter. He drew castles and characters with her, and one of those castles is now actually being built in Essex by a firm of architects (although that last example might say more about what it’s like to be Grayson Perry than creativity itself).
- BE UNCOOL (“Coolness is a straitjacket for creativity”)
In the early 1980s when Grayson was starting out as an artist, ceramics were just about the most uncool thing possible to do as they were heavily associated with the granny-ish craft shop. A bit later the ‘Cool Britannia’ of the 90s came about, which again Grayson hated.
Don’t go along with the crowd, avoid the hipsters and don’t be afraid to make art that you think is beautiful, about what you’re interested in (in Grayson’s case headscarves and kinky sex) and where you live.