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Left Coast / Right Coast: The Creative Gene

My wife is an artist. Our home is filled to overflowing with her creations. I got to thinking about the creative process. As someone trained in engineering, my background is the diametrical opposite of being creative.
Nancy Gold's art work. Photo credit: Mike Gold.

By Mike Gold, a retired entrepreneur "living the dream in the Pacific Northwest."

My wife is an artist. Our home is filled to overflowing with her Acrylic paintings (see photo of two of them).

I got to thinking about the creative process. As someone trained in engineering, my background is the diametrical opposite of being creative.

For example, I once was asked (as a part of an application for a security clearance) to draw a picture of something “real” (as a representation of a real world object).

I can’t recall what I drew – as it was perhaps 35 years ago, but I do recall the “evaluator” saying something like: “You need massive intensive therapy before we’ll let you anywhere near anything important to our national defense.

Many of us look at something in the real world and usually can recognize it for what it is. I, on the other hand, being analytical, tend to look at something based upon the “piece parts” that make up the object.

For example, I recall seeing the word abominable in writing, and the image I got in my brain was that of an animal (a bull) with a bomb in its stomach. (Get it?, a bomb in a bull). See, that’s just an engineer’s mind looking at something analytically - looking at the “piece parts” that make up an object.

When you look at modern art (take Picasso), you can clearly understand the artist seeing something very differently than the way most non-creative people see things. One guesses the creative mind interprets what it sees into its own images, exactly the opposite of the “literal” interpretation of real world objects that an analytical person (say an engineer) sees.

Or one could also say that “this artist is in need of serious psychological help.” Many famous painters were just a bit “unhinged” – at least that’s what the critics of that era often said.

How else to explain why Van Gogh cut off his own ear in a depressive funk and gave it to a local prostitute.

But everyone today acknowledges that Van Gogh was a genius. His paintings sell for over $100 million. Not bad for an artist that during his own lifetime only sold one painting.

Perhaps one of the most highly designed objects we see every day is the automobile.

Now as the Supreme Court wrote about pornography in one of their landmark decisions, “You know it when you see it.

Similarly, automotive design is very easy to comprehend.

When. Enzo Ferarri first saw the Jaguar XKE, he supposedly said, ”It is the most beautiful car ever designed.”

Likewise, the “infamous Pontiac Aztek is still considered one of the ugliest cars ever designed (produced by General Motors). GM’s own executive VP Bob Lutz (a major player in the auto business – having done very well at BMW, GM and elsewhere) had famously said that many of the company's products looked like "angry kitchen appliances."

There are hundreds of companies known as “industrial designers” that design just about every product you can think of.

Here is one of the most famous examples, Bauhaus, along with some of their products.

Some items world famous as being of the “Bauhaus” historical era include the “Eames Chair” and also the "Wassily Chair."

Now look at these two items. Per the Supreme Court decision on pornography, when you look at them, you just know (at least most people do) that the design is simply perfect. As is said in good industrial design: “Form follows Function." 

Other creative mediums include music and film. To me, to this day, there are two creations I define as true “works of art,” one in each medium.

One, music, is the song “Louis Louis – by The Kingsmen" (a Portland Oregon based group), and the second in film is the movie "Animal House." That film, in my view, is one of the most perfect movies ever made. There isn’t a bad frame in the entire film.

Another way to say this in a more common way is simply, “I like it.

If you like it, then it can be truly said, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

Author's note: In case you can't tell, the painting on the left in the above photo shows kids playing marbles.

The painting on the right is a gas station circa the 1970s. You can see the price for gas was 33 9/10ths cents per gallon when it was painted. Now those were the days!

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