Creative and Reflective Capacities
My first artifact comes from a sustainable agriculture class I took last May. Our final project was to apply the techniques we had learned to design a new sustainable garden for the college. We had to choose everything from siting, crop varieties, and layout to watering and fertilizing techniques. I was happy to do this project instead of having an exam, because it allowed us to apply the ideas we had learned to a new situation, instead of just regurgitating information. Ultimately, we chose to place our garden in the decorative beds in front of Meldrum. This site had good sun, decent soil, and allowed us to turn a space with a few purely aesthetic plants into something lush and productive. The highly visible central placement allowed for greater public interaction, which we hoped would foster a stronger connection in people with how their food is grown. Although we used existing ideas and methods of sustainable gardening, which the creativity rubric does not rate very highly, this project was creative in the sense that we had to integrate these ideas to determine the best approach from a variety of options. Working within the confines of space, soil quality, and the strengths and weaknesses of each plant, we had to brainstorm, create multiple designs, and evaluate them to find the best, most sustainable option. This experience was invaluable to me, since this same basic process is followed whenever a new design is created.
My second artifact is a watercolor painting that I made for my high school painting class. This class had no guidelines other than that we create four finished paintings by the end of the semester. With no guidelines of where to begin, I initially had a very difficult time choosing a subject to paint. I had decided to make my first painting representational, because I didn’t feel confident in my ability to create a good painting completely from scratch. However, I wasted a lot of time trying to find images that spoke me. The inspiration for my second painting, the one you see, came about very differently. My friend was working on a watercolor painting, and I was playing with some of the paint smears on her palette. One of them reminded me of a tall, sober, three-headed alien, and I thought, “That would be a cool thing to paint!” The orb became the object of the being's contemplation. This painting marked a shift in my thinking. I had a much easier time finding inspiration when I started by looking inside, at my own ideas, and then creating forms to reflect them than I’d had by starting with the forms and trying to create ideas to fit them. I had not previously considered myself to be a very creative person, but this experience taught me an important lesson about artistic creativity, which carries over into other intellectual pursuits. While you can use outside objects to spark creativity, like the watercolor blob on the palette, the actual creativity has to come from within. Someone else would have looked at that blob and seen something completely different. It is this sort of thinking that leads to scientific innovation. As an aspiring scientist, I continue to try to cultivate that creative capacity.