Everyone is creative, and we all change the world with what we bring into it. When Debbie Millman’s mother was moving house, she asked Debbie to come over and sort through boxes of things she’d made as a child. Unbeknownst to Debbie, mom had kept her childhood art all these years. Debbie is now a branding genius, world-renowned designer, and writer living in Manhattan at this point in her life.
In going through one of the carefully packed boxes, she came upon a drawing she’d done around age eight. In this interview, she explains, “At that point in my life, I don’t think I had ever visited Manhattan, but in the drawing, I conjured a full-on Manhattan street scene: A man is hailing a cab; a young girl is walking with her mother, holding her hand; and a truck with a Lay’s Potato Chips logo on it is passing them by. When I saw this drawing, my “aha” moment occurred. I realized that deep down inside, I had known exactly where I wanted to live and what I wanted to do.”
Was young Debbie simply the ultimate, unintentional vision board creator? Or, does her experience highlight the power of the artist to channel the unseen creative forces of the universe through the guise of felt sense, inspiration, and deep intuitive knowing?
Creative Act Empowers Creative Acts
If you asked visual artist and teacher Alex Grey, he’d support the latter. It’s his understanding and experience that “the artist’s hand holds a spiritual tool of evolutionary vision. Every creative act empowers every other creative act. The painter channels the creative force into the artifact, and this artifact then becomes a battery ready to zap a viewer into a new way of seeing the world.”
Another perhaps more pragmatic way to frame this is using Ken Wilber’s four quadrants of integral theory (considered the “theory of everything”), which illustrates the four primary ways we experience and interact with the world and life itself, as artists, as humans:
- Upper left quadrant: The inner world of the artist
- Upper right quadrant: The artist making the artifact
- Bottom right quadrant: The systems of integration of that artwork into the world
- Bottom left quadrant: The inner world of the collective: our culture, our zeitgeist
This theory helps us consider the cycle of creation. The artist connects to the unmanifest and brings it into the world through their work. It’s then integrated into the world, which is changed from the inside out because of this new creation.
Finally, the artist finds inspiration in the changing world to conjure their next creation. And so, the cycle continues. “Once we understand things in a new way, we are able to create a new world. And then a person will have a vision in that new world, and the grand cycle of art continues”, says Grey.
The snapshot of Millman’s story illustrates the first two quadrants. The inner world of her young self had a precise idea, which she made manifest through her drawing.
Grey speaks to the last two quadrants, offering an example of how an image can become part of the culture. The rock band Tool used Grey’s The Net of Being image on an album cover and stage sets. The artwork became an icon for the interconnectedness between music and art. As it gained popularity and meaning through its representation in the music world, The Net of Being artwork ended up as a clothing print and multiple tattoos, now existing worldwide.
Supporting Your Daughter’s Power To Create
Remember the four S’s below as a framework for supporting your daughter’s inspiration, unique process, and authentic creation.
Space and Time: Unstructured time away from homework, chores, and expectations of what play should look like leaves room for whatever wants to arise naturally.
Safety and Celebration: Creativity and the unknown involve an element of risk. Encourage her to try new things (and model this by doing the same). Create a “happy place” that feels like a cocoon for your daughter. Somewhere she can relax into herself and connect to life. Celebrate or say nothing. If you’re going to talk about your daughter’s creations, it’s best to ask her open-ended questions. Leave critiques, corrections, feedback, and recommendations at the door.
Situations and senses:
- Explore the world together
- Help her have experiences in different environments and stimulate her senses in varied ways
- Explore music, essential oils, natural fabrics, and spontaneous dance.
Supplies: Art is unlimited. Think bigger than paints and paper. Ask her what she finds exciting and lean into these subjects and objects.
Grey leaves us with a thought-provoking parting shot: “The great uplifting of humanity, beyond its self-destruction, is the redemptive mission of art.”
Who knows what role your daughter may have to play beyond creating her own life in creating a new world for us all?
Written by Roxana Bouwer
Top image by Steve Johnson from Pexels
Second image by Fiona Art from Pexels