The Duck – A View on Creativity
Somewhere in school you studied psychology 101, and the one thing everybody remembers is the drawing of the vase and the profiles. You either saw the vase or the profiles. I saw a duck. It really wasn’t one of the choices. And it was okay.
Perception is NOT reality. It is perception and it is what allows you to color outside the lines without getting whacked on the wrist by Sister Kathleen. The thing I love most about creativity is that there are no rules, which has allowed me to ply my gift for over 40 years. Just imagine a world of creativity with rules. “Pablo, 2 noses? You can’t do that.” The only rule for creativity in its purest sense is that it is something that has never been done before.
I worked with the legendary Hall of Fame art director Helmut Krone (of Avis “We try harder” and Volkswagen “Lemon” fame). I was 20 years old when I worked with him. Late nights were the norm for Helmut…he really didn’t get it going until 9 or 10 PM. On a night that we were searching for a concept, in typical youthful frustration, I looked up at him and said, “But Helmut, everything has been done.” He just stared, or semi-glared, back at me for the next 40 years. I got the message. Nothing has been done. It is ALL in front of us. It just requires a little patience…and finding the duck.
When I was 8 years old, in 3rd grade, I had a serious run-in with Mrs. Cinelli. Looking back on it, she was kind of like the hunchback of P.S. 105.
Five feet short, a tad overweight, and moved around like a walking question mark. I didn’t like her, and I could sense the feeling was mutual. Imagine, having those thoughts at 8 years old! Well one day it came to a head. We were doing our art assignment. We each had an easel with an 18×24 piece of white paper and four bottles of Tempera Paint. Red. Blue. Yellow. And Black. And a huge brush. The other kids slapped away at the paper until it was covered with paint. I simply did two dots, a red and a yellow. Mrs. Cinelli came over and said,“Finish your painting.” I said, “It is finished.” She turned to the class and said, “This is why Richard will never amount to anything.” How many Mrs. Cinelli’s have you had in your life? Someone who tried to stifle your creativity? You know, I look back on those two dots and think to myself…they looked remarkably like a duck. Wow! My first duck.