Liner Notes October 2013

Preface: Liner Notes originally appeared on the cover of  record albums to tell the story of the band and the genesis of the recorded music. Liner Notes in this context is used to denote samplings of the artist’s creative, fluid thought process.


Artists occupy a space between what is and what could be. While artists may be stereotyped as being intuitive, instinctive, or mystical; thinking about the future is not that remarkable. In fact, it is quite common. For example, think of a barber at the barber shop. The barber-stylist takes a look at their customer’s hair when he or she first arrives. The barber thinks to him or herself, I can see the customer’s hair looking like this or that; and given the customer’s preferences, begins to shape and craft the hair towards an imagined finished product. When we examine everyday behavior of the average person, we might find that a great deal of people’s time is engaged in future-directed or goal-oriented thinking. A mechanic at the garage may be thinking of the steps he needs to go through to change an engine gasket, change a brake pad, or replace a lower control arm. A store manager may think about scheduling their day workers for the coming month. A parent or care-taker might develop a shopping list of things to buy for tonight’s or tomorrow’s dinner. Planning appears directly linked to visualizing and imagining the future; so what is so special about the case of the artist?

There appear to be two interactive attributes or characteristics that help define an artist: the first is their level of creativity and the second is their commitment to and involvement in the field of art. Researchers who study creativity agree that most creative people are inventive; they come up with or develop new ideas or things (Gruber & Wallace, 1999, 1989; Hennessey & Amabile, 2010; Lubart & Lubart, 2001; Sternberg, 1999). However, the personal trait of creativity can be found in people in areas outside of the arts, such as science, industry, and the humanities (Arnheim, 1997; Gardner, 2011). Being creative does not necessarily make one an artist. However, as research suggests, being involved as an informed creator in the field of art may lead to success as a creative artist.

The new theory around creative work is that creativity is as much a social enterprise as a personal one; and that creative persons need to have a broad and in-depth understanding of their field in order to make novel contributions that are of value (Amabile & Pillemer, 2012; Csikszentmihalyi, 1999). The domain of art has a very long and complex history with philosophical, economic, social and aesthetic dimensions. The field of art, as found in our society, is located in art museums, galleries, art schools and colleges, neighborhood art associations, community art initiatives, public sculpture installations, and on the web; and in the extensive discourse around art. Discourse around art takes the form of live, face-to-face conversations; art books; exhibit catalogues; critiques or essays; and journals such as ArtForum, The Brooklyn Rail (, and October (published by MIT Press). Access to current knowledge of the field of art is paramount to being able to make any contribution within it.

Access to the field, some degree of creative capacity, and a lot of moxie or grit (commitment and perseverance toward long-term goals)1 seem to be important factors in the making of artists. This makes my mind leap to several pressing questions concerning our current Federal government shut down. What resources involving the field of the arts have been eliminated or removed from the public? Who in the arts is affected and how? What effect will crimping the dispersion of knowledge (shut down of ERIC – Education Resource Information Center, a national information database) and access to the art field (closure of the Smithsonian) have on artists or scholars of today and tomorrow, or on the development of audiences who value their work? We’ll probably never know for sure. So for now, I wonder how many creative ideas we can come up with for addressing the federal budget deficit and federal government shut-down. There has to be a solution somewhere down the line.




Amabile, T. M., & Pillemer, J. (2012). Perspectives on the Social Psychology of Creativity. Journal of Creative Behavior, 46(1), 3-15.

Arnheim, R. (1997). Insights Of Genius: Imagery And Creativity In Science And Art. Journal of Aesthetic Education, 31(2), 100.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1999). Implications of a systems perspective for the study of creativity. In R. J. Sternberg (Ed.), Handbook of Creativity. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Gardner, H. (2011). Creating minds : an anatomy of creativity seen through the lives of Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham, and Gandhi. New York :: BasicBooks.

Gruber, H. E., & Wallace, D. B. (1999). The Case Study Method and Evolving Systems Approach for Understanding Unique Creative People at Work. In R. J. Sternberg (Ed.), Handbook of Creativity. United States of America Cambridge University Press.

Gruber, H. E., & Wallace, D. B. (Eds.). (1989). Creative people at work : twelve cognitive case studies. New York: Oxford University Press.

Hennessey, B. A., & Amabile, T. M. (2010). Creativity. Annual Review of Psychology, 61, 569.

Lubart, T. I., & Lubart, T. I. (2001). Models of the Creative Process: Past, Present and Future. Creativity research journal, 13(3-4), 295-308. doi: 10.1207/S15326934CRJ1334_07

Sternberg, R. J. (Ed.). (1999). Handbook of Creativity. Cambridge, U.K; New York: Cambridge University Press.