Over a week ago I asked “Who Are The Most Creative People?“, my answer was “Children” and I explained why. A couple of days later my cousin emailed me a psychedelic work done by my nephew in Photoshop. He is only 11 and just recently started playing with Photoshop. He didn’t take any courses and nobody taught him how to use that software. But that didn’t stop him from exploring the program and discovering what can be achieved there.

He was browsing around, looking for photos that he could use to experiment with Photoshop. When he came across a photo of Tom Cruise he decided that it’s going to work perfectly to attain the image that he had in mind: a Magician. It took him less than an hour to achieve the needed result, and after a series of filters and experiments with various Liquify modes the Black Magician was born.


tomI was so impressed that I asked my cousin to email me the original photo that served as a canvas for that work of art. It was just one of the boring photos of a pretentious celebrity. But the right combination of colours and contrast for what my nephew had envisioned made him to save the photo and open it in Photoshop.

So can you see now why I was so adamant in stating that children are the most creative people, and that everyone is creative by nature? All we need is to be daring and don’t let the lack of knowledge stop us from achieving our goals.

What is the best way to learn?

Here’s what I’m wondering about: who in your opinion is better off being more creative with using tools like Photoshop: those, like my nephew, who are learning the tools by simply experimenting with them, or those who took special courses and learned all the insides and outs of the program?

Since I’ve never taken any graphic design courses, I find myself constantly learning those applications by checking out online tutorials, reading magazines and books, experimenting with the tools. Sometimes I feel trapped due to the lack of knowledge of the application, other times I just set myself free and dive into the sea of unlimited possibilities offered by the program and my imagination.

After all, books and magazines show us only one or two options to achieve certain effects, it shouldn’t stop us from exploring other ways to do the same. Often by going with a different path we find some hidden gems we’ve never read about, or even getting better results. Before reading Brian’s article I didn’t even realize that there are more than two ways to get black&white photos in Photoshop: apparently there are 12 of them, and perhaps even more found by more inquisitive minds like my nephew.

And what about credits?

On a side note: there’s a great discussion going over at Graphic Design Blog, initiated by Lauren and Tara, on when should we give credits for using someone’s photo. So my question here is: would it be possible to credit the Magician image to my nephew? Visually these before and after pictures are very different, but is it allowed to use someone’s photo, change it completely and present as your own work? In this particular case the original photo was taken from Celebrity Exchange site, but it’s impossible to find out who’s the actual photographer of that picture. So what’s the course of actions here? What do you think?

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11 Insightful Bits in response to “Creativity In Action: From Boring To Magical”

  1. Hi Vivien

    Many thanks for the link.

    I didn’t really learn any design programs at design college, we were still using quills :) . I learnt most of what I know from teaching myself and from people I have worked with. Since being freelance I have paid for a couple of days training, one in dreamweaver, which I still didn’t get the hang of, but after encouragement from a load of you guys I have just downloaded the latest trial version to try in, dare I say it “code view”. I also paid for a days training in HTML which although I had been reading books pointed me in the right direction. I think ultimately we have to teach ourselves through experience, but a few hours with someone who knows what they are doing can save days of pulling your hair out.

  2. I tend to just finally figure things out too through trial and error. I have Adobe CS and haven’t gotten very deep into it. I haven’t looked at the tutorials, one day I will just sit down and tinker.

    I think when you combine training with out of the box thinking and experimentation you get a more skilled user of a product than when you just utilize one method.

    Interesting image.

  3. Vivien

    You did a smart thing, Tara, getting someone to teach you and point to the right direction. It does make the learning curve not that curvy and cuts down on the hours of frustration.

    A few times I’ve asked my colleagues-designers to teach me some stuff in PS or AI. It only took one of them 10 minutes to explain me how PathFinder works in Illustrator, but it made so much easier for me to work with Illustrator afterwards.

    I agree, Joey, training helps but it shouldn’t stop there. When I was teaching full time, I was always telling my students that I teach them only fundamentals, it’s up to them to take the acquired knowledge to the next level, and that they shouldn’t think that there will be no more learning for them after the graduation, on the contrary – that’s when the real learning starts – in real world, not at school.

  4. I was always more into “learn as you go” than taking courses. Though PS was a too much of a mistery to me, I did used tutorials on the internet. They are more useful than any course: you do them in random order, and they are “hands on the job” way of learning. I think that is connected to our generation. Internet changes the way we think and learn. From the invention of the hypertext we tend to access information randomly, not by preset order. We learn differently from our predecesors.

    About credits… We live in the XXI century. Manipulation and derivation from existing works is treated as a new work. Giving credits is welcomed if it is possible, but sometimes it just can’t be done. But, there is no point in not publishing something just because you don’t know who was the author of the one of your sources.

  5. I totally agreed with you that kids or children are definitely more creative.They are not inhibited and they don’t stereotype either. To them, anything goes….that’s where creativity thrives. Or having the ” what-if ” mentality. Like you’ve mentioned self-reading is a great way of learning. I love reading These are two of my favourite books on creativity. “How To Get Ideas” by Jack Foster and “Jump Start tne Brain” by Doug Hall. Highly recommended.

  6. Vivien

    dandellion, I’m sorry – have no idea why your comment went into moderation, it should’ve appeared right away.
    Thanks for those links – I agree, internet has changed our ways of thinking and perceiving new information. I think overall we become more spoiled as the time passes by, too many things we take for granted, our expectations are much higher now. And thanks for answering my questions about giving credits. I wouldn’t mind anyone using my work or photo if I can’t even recognize it myself.

    kher Cheng Guan, thanks for the book recommendations. You’re absolutely right – children are not affected. I wonder at what age do we start building stereotypes?

  7. (about comment going to moderation… probably because of two links in it)

  8. vivian,

    that is excellent piece of work by the 11yr old champ. Wonder what he is going to do with photoshop and other tools once he grows older, feel he is going to create a bit of magic

  9. Vivien

    You’re right, dandelion – I thought that 2 links are okay, but it says 2 or more – put in a queue, so I just changed it to 3.

    Thank you, seo training. I hope my nephew will stick to Photoshop and other programs and stay as curious and fearless to try things out as he is now.

  10. I took 3 classes in Photoshop for my degree, which was a total of 9 months of training, 4 hours/week, plus countless hours of experimenting and figuring things out on my own. I still don’t know many of the features and I’ve been working in it for over 2 years!

    Vivien, you said it exactly perfect, “I teach them only fundamentals, it’s up to them to take the acquired knowledge to the next level.” That’s what I learned, the fundamentals, and I learn easiest from someone teaching me (then I can ask questions!!!). Tutorials are nice, but the ones that teach you WHY something is done a certain way (and that there are plenty of other ways to do it) will be the most valuable because then you know how to translate that knowledge/skill into a real life situation.

    As to copyright, in the spirit of the Fair Use law, if a work has been significantly altered by another individual it is legal (perfect example is your nephew’s illustration). This is called “transformative use.” See Koons vs. Blanche for more info, especially paragraph 4 :)

  11. Vivien

    You’re absolutely right about the WHY part, Lauren.

    Thanks so much for the link to Koons vs. Blanche. For everyone else, who doesn’t have time to read the entire article or open it in a new tab, here’s that important 4th paragraph that answers my questions:
    “The painting’s use does not ‘supersede’ or duplicate the objective of the original, but uses it as raw material in a novel way to create new information, new esthetics and new insights. Such use, whether successful or not artistically, is transformative.”

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Hi, I'm Vivien. Thanks for visiting my Inspiration Bit. I often find myself scouring the internet looking for either answers to many questions I have or websites that inspire me, sites that I can learn from. On what topics you might ask — any topics that interest me, anything from web design to typography and art, from blogging to entrepreneurship, from programming to open source.
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When I'm not blogging, I design web sites, teach, play with my daughter and try to balance family, work, friends and a somewhat active social life on