What Does it Mean to Be Artistically Intelligent?

This week I’m continuing to explore my new idea of Artistic Intelligence, based on the existing theory of Emotional Intelligence (EQ).

I’m currently defining Artistic Intelligence (AQ) as the ability to guide our thinking to change our behavior so we can make art. It’s about recognizing and removing the mental obstacles that get in the way of making the art we want to make. It’s the ability to notice, identify, and manage our mindsets while creating art. And we can break that down into three distinct skills:

1. Artistic Mindset Awareness:

  • Noticing where our head is at.
  • Ex: “Huh, I’m feeling… weird.”

2. Artistic Mindset Identification:

  • Labeling what mental state we’re in.
  • Ex: “Here comes my perfectionism again.”

3. Artistic Mindset Management:

  • Changing our mental state to something more helpful if needed.
  • Ex: “I have the tools and resources I need to counter my perfectionism.”

Mindset Awareness

The first skill appears extraordinarily simple. It’s just recognizing that you’re feeling… something! It’s not even knowing what that something is. Awareness is just recognizing that we’re in a funky mindset at all.

It sounds easy, but of course, becoming aware of how we’re feeling when we’re making art is frustratingly difficult. Our default state is to just chug along getting more and more worked up, completely unaware that we’re getting overwhelmed, stressed, worried, or whatever mental state is brewing in our minds.

The first step, is simply becoming aware that something is happening.

Becoming Aware

Almost every week, as I go through the process of writing these essays, I get stressed out and worried about how badly the essay is going. At some point I usually think to myself, “welp, I guess there’s just not going to be a new essay this week.” I unknowingly let myself sink down, until I feel in over my head and overwhelmed at writing anything at all.

And then, just when I’m about to quit, something happens. I become aware of what’s going on in my head. It’s like I was in a dark room, running in circles, flailing my arms, and bumping into things, when suddenly, the lights flicker on. And then, out of the dark, I can finally see what I kept tripping up on.

And its always one of those pesky mental obstacles. Perfectionism, impatience, expectations, etc. In order to tackle those mental obstacles, we have to first become aware that we’re in the midst of one at all.

But how do we do that? How do we turn on the lights when we can’t even see our hands? How do we become aware of what’s going on in our minds as we’re trying to make art? And can we learn to become aware earlier in the creative process, so we don’t waste so much time fumbling around in the dark?

I think the path to that awareness begins with educating ourselves. How can we be aware of the mental obstacles we encounter if we’ve never really seen them before in the light? How can we accurately label something we didn’t know existed? And how can we use our knowledge and resources to guide our behavior if we don’t have any knowledge and resources about all this?

We have to know what to look out for. So then, when it pops up the next time, we’ll be better prepared to notice it. Even in the dark.

I’m going to continue to explore this concept of Artistic Intelligence next week with my list of the 15 Artistic Mindsets. Thanks for tagging along as I attempt to unravel the artist’s mind!

What about you?

What do you think about these ideas and theories?

​Join the group discussion in Might Could Studiomates or comment below to share your thoughts with us!

Join 10,000+ subscribers!

Sign up for my Substack email newsletter to get all my newest essays straight in your inbox!

  • 📖 Might Could Essays
  • ✏️ Might Could Draw Today
  • 📚 Might Could Make a Book