In high school I did quite well on IQ tests but was a bit thick when it came to math, sports, maturity, and a pile of basic life skills. I also knew lower-scoring students who sported many of the natural abilities I lacked. As well, I hung out with some highly creative friends who were paragons of lousy decision-making. I began to realize there were other kinds of intelligence (or lack of it) that didn't show up on the standard tests. Later on, Howard Gardner's book "Frames of Mind--the Theory of Multiple Intelligences," threw some light on my observations.
Gardner identified different types of intelligence--linguistic, musical, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, and others. He includes art in the spatial realm.
It may take an artist to truly define artistic intelligence. Gardner wisely turned to Michelangelo, Leonardo, van Gogh, Picasso and others. The critic Clive Bell thought that creators like Picasso "belonged to another order of beings that were a species different from the common." The assets most often mentioned by artists are feeling, contemplation, imagination, sentimentality, memory, action--as well as drawing, form, design and colour. "The shop talk of artists," says Gardner, "dwells on the qualities of the perceptual world."
The writer G. K. Chesterton stated "There is a road from the eye to the heart that does not go through the intellect." This gives a clue to creative intelligence. While artists may find it difficult to be analytical and concrete, their form of intelligence can fly intuitively and directly to the emotions of others. Often energetic and impulsive, it can act quickly.
Artistic intelligences often contain a trait called empathy. Sensitive to and often bedazzled by Nature, human nature and the greater world, creators can also be vulnerable to exploitation by those with more standard intelligences.
Here's something to think about: Because artistic intelligences often hold dollops of imagination, the world of the artist can appear greater and more wonderful than the real world. To bear fruit, the creative imagination has to be harnessed by intelligent life-skills--like hard work, focus and practicalities. These skills may need to be learned.
PS: "A really intelligent man feels what other men only know." (Baron de Montesquieu)
Esoterica: It's been my observation that the artistically intelligent may have to teach themselves to strategize. Strategy means planning--hours, days, years ahead. Lack of strategy is the Achilles heel of self-employment in sensitive pursuits. This time of year we are accepting confidential 2009 New Year's Resolutions from our readers. We are also returning those Resolutions that have been entrusted to us for the past 365 days. If you sent one this time last year, it will be back in your inbox in the next few days. It's my sincere wish that you have a Happy New Year.