Thinking skills model


Dear Artist,

Professor Gerard Puccio, who chairs the Department for Creativity and Change Leadership at SUNY Buffalo State College, has developed a creativity training program called the Thinking Skills Model. His seven-step system is designed to challenge the notion that creative thinkers are born and not made, and instead proposes that anyone, over time, can “program” themselves to be creative. The Thinking Skills Model focuses on two types of thinking: convergent thinking, which is the cultivation of practical ideas with the best chance of actually being used, and divergent thinking — the wild, pie-in-the-sky stuff mortals often associate with madness and genius. Apparently, both types are necessary in creative thought and should be fostered in equal measure.

Buste de femme Oil on canvas 81 × 65 cm by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

Buste de Femme, 1944
Oil on canvas
81 × 65 cm
by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

While developing his program, Puccio gathered a few hundred participants and asked them to come up with ways to encourage people to use the Greater Buffalo transit system. He split them into groups based on creative experience and measured their ideas — in quantity, flexibility, breadth and originality, and also noted that the participants with the best solutions had often combined ideas into more evolved and complex concepts or refined earlier iterations. This combining ideas-idea only kicked in with people who had been in the program for a while — supporting the theory that creativity is strengthened with practise.

Perhaps, for artists, this is all a bit obvious. Problem-solving in the studio is in the doing, and should improve over time. The doing is what inspires innovation, evolution, and revolution at the end of the brush. In the slow-burn of fine art, creativity is the main muscle, in need of the daily rigor of exercise and hands-on attention and examination. The committed understand that their ideas, rather than, say, the muse, are what beget more ideas, flowing from one to the next, into a lifelong set of self-built springboards.

Le Marin, 1943–1943 Oil on Canvas 129.3 x 80.7 cm

Le Marin, 1943
Oil on Canvas
129.3 x 80.7 cm
by Pablo Picasso



PS: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” (Pablo Picasso)

Esoterica: For anyone who’s keen to sharpen both convergent and divergent ideas, they can try applying Puccio’s steps to small and large problems throughout the day. For an artist, any studio quagmire will do. Here are Puccio’s seven steps — try them with the goal of creating a “useable” solution, then do it again, but make something totally impractical. You’ll likely recognize the Thinking Skills Model as, in fact, the easel process. The other name for it, is “painting.”

Assess the situation (blank canvas)
Explore the vision (choose a subject, plan your work, squeeze paint, push brush)
Formulate the challenges (inevitable problems)
Explore ideas (use these problems to discover new understanding)
Formulate solutions (keep going, learn from errors)
Explore acceptance (finish and move on)
Formulate a plan (begin again)

Guernica, 1937 Oil on canvas 3.49 x 7.77 m by Pablo Picasso

Guernica, 1937
Oil on canvas
3.49 x 7.77 m
by Pablo Picasso

“Creativity can be described as letting go of certainties.” (Gail Sheehy)

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“Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.” (Pablo Picasso



  1. Yes, those are the seven step of the routine of making paintings. I can’t paint for 8 hours a day, my 8 hours of creating via paint is spread over days. I find a creative mind is always ready to participate in something it’s called to do. Sometimes it creates more work for me than I anticipate, but I can’t control that, nor do I want to. Interesting letter, Sara, thank you!

  2. carlene lagrou on

    Thanks for this. It is interesting how Picasso put the 7 steps down so simply. Intellectually we do that but writing it down makes it a process that you can teach other painters.

  3. “The writings of Sara Genn meet at the intersection of poetic and informative.”
    – Miles Patrick Yohnke

    This wonderful new article of yours Sara is another excellent example of my quote for you. Tomorrow, June 20th, 2021 is Father’s Day and I cannot help but think of your beautiful father, Robert. Your father was the first person to publish my writings. The first person that believed in my thoughts. I had practiced a lot but his encouragement made me take it to a whole other level.

    Because of him my writings are now used all around the world to help other human lives. I’m deeply indebted to your father, Sara.

    On your 42nd birthday, Sara, your father departed.

    I was worried about the Twice-Weekly Newsletter and what would become of it. For it had been a resource that helped my life in so many ways.

    And now, seven years later, the Twice-Weekly Newsletter still marches on because of you. Inspiring people from all corners of the world.

    Your father is looking down and is so proud of you Sara. I am so proud of you.

    I hope Peter & you have a beautiful weekend.



    “Practice being amazing and you’ll become exactly that.”
    – Miles Patrick Yohnke


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Featured Workshop

Mexico Art Retreat for Women January 23-30, 2022
January 23, 2022 to January 30, 2022

 DETAILJoin Ellie Harold for “Intuitive Painting: Permission to Paint Expressively,” designed especially for mature women artists of all skill levels who wish to explore this medium for soulful exploration. The retreat provides attractive accommodations (your own room!) along with lightly structured activities for centering, relaxation and low stress art-making. You’ll have plenty of free time to muse, paint, write and reflect while enjoying the colors, textures and flavors of San Miguel. This Retreat has the potential to transform not only your art but your life! You’ll return home with a specific art “care plan” to assure support for further creating. Details at

  23rd Psalm, 2019
30 x 24 inches

Featured Artist

I grew up on a farm in Ohio, and that experience gave me a love of nature and the seasons and a deep belief in personal independence, as well as a love of experimentation. These have been the foundations of my work as a painter. I believe that learning in art or any subject is lifelong, and that the most important lessons we learn are through our personal interests and experimentation. After my husband’s death in 2018, I visited Israel the next year, and was inspired by the amazing landscape colors, and especially the old city of Jerusalem, with its crumbling walls, and its deep religious importance. I found my way out of grief by painting the Eight Gates of the old city.


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