Psychology Today: Everyday Chimp Creativity

Look what made the cover of America's #1 publication on general pychology!

The tattoo artists throughout Russia's prison system have never had lessons in painting technique (nor, apparently, hygiene training). They don't have ink and tools at their disposal. And yet they create entire murals on one another's chests and backs: onion-domed cathedrals, intricate cobwebs, chilly grim reapers. And they're not just beautiful decorations—they are coded biographies, telling those in the know their bearer's history and affiliations.

One would be hard-pressed to find a tougher environment than the jails where these artists work. Their ink is made from soot shaved off their shoes and mixed with urine. It's injected via guitar strings attached to electric shavers. The tattoos are a brutal mafia ritual. But they're also a mark of determined resourcefulness and self-expression.

When we think of creativity, we think of Mozart, Picasso, Einstein—people with a seemingly fated convergence of talent and opportunity. It's too narrow a set of references, because the truth is that all sorts of people, possessing various levels of intelligence and natural ability, are capable of engaging in fulfilling creative processes. Just because you'll never be Brando or Balanchine doesn't mean that you can't harness your idea-generating powers and make your life your own masterpiece.