Sometimes I meet people who are genuinely curious about my creative process. A few presume a practise, where I am in some mystical trance orchestrating muses and inspirations, wearing my beret, standing zen-like, palette in hand, waiting for divine intervention. Haha 😊 A far cry from the truth! Others, who are acquainted with a different picture, often artists like me, enjoy exchanging a few words on the subject for the validity and the sense of belonging that it gives. There is something so comforting and consoling in the sharing of processes, and useful tips, with people doing similar work. It keeps you sane to say the least! But irrespective of who is interested in learning more about my creative process, I’m happy to share some of my observations.
General steps that I tend to follow
There is no exact or measured process that I stick to unfailingly when I’m at my studio. It depends a lot on the type of work that I am doing and on the deadlines looming large on the horizon. At times I get to do work that is spontaneous. On other days work is more methodical. Nonetheless, I am able to observe certain patterns in the way I work. Here, I will outline the main steps that I tend to follow when I start a new painting or project. I will present these steps in view of the model of the creative process by Graham Wallas (1926). Although old, this model with just four stages (preparation, incubation, illumination, verification) is widely used, simple, and quite straightforward to understand. Over the years it has helped me make sense of my own creative process.
Let’s say that I have a concept that I’d like to work on. And for the sake of an example, let us give it a name. I’ll go with Korona, since it’s hip. I can spend quite a long time entertaining ideas about a concept. Generally, such concept nudges me every so often, when it doesn’t get enough merited attention. It resurfaces from time to time and this is the first sign that such concept has relevance. In contrast, occasionally concepts come about unexpectedly. I just feel drawn to and inspired to work on an idea. When I finally decide to go ahead with a painting or project, I start with research. I read stuff. Listen to stuff. Look at images, objects, and things related to the subject. I brainstorm. I filter through my sack of life experiences. I collect physical things. I plan photo shoots. I take photos. I sketch. I think about the concept at length. Essentially, I prepare myself for the following steps. The idea is now developing. Every now and then I add an ingredient to the huge bubbling pot of soup.
The following step is when I put such project on the back burner. Korona is there but not really there. Since the nature of my work requires me to do different things simultaneously, this is a time where I am typically working on another project in parallel. My focus is on a different task and I am not actively thinking about Korona.
But the thing is this. Although I am not actively thinking about Korona, subconsciously I would still be processing the stuff I collected and researched. I describe it as work in progress behind the scenes.
And one fine moment, either while having a shower, or while waiting in line (staying at least two metres away from people), or in a dream, I get that much awaited moment of clarity! Now this is spooky! Just like that, out of nowhere, I see a solution. This is again an example of inaction. Although I am not deliberately and consciously thinking about Korona, my mind works overtime to find me answers. Very helpful indeed!
It is work o’clock and now it is time to refine my ideas. I develop them further, produce additional sketches, take new reference photos, sharpen things up and revise things. It is generally at this stage when I feel prepared enough to take the leap and do the actual painting work. From this point onwards I believe that the work becomes more mechanical. It becomes more technical and concerned with solving problems that arise through the actual doing phase. Different skills come into play and the focus is on execution. It is during this stage that I reflect on my work and do the necessary actions to arrive at the desired final work. Korona is nearing completion.
Is this written in stone?
Sharing such process is not intended to put across the ‘only way of doing things’. Another person might have a completely different experience. As artists, and human beings, we are all unique and we approach how we create differently. This is merely my experience. Yet, some steps I take might be mirrored in the practise of others.
The creative process is not essentially linear. Besides, it can happen over different timespans. And it is likely that various processes are at work simultaneously, all overlapping each other. External factors, such as the space you work in, pressures, and limitations, to mention a few, have their own impact on the overall equation. Even though a range of aspects are to be considered, I feel that it is quite important for someone to become more aware of his or her own creative process in order to understand what works and what doesn’t. Learning how to maximize your creative potential is always an asset, even if applied to very simple daily tasks. I encourage you to give it some thought. How do you approach your creative tasks? Do you employ similar strategies? What are your thoughts on the creative process?