I am writing about the creative process this week in an attempt to provide a behind the scenes view of what it takes for me to bring an idea to a realized concept and finally a completed painting or drawing. My inspiration for this blog post comes from an article by Amanda Truscott, entitled, This is What Creative Inspiration Really Looks Like, on www.skinnyartist.com. I believe inspiration, or what the Greeks termed, “the Muse” is something which must be sought after in order to be found. Although it may seem to be a sudden insight, in my experience, it is not an isolated light bulb moment. Sometimes, indeed often, bringing my artistic visions to life it is the result of a hard-won battle of trying out different ideas in sketches, paintings, etc., to test out a compositional idea or a color scheme. Sometimes these ideas work, and sometimes they don’t and I need to make more revisions to the color schemes, composition, etc., to make it a successful artwork. Other times, I have to start over the painting from scratch.
For example, in my ongoing poetry illustration series, Voices and Visions, it has been a combination of hunting for inspiring poems to illustrate; these poems need to have some visual imagery and themes that lend themselves to storytelling, in order for me to consider them as potential candidates. So far, I have found a few poems written by Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and T.S. Eliot, whose works have several identifiable themes such as hope, time, and the artificiality of modern life. After reading the poems, I researched literary criticisms to identify possible themes that seem to suggest a story or feeling which I translated visually through specific symbols or color schemes. I followed up these steps by looking for artwork by artists whose artwork has a narrative theme, such as Jacob Lawrence, Faith Ringgold, and Andrew Wyeth. When I found artwork that inspires, I pasted it into a sketchbook for future reference. Finally, after these steps have been completed, I created a photo collage in Adobe Photoshop of found images that I locate online and modify in Photoshop by creating several layers and layer masks. When I was pleased with the composition in my Photoshop files, I printed them out to scale, and then traced them onto my substrate of choice using carbon paper and pen, usually to cotton duck canvas or cold press watercolor paper. The painting is then completed in watercolor paints or acrylic or mixed media. Finally, I worked on the painting for 1-2 weeks, making revisions as I painted.
In addition, the backbone of the creative process for me is always the deliberate practice of the fundamentals of art, such as drawing or painting, so that when I finally find that intersection between deliberate practice and purposeful searching for inspiration, everything clicks. Although this process may seem instantaneous to others who were not there to watch the process, or read my blog posts, it is a painstaking process. It is not simply talent which I was born with that brings my visions and goals to life, it is a decision followed by a series of actions. It takes willpower and self-discipline to practice drawing and painting every week, and to continually seek out artistic inspiration through Pinterest searches, reading art books, watching documentaries about artists on youtube, reading poetry books, literary criticism, creating inspiration sketchbooks, etc. Moreover, it takes grit and determination to stick with a painting even when it goes wrong, and to figure out what went wrong so that I can critique the artwork
Waiting Creative Block: Stage 1. Here is the Photoshop file made with found images on the internet.
Stage 2: Creative Block: Waiting, stage 2. In this photo is the watercolor paining with sepia brown paint.
Stage 3: Creative Block: Waiting, stage 3. I was unhappy with the composition which seemed too busy, so I painted some items out with Acrylic Gesso.
Stage 4: Creative Block, Waiting, stage 4. I started to add color with acrylic paint, after the acrylic Gesso had dried.
Stage 5: Creative Block: Waiting. The image seemed too empty so I started adding more shapes in again with acrylic paint.
Stage 6: Creative Block, Waiting. I made a new Photshop file, where I adjusted the composition to make it simpler and added color to the black and white images. I also added a photo with sand dunes and decided to get rid of the cracks in the foreground.
Stage 7: Waiting, Creative Block. I started to re-draw the composition with white pastel and did began painting the figure, adding shadows and highlights to the hair and face.
Stage 8: Creative Block, Waiting. Here I toned down the color of the sky, which seemed too saturated and which competed too much with the figure.
Stage 1: The Secret Sits, poem by Robert Frost. Here I started to create a Photoshop photo collage using found photos from the internet.
Stage 2: The Secret Sits, poem by Robert Frost. In this stage, I sketched out the composition with pencil, creating a three value sketch of white, gray and black on paper.
Stage 3: The Secret Sits. Color test 1 in acrylic paint was made by selected a limited palette of dull colors to create a subdued mood.
Stage 3: The Secret Sits. Color test 2, using cool colors in Acrylic paints to try out a winter theme.
Stage 4: The Secret Sits. Color test 3, to try out a complementary color scheme of red-orange and blue-violet.
Stage 5: The Secret Sits. I felt that the composition was lacking something, especially since the main figure was not interacting with the audience, so I made a new Photoshop file with different photos.
Stage 6: The Secret Sits. I am finally happy with the composition, but I wanted to try one more color scheme. This scheme was another complementary color scheme of red and green with subdued background colors so the main figures really stand out. I still have to complete the final painting in acrylic, oil or pastel, whichever I choose.
and decide what strategy to pursue to make the artwork sing.