This post is part of a 'blog hop' with four other artists. At the end of the post, you can find links to their sites.
My creative process as a painter, and as a researcher, works on many timescales. I started writing this blog post sitting in a white gallery space in an exhibition of my own paintings. It's been a wonderful few days – hanging the paintings, celebrating the opening with friends and family, selling originals and print – really precious moments on the long winding journey of being an artist. Now I'm already anticipating taking down the paintings, wrapping them up and seeing them back in my flat where they will fill the space and remind me that I really do need to find a new studio with good storage space.
Organising an exhibition is more about logistics than creativity. It feels like the creative process more or less ground to a halt several months ago when I started planning events, organising framing, making bookings. There was some creativity in selecting the paintings, arranging them and hanging, but in between these creative moments were long stretches of list writing, phone calls, emails, preparing posters, ordering drinks - just getting things done.
When there's no exhibition to organise, the creative process happens inside and outside the studio. Each day begins with coffee and writing my ‘morning pages’, a habit adopted several years ago when a friend and I worked through the wonderful “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. Morning pages clear out the rubbish in my mind and provide a seedbed for little ideas may or may not sprout into projects.
This last year I've shared a huge studio in an old factory and I've worked on my tiny kitchen table in my tiny, city centre apartment. The studio, I’ve decided, is actually a state of mind. Physically it requires a flat surface to paint but little else. Images are stuck on the walls and cupboards as photocopies and postcards. Sketchbooks are nearby, and a little one is always in the bag I take with me when I go out. Paintings I'm working on are on the floor and leaning against the wall.
There's getting started on a painting, and there’s revisiting. I get started by making a drawing, mixing colours, or making marks with a brush. If I'm in the middle of a series of works, there's usually paper or canvas prepared to go. If I am painting something new, it is a much slower process because there are so many choices to be made: size, surface, composition, colour. Quite often I don't have a clear idea in advance of the finished painting – it's more a matter of exploring and finding a way. Some painters find it hard to stop at the right moment but I think I’ve got quite good at that. I make myself walk away from the painting when it's looking as if it might be finished. I turn around, look out of the window, let my eyes adjust. Then I look back at the painting with refreshed eyes. I add or take away something, repeat the walking away, and eventually leave it for another day.
Now we are on another time scale. Days or weeks later I revisit the painting and sit looking at it, allowing it to speak to me and tell me what it's about, what it needs, and whether there is a variation to be explored in a next painting.
Painting happens best when I’m alone, but other people are crucial in my creative process. I have artist friends I meet with on a monthly basis, and artist friends I spend a weekend away with every year. We share successes and struggles, and set ourselves targets.
There is planning on a yearly basis, putting exhibitions in the diary for 18 months ahead, sometimes setting goals. And then there are long term memories that can surprise me by turning up in my paintings.
My earliest art-related memory goes back more than 50 years to a double-ended colouring pencil, a yellowy-green at one end and a deep crimson pink at the other – I loved those colours. I recognised them decades later in the spring blossom of cherry trees. Today I noticed them again in the plastic cups I bought for my private view.
To read about other people's creative processes, follow these links - and share yours in the comments!
With a background in physics and English, Melissa Fu is an educator and writer who enjoys working across many disciplines. Currently, she is writing a collection of pieces based on growing up in the Rocky Mountains. Melissa’s approach to teaching writing is informed by her experiences in the classroom as well as her studies at Teachers College, where she earned a Masters in English Education. She is especially interested in creating ways for writers to claim and hone their voices. Read more from Melissa at her blog, and find out about upcoming workshops at www.melissafu.com.
Emily Gubler suspects John Wesley Powell would say she is over encumbered by unnecessary scruples. She spent a decade traveling the country as a wildland firefighter and another half working in the back of an ambulance–and was thrilled by the number of poets and artists she met in each field. Currently Emily lives on a Colorado hillside, writing short stories and personal essays and delighting in Western Tanagers, Great Blue Herons, and Golden Eagles. Her writing can be found at www.ordinarycontradictions.com.
Sue Ann Gleason, creator of Chocolate for Breakfast, the Well-Nourished Woman, and the Luscious Legacy Project, is a lover of words, a strong believer in the power of imagination, and a champion for women who want to lead a more delicious, fully expressed life. Sue Ann has been featured in Oprah and Runner's World magazines and numerous online publications. When not working with private clients or delivering online programs, she can be found sampling exotic chocolates, building broccoli forests in her mashed potatoes, or crawling into bed with freshly sharpened pencils and pages that turn.
Narelle Carter-Quinlan embodies the Body-Land. She is a global leading exponent on yoga with scoliosis and the lived experience of spinal anatomy, illuminating the complex with reverence, humour and story. As a Photographer, her work is a benediction of communion; our inner and outer terrain. As a dancer, choreographer and artistic director, she is currently researching House of the Broken Wing; a performative, image and written exploration of moving within a scoliotic landscape. She is also a Transformer; true story. Visit Narelle at embodiedterrain.com to view her Embodied Ecology Photography© and blog, and to hear more about EASS-y, her upcoming e-course exploring the embodied anatomy of scoliosis and yoga.