What is the creative process for me as an artist?

The idea that I should actively start examining my creative process as an artist  and how I form my art was sparked, in part, by the debate over on The Kellerdoscope

I don’t think that I have ever begun a painting expressly concerned with how I’m approaching it, what I’m going to do next and why. I don’t suffer from stage fright (referring to another comment in the debate on Kellerdoscope) far from it, I dive in boots and all. A blank canvas is the calm before the storm, it’s a period of reflection, it’s anticipation, it’s foreplay … the first few strokes or layers of texture that are placed upon it sometimes sing, sometimes cough but they very often (I find) grumble. I work entirely in the abstract, I sense a painting as it is being formed. I can work on a piece for a few minutes and am entirely satisfied with it – like this little one


‘Acrylic Kelp’  (10” x 7”) acrylics and heavy gels.

I played with this little painting, working on my knee sitting at a coffee table, using toothpicks and kitchen equipment. It was also the first time that I’d used heavy gel mediums and a high quality palette knife. I wasn’t concerned with the finished effect, I was interested in watching how the gels performed, what I could do with them, how the colours burst and sparkled against each other. This piece was sold almost immediately after it was completed.

On the other side of the spectrum, I’d gone out and bought a fairly large and expensive canvas – about 5 foot by 4 foot – because I’d had a clear plan (I thought) of what I wanted to achieve with it. I had the right materials, done reams of research into how I wanted the colours/textures/lines/composition to interact, done test pieces of various sizes (all working out well), so was confident that I would create a large painting that I would be very proud of. From the very first minute that I started to apply the paint, nothing went right and I knew it, it went steadily downhill very fast thereafter.  With the best of intentions and after months of fighting, the canvas and I parted ways and not on the best of terms. No I didn’t sell it, I burnt it.

I have noticed that when I have very inspiring music playing in the background (and that can be anything from Nine Inch Nails to Rachmaninoff) it is very easy to completely immerse and lose myself in the business of making art, surfacing occasionally to come up for air and maybe make some coffee.   It is at those times I make my best work and in most cases, I don’t have to do many ‘edits’, alterations or adjustments to the finished piece.  This one, is an example (done in South Africa, painting in a collaborative environment):


6′ x 4′

Acrylics on stretched canvas.

The opposite seems to happen when I decide on a whim that I’m going to just quickly work on a canvas until it’s the way I want it … chaos usually ensues. We have a huge fight, I sulk, the canvas snarls at me and I end up walking away, usually sighing and in a bad mood. But I don’t give up, not for a long time. I will re-work a piece many times if I’m not entirely satisfied with it. I will also live with a piece for months, sometimes years, to see if it gets on my nerves.

I still suffer from the age-old ‘overworking’ syndrome. It’s incredibly difficult   – with abstract work particularly – to know when you have done enough, when to step back and leave it alone. I was terrified of this flaw for a long time, which resulted in me NOT working on the pieces with enough effort and application. I was stopping before I got going. I think I’ve overcome that now.

I have started some new work today but did not take photos, as I got a bit one-track minded on the process 🙂  I have a medium blank canvas propped up against the wall in my garage, it keeps whispering to me … so I will remember to take some pics when I start working on it and see if the series of photos throws any light on this interesting topic

3 thoughts on “What is the creative process for me as an artist?

  1. I just hope that I did not cause you to reflect too much while working, destroying that immersion or flow state 😉

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