A Painter’s Creative Process Delineated | Part 1

When someone asks you, “What is your creative process,” how do you respond? During my over 25 years of painting, the creative process has always been a fascination. How would you define or describe it?

creative processSeveral years ago I wanted to better understand my process, and asked myself, “What were the stages I experienced as I moved from one phase of creation to the next?”

I researched and learned that scholars in various science fields have for centuries attempted to delineate the creative process. Elusive as this process is, labels, phrases and diagrams have been constructed in an attempt to articulate how the creative mind works. Perhaps it’s my years of training and work as an educational psychologist that led me to seek out more information. Reading about these theories was enlightening.

When I did this inquiry into creativity, the knowledge helped in clarifying some of the how’s and why’s of the frustrations I had experienced as a painter. Though there is no exact structure, the information was comforting because I could put a name on the phases of the creative process I had endured and sometimes plundered through.

These experts of philosophy, mathematics and psychiatry studied creativity seeking to understand its origins, processes and nuances. (After all, isn’t it magical?) I believe you will be interested in their attempts to articulate the sequential stages of the creative process.

The Creative Process Delineated:

These defined stages have evolved over time, but essentially the literature states them as follows:

  1.  First Insight—the original thought or problem to solve;
  2.  Saturation—the gathering of resources;
  3.  Incubation—unconscious and conscious ruminating;
  4.  Illumination—the Ah, hah! moment;
  5.  Verification/Production—the resolution.
  6.  Hibernation—the time of rest and restoration after the process is completed. By the way, this important step was not added until the end of the 1900’s.

First Insight—step 1— is the process of becoming aware of a problem and knowing that something is missing. Creative people seek out problems through questioning and observation—to discover gaps or problems that no one else has perceived.

Once the idea has been identified, the next activity, referred to as the Saturation—step 2— involves retrieving more information, collecting pertinent data and formulating specific questions. This research can take place within a very short period of time or it can take years.

The Incubation —step 3— the processing of all of this input is then necessary.

Sometimes the creative engages in other activities, even unrelated, while this data merges, sorts and stirs, and ebbs and flows between the conscious and the unconscious. This allows our unconscious the time to massage all of the information, like kneading bread, and is essential because one cannot “push the river.” The unconscious must percolate to make the connections that the conscious mind cannot make. As in Step 2, the time involved for this stage can vary significantly – from hours to years.

Step 4—Then suddenly an adrenal surge springs forth seemingly out of nowhere. Eureka occurs or Illumination, and the idea takes form. A potential solution seems imminent. This stage is the shortest within the entire process. All of us have experienced these exhilarating moments when we have been trying to solve a problem—of any type—and suddenly a resolution pops into our heads, like turning on a lamp. [Read more…]

Choosing Color Schemes for My Paintings

Choosing the color schemes for my paintings happens after a painting concept gels in my head and I have drawn a preliminary sketch. As I hone in on the ‘why’ of my concept and ‘what’ I am trying to express, I begin choosing my colors.

The color choices are endless and can be over whelming.

During my 25+ years of painting, I have often tried to skip this step and just dive into the painting. I grab this color and that, believing that my intuition knows what it is doing and will choose some delightful and harmonic colors.

However, I have learned – and re-learned – that if I do not choose a color scheme or even an approximate one from the very beginning, I end up with a mess. Painting decisions become difficult and the painting does not sing its song. I am also not a happy camper.

How do I choose a color scheme? The answer to the question, “Why am I painting X?” is my driving force. Once I know that, I then decide if the painting will have a warm or a cool dominance. Next I begin looking at various color scheme resources I have, or perhaps I have an example of a magazine photo that serves as my inspiration. TIP: Peruse interior design and art magazine for photos that feature color schemes you might like to use. I cut them out on a regular basis. Below is an example.

color schemes color theory [Read more…]

What’s In a Painting Title?

Artists, do you ever struggle generating a painting title? Or non-artists, do you wonder about the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ of a painting title?

The act of creating a title for one of my paintings can range from quite easy to a real pain. Also, I can never predict which painting – while I am painting it – will be forth coming with its moniker and which one will be a nemesis. Coming up with a title is like a ping pong game between me and the painting and I enjoy it.

Before I get into my titling process, I do want to state that I believe that every painting deserves a moniker, otherwise the painting becomes lost and it exists without sense of identity. I know that there are painters who do not agree. Some find the process difficult and others just out right avoid it. They cop-out and assign titles, such as: “Untitled,” “Blue Series II,” or “Aspen #103.” These inane titles do not contribute to a painting’s vision and/or message. I find it odd that we artists can get away with this. Have you ever seen a book without a title or a movie or a song?

Generating a title for one of my paintings is part of my artistic process. Providing a title is also another way of connecting with the viewer. People often comment on my titles saying that they enjoy them and find them clever. Others like that they facilitate contemplation and more understanding of my visual intent. I love this.

I have found it interesting how words just pop into my head while I am painting. It is random and not forced. Sometimes I document the words. However, most of the time I just let them ruminate and percolate as the painting develops. I like how the words ebb and flow within my brain waves. It is also fascinating, as I have been doing this for over 25 years, how some titles (e.g. words), just won’t let go of the  painting. This happened with a recent painting. The words, “Seeker,” “seeking,” and “The Seeker,” would not budge. I tried other titles/words, but I finally flew up the white flag and let it take hold.

painting title

“The Seeker,” 24 x 30 x 1.5 oil on panel

Then there are other paintings where I have way too many painting title ideas and I ask for assistance. Often my husband provides something clever, as he likes to play with words. He came up with the title for “Bone Appetit!”

bone health

“Bone Appetit!” 8 x 16 x 1.5 oil on panel

Other times I have sought assistance from my Facebook friends. I enjoy asking for their input, because it is always interesting to hear their interpretations and how they connect words with an image. The below painting, “Pickin’ the Pedicles,” is a good example of having lots of ideas for a painting and asking for help. [Read more…]

Painting of “Photographer” Hands | Stage 2 Demo

When we left off of stage 1 of my painting of my “photographer” hands, the image was just beginning to evolve. Below you can see that I have been working on the hands applying several layers of paint to create the three dimensional feel. The gears in the background are also finding their places in the composition.

I am liking the combination of the clock gears with the hands appearing to turn the vertebrae as if they were a camera. How are you reacting to this juxtaposition?painting photographer hands

In this next phase (see below), you can see that I have applied a few layers of paint over the gear shapes. This is to push them back and not have them compete with the hands. The bones of the vertebrae are starting to become more articulate. (Our vertebrae are complex bones and not easy to draw!) Mixing the colors for this was a challenge because I wanted the bones to be evident, yet not get lost in the painting. [Read more…]