The Creative Process of making Art 2 : Reinventing Oneself

There are times when you could be at the top of your game. Painting well, painting in a good rhythm, creating masterpieces on a regular basis. But still the satisfaction of creating them is a short lived one. This little voice in your head starts whispering in your ear and keeps telling you that you have become too comfortable. And when that happens it is a tricky area to be in for an artist. You know you are in a good place and common sense tells you to enjoy it as long as it lasts. But then the creator inside you never likes to be ‘comfortable’ and wants to create something new. And funnily enough this situation is the trigger to reinventing oneself; Yet another creative process of making art.

I too am trying to reinvent myself and in this post I’ll share my method which I have followed till now.

The Comfort Zone Trap

Spontaneous creation of from a 'blank' state of mind
Spontaneous creation of from a ‘blank’ state of mind

The comfort zone builds up slowly. But it surely happens multiple times in a creative journey. Its a nice place to be in, but not for long. Because the more you get attached to it the more difficult it becomes for the artist in you to develop. So its good to be aware of this fact and just keep doing a sanity check once in a while if you are getting into the trap. A close look at your recent works will help you. Check if a certain pattern is glaring at you from those works. Check if you are getting repetitive. Do an honest assessment and your works will tell you if you are slipping into a comfort zone.

Well I did not do any such checks. I just strongly felt I need to do something new. And that I guess came from subconsciously seeing a pattern in my works.

Starting From Blank

Refining the spontaneous sketch during conscious exploration phase
Refining the spontaneous sketch during conscious exploration phase

You have identified that you are in a comfort zone and you want to break out from it. But now what. How do you let go of your style to do something new that you are not even aware of. This is a  good problem to solve in the creative process of making art. I am going to tell you the process I followed and its just one way of doing things. You can invent your own method. You can even try my method. It is fun by the way.

Conscious Exploration of 'new style'
Conscious Exploration of ‘new style’

I started from blank. I also made sure that I don’t use my regular paper, brushes and palette. First I arranged my paper, paint and brushes around me so that I can start painting as soon as I want to. Then I randomly picked a reference photo without looking at it and then closed my eyes. Next I visualized darkness and meditate on that to allow my mind to become empty. At some point I opened my eyes, looked at the reference pic  for a few seconds and then started painting. I just let my hand move as fast as possible in a subconscious and spontaneous manner. I took around 10-15 minutes to paint and then went away from my easel. When I came back to it after sometime I tried to find a new visual language in it which I can pick up and explore further.

Explore and Allow Yourself to Fail

Conscious Exploration of 'new style'
Conscious Exploration of ‘new style’

And I did find something I could pick up on. In this case because of the nature of the paper I had to limit my washes to light ones and number of layers to only two. And as I had ‘thrown’ paint at the paper, some parts of the painting was not painted. I had taken a spontaneous decision and had ‘drawn’ the unpainted parts with a rigger brush using black paint. So I decided to try these things out. That is

  1. ‘Throwing Paint and leaving a lot of white of the paper
  2. Limiting maximum layers to only two
  3. ‘Drawing’ with rigger to suggest the unpainted parts.
Conscious Exploration of 'new style'
Conscious Exploration of ‘new style’

Now again this step is about exploration just like the last step. But this is more conscious while the previous step was more subconscious effort. In this step as you can see from the pictures I was trying different ways of ‘throwing’ paint and leaving out whites and also different ways of drawing the unpainted details. Some seem to work while other did not. The idea here is to paint with abandon and try things without fear. The more you fail the more you learn. Allow yourself to fail in this step of Creative Process of making Art.

Finding the ‘New’

The whole idea behind the previous step of conscious exploration is to get used to the new thing you have found and establish it in your mind. The paintings that did not work teach you what to avoid and the ones that worked teach you what looks good. This way your decision making becomes better in your new found style. And as you keep painting more and more holding on to the spirit of the new method this decision making gets more refined and your muscle memory also get stronger. And then there comes a time when you become really good at it and the next comfort zone sets in. And then its time to break the barriers all over again.

Conscious Exploration of 'new style'
Conscious Exploration of ‘new style’

As far as my exploration goes there was a divine intervention. One of my idols happened to nudge me a little to align me to the right direction through a comment on one of the works I posted on Facebook. Now I’ll try to look for subjects to suit this new style and keep refining it. As I keep at it hopefully I’ll find a new  visual language somewhere on the way. And again hopefully that would lead to a set of accomplished and satisfying works till I get dissatisfied again.

What does the word artist mean… to me

There are a few standard ways in which the word ‘artist’ is used. Some people use it to refer to a profession. So if someone is a doctor by profession and at the same time is an amateur but passionate painter he cant be called an artist! Some people refer to a person with a talent in any of the arts field as an artist. For example anyone who sings or paints or dances automatically is called as an artist. So is being an artist is about being in a particular profession or having a particular talent? My answer is neither. For me being an artist is an attitude that seeks to judge less and understand more, thus expanding the seekers mind.

Depending on the place and time we belong to, we develop our own value system and sense of reasoning, which is necessary for our survival. And like all systems our reasoning system is also based on some assumptions, which help in faster decision making. For example when we are shopping for apples we tend to pick the ones that are very red in color. Here the assumption is that if the redder the apple, the sweeter it is. Though it works some times, the other times the greener apples turn out to be sweeter. As the pace of our lives increases exponentially, speed of decision making also has to cope up with it and hence more assumptions have to be made, which in other words makes us quiet judgemental to meet our ever increasing survival needs.

An artist is someone who tries to break out his set of assumptions. He tries to overcome this natural disposition of using his assumptions and instead seeks to understand. He tries to overcome his own boundaries of logic seeks to be emotional.

Lets take an example. In a class when people are asked to draw something (an eye for illustration) most people immediately draw an almond shape, with a few concentric circles inside the almond shape. A few look up at their neighbour’s eyes and try to draw the shape that they see. The people who have drawn the almond shapes are drawing what they already know, which is nothing but their assumption about the shape of the eye. But the others who looked at their neighbour’s or even the teacher’s eyes are the ones who are trying to understand. It is this attitude of observing keenly to understand makes the artist more aware and emphatic of his surroundings and himself. This is the artist’s gaze that helps one to expand one’s mind and be joyful.

Because artists try to observe and understand they have the ability to see more beauty and meaning than what meets the eye. And the desire to communicate this makes the artist create. It is said that the best way to paint is to paint is with the heart of a child and with the skills of an adult. Skills are external while the attitude is internal. External development can be achieved through hard work, practice and discipline. But the internal purity, which enables one to paint without judgments, with innocence and awareness at the same time and with an imagination that is not bounded by the limit of logic makes a painter an artist.

Unfortunately whatever I said could easily be bounded by the expanse of my own mind. One really has to find one’s own meaning through honest effort.