My own creative process is something which has long fascinated me as it is much more than just a way of thinking: it is a whole way of life. There is rarely a moment of my day which I do not utilize my creative thinking. When you look at classic paintings, such as Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night, it is clear that the artist’s perception of the world around him is entirely different from other people. Today, we have learned that Van Gogh also dealt with severe issues of depression which may also have shaped his creative process.
Many describe the creative process as being a series of events which lead to the conception of an idea – an abstract idea which is referred to by Hughes as being “the means by which new ideas enter the collective consciousness” (61). My understanding of my own creative process is that it allows me to eventually let others in on the secret – my perception of the world around me and I take great pleasure in being able to share this.
Initially, my experience of the creative process was quite limited, as I grew up in Saudi Arabia and was only given one art lesson a week. My teachers followed a rigid and extremely prescribed curriculum and were not open to any exceptions. Consequently, every art place I had ever created was exactly what the teacher wanted to see, not what satisfied me as an artist. This confounded me, as I was unable to share my thoughts and feeling properly. However, since moving and growing up, I’ve found that I am able to express myself through my art. I have decided to do photography and computer arts. My art reflects my emotions and/or experiences in an indirect way. For example, I occasionally play with humour to cover up ideas that I find to be embarrassing or too personal. I feel as though I hide behind my camera or screen and the creative process they entail. I find that, generally, I am quite eclectic and so often I take lots of different photos which don’t always directly reflect my creative process well, but rather are a bit of a mess in terms of direct creative processes as I don’t always thinking them through.
My creative process is able to take shape naturally all of the time. I draw a lot of inspiration from people, and the environment around me. Passion and emotions frequently allow me to kick start the creative process. Tension, which I regularly experience between myself and my family, friends, and the world, allow me to visualize my emotions quite clearly and I find it to be an excellent way of expressing my anger or love. Frequently, this allows me the flash of inspiration which I need to initiate the creative process. It is discussed by Goleman et al. that this initial stage of the creative process is called preparation and the total immersion of the artist in the problem (18). Through strong, evocative experiences of emotion, I am effectively immersing myself in the problem (or more specifically, the subject), and as such, become preoccupied with the feelings and the colours which I visualise as flavouring that experience. From my experience, it would seem that many creative people are deeply emotional individuals and so it is my belief that this element of the creative process is likely to be commonly experienced by many artists. I sometimes share my work as a way of expressing myself or how it has affected me. In turn, this becomes part of the creative process through a conclusive element, which allows my work to be enjoyed or discussed by others – something which I endeavour to achieve in all elements of my work.
Of course, this aspect of sharing my work is often extremely intimidating too – particularly because my work is so closely attached to my own, personal, emotional experiences. It often feels like I am exposing myself in a very public way and I am not, generally, comfortable with that. This aspect of creativity requires quite a strong resilience as the artist must be comfortable with accepting that not everything they produce may be liked by its audience. However, the audience must accept that the artist is also an individual and that whilst it may not please their eyes, an understanding of the deeper meaning might please their mind. Creativity, the creative process, and art as an entirety, are all extremely personal and subjective and therefore, speaking generally about the creative individual is nigh on impossible, as agreed by many critics: one such critic, Csikszentmihalyi, states that “creativity is the property of a complex system, and none of its components alone can explain it” (56). The artistic talent which I was born with, if I was born with any at all, is only half the battle in terms of actual creative expression and, therefore, my own personal creativity is something which I have accepted as being only a minor aspect of my creative process as the product of my creativity may go on to be experienced in countless different ways by countless other people.
As discussed earlier, I routinely draw inspiration from a broad range of experiences – largely social but also emotional and from the environment too. As a result of this, my work is often quite eclectic but still somehow is in sync with my own personality and drives. Arguably, my personality and relationships are shaped largely by my environment and so, therefore, it is all part of one big cycle of events: environment shapes personality, personality shapes social prospects, social prospects affects emotions, and emotions help to build my creativity – therein lies my creative process. However, quite naturally, there are factors within those cycles which affect my ability to be creative and expressive – often a lack of emotional spikes can leave me feeling uninspired as I tend to draw on emotional extremes (arguments, passion etc.). A big concern for me in studying art at college was that boundaries and a formulaic structure would be placed upon me. I wondered whether they would prevent me from feeling truly creative; and, while it might push me to create art, perhaps it would be art that I didn’t want to do. On occasion, it is true that some of the pressures that college has imposed upon my art have caused me to struggle. However, this in itself has given me a more experiential approach to creativity: something which Edwards discusses is the idea of learning through doing and attempting things without prior knowledge of how to do them properly (28). In itself, that ‘free falling’ style of learning is much the same as the experience of developing emotionality anyway.
Many discuss that they find the creative process to be relaxing. I often liken it to one method of muscle relaxation: wherein you tense each muscle and then relax it, starting at your toes and working your way up. The creative process begins with a tension – a need to express myself in some way and after immersing myself in that problem and in the associated emotions, I am able to create an expression of that feeling and the release which happens as a result is the same as tensing a muscle and then relaxing it – soothing away any pressure with it.
In seeking inspiration, my aim is to try and utilize all experiences, rather than just the bad ones, as it allows me to be both positive and negative – avoiding the stereotype of the ‘tortured/loner artist’, as I find that to be both pretentious and untrue. Life is not just a string of bad experiences and I feel that art should reflect that by presenting the happiness that can be found in every day scenarios. I also find that by allowing myself to experience joy as well as pain, I nurture my creative soul as I am able to see the beautiful in even the bleakest of subjects. As part of my nurturing process, I accept constructive criticism as I am my own worst critic anyway, but through the acceptance of art as being wholly subjective, I have freed myself from getting bogged down in negativity. My creative process is one that is entirely personal to me, and as a result, my creativity is as integral to my person as my arms and eyes are. It may not be to everyone’s liking but it is what I can offer.
Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. Creativity: flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. New York: Harper Collins, 1996. Print.
Edwards, Linda Carol. The Creative Arts: a process approach for teachers and children 2nd edition. New Jersey: Merrill, 1997. Print.
Goleman, Daniel et al. The Creative Spirit. New York: Plume, 1992. Print.
Hughes, James. Altered States: creativity under the influence. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, 1999. Print.