I believe everyone is an artist. My clients often look at proofs or samples and initially say something along the lines of, "Wow. I never would have thought of this. I can hardly draw stick figures" or "I'm not creative at all." Everyone is creative, though, and whether it's through drawing, painting, computers, sculpture, photography, interior design, cooking (talk about a personal lack of skills...), or another medium, artistry hides within every single person-- it's just a matter of releasing that hidden creativity and letting it do its thing. It's an individual evolution from concept to production that we refer to in the industry as the ever-ominous, vastly ambiguous Creative Process.
Recently, I gave my students at Flathead Valley Community College the assignment to write a few paragraphs on The Creative Process. For the most part, all of them killed it. I was impressed by the honesty and thought that went into everyone's answers. A lot of students mentioned creating with music in the background. Almost all the responses were funny, heartfelt and just barely self-deprecating. A few students included samples, and a few of them wanted to talk to me in person about their processes. I like it when I can get other people's wheels to turn, especially creatively, and I like it when someone sets my mind in motion, too. In fact, I appreciated everyone's efforts so much that I decided I might as well do my own homework assignment and post my answer. The exact assignment was: Write a blog post about your creative process– how you find inspiration, how you work through your ideas, and what you think helps you produce the best possible design solution. Must be 3-6 paragraphs.
I realized that I have two different styles of making art depending on what I'm doing, and both are worth mentioning because they are so different.
My Commercial Work Process, ie, My Creative Process for Graphic Design, Websites, and Anything Created for Work. (These paragraphs refer to the process for big projects like a branding package or new website.)
The process begins with an initial meeting with a client where someone tells me why they are in my office or on the phone, what they want for their business, what kind of art they need, and any styles or ideas they have in mind. We go over the scope of the project, any product or design specifications, and set up a schedule of deadlines. I have an affinity for deadlines. (Well, sometimes I hate deadlines, but I always hit them, and that can be a silent, gratifying victory, and I like those very much.) In this initial meeting, I don't talk much. I listen really hard. I take notes. I sit there and absorb everything so I have a lot of ideas bouncing around between my ears for later.
Next, I'll usually do extensive preparation-- this is the least "fun" in the creative sense, but it's important, so I'm happy to do it. I'll research the competition and the target market, spend time with Google, jot down notes, sketch a few ideas, and maybe refer to a book or magazine for stylistic inspiration. I list a lot. I use a lot of words, tons of words actually, until I find the ones that help express the desired concept. Next is inventing the imagery to match them, easier said than done.
With this newfound knowledge in my dome comes the best part of the process-- I call this The Stage of Percolation. My brain is like a coffee maker-- it takes a bit of patience and a good environment to produce the best results. This might sound crazy, but I usually go participate in some sort of physical activity that is dangerously fast, utilizes gravity, or forces me to walk for a really long time. Splitboarding usually hits all three. I just go live life for a day and don't stress about ideas. Something about physical activity streamlines my creativity. My two favorite design ideas have literally flashed before my eyes at the top of a cliff and floated into my brain while skinning out of the backcountry at sunset. It's a very intuitive way to work, and it produces effective solutions.
When the moment of clarity arrives, that split second where the design solution hurtles into in my head, the need to put it on paper (or screen) is overwhelming, whether that moment arrives in the mountains, the shower, or over dinner with friends. I'll usually drop everything and sketch my ideas or at least type notes into my cell phone. As soon as I'm in front of a computer, I'll put my head down, get lost in the work, and create. I love this part. It's really hard work, but it is gratifying. I listen to music. I let intuition play with cognitive reasoning, and I just design.
Of course, then there are the hours of edits, tweaks, and reworking until the client is as happy with the work as I am. That's my process. It's verbal, visual, physical, and extremely adaptable, but it works for me. The Creative Process in graphic design is all about discovering how to unleash that instinctive creativity from within and make it work on both an individual and commercial level. It becomes a lifestyle.
My creative process for fine art, ie work I create for myself.
I love painting. I paint on canvasses, Masonite, found objects, old skateboard decks, whatever really. A thick coat of gesso turns anything into an archivally-sound painting surface. Fine art is rarely something I do for my design business--occasionally wall paintings for restaurants or offices, but most of the time, my fine art is a personal endeavor, often gifts. In addition to painting, I like to draw, use stamp alphabets on everything, create mixed media collages, try new things, and visually express any idea I feel like mulling over with my hands and art supplies. I have a lot of ideas.
Fine art is highly intuitive for me, and I don't really think about or question the process. I have an idea or image in my head, and then I slap on some headphones (lately Alt-J and XX), and lose myself in my work for one to seven hours. I usually forget to eat. There's very little rational thought, and I almost always enjoy the act of painting more than the finished product. It's like the whole journey vs. destination rigmarole, only the destination in this case can probably be found hanging on someone's wall... I almost never keep any of my fine art.
Wheelie Deep Thoughts
This is where we showcase fun stuff-- new work, case studies, weekly updates, job openings, and general awesomeness from members of the Wheelie Crew.
Read Posts About:
Glacier Park Conservancy
Spencer Trail Signs
Glacier Park Inc.
Whitefish Trail Signs
The North Fork
The Montana Scene
Logos We've Made