The Creative Process

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The creative process can be complex and abstract and therefore difficult to describe. I will, however, try.

As an artist, I find myself attracted to a number of different mediums including photography, clay work and fiber arts. I find that for each medium the creative process tends to be different. Different things inspire me and I tend to structure the work in different ways, including how I navigate my work environment.

In this blog entry I will focus on the creative process surrounding the encaustic paintings I create.

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It is not uncommon for me to have several ideas or concepts for different paintings at the same time. They are often not fully formed, still in the peripheral vision of my mind, and not until they come into focus can I proceed with the painting.

Creating a concept board helps me focus. It is a way for me to get the ideas out of my head, and look at them critically. My concept board often includes a color scheme, shapes and forms that inspire me, as well as drawings and photographs. It is not uncommon for an encaustic painting to go its own direction once I have begun but the concept board gives me a place to start.

I enjoy rummaging through my waxes, picking out the ones I want to use, from plain unfiltered bee’s wax to brightly colored chunks of premixed wax.

I often work on wood or clay panels and will begin by applying a clear coat of wax. This helps with the blending of the waxes especially if the surface is porous like wood.

The tools I use can vary but for the most part I use a heated iron, stylus and heat gun. Every once in awhile I bring out the blowtorch or create a shellac burn. I begin all my painting by blocking in the surface with color. This tends to be a free flowing process where not a lot of thought and preparation go into what I am doing. The wax flows where it chooses.

Once the surface is covered in wax, I begin the process of looking for shapes and outlines to scratch it. For this particular painting I gathered a variety of round objects as templates. Once the shapes have been drawn or scratched into the wax I begin the process of removing and adding wax, mixing colors, heating and cooling the wax.

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Waiting and watching for a painting to come together can be a frustrating, painful yet beautiful process. I remind my students of this almost daily. It is only when you are steering toward the end does a painting tend to come together and work. It is vital to focus on the process and not to give up on the painting because it does not look like a finished product during the process.

I enjoy listening to music while I paint, careful to pick out a selection that fits with my concept. There are times I create a specific playlists for individual paintings. Taking small breaks and walking away from the painting, even if just for a minute or two, helps my creative process flow smoother and more efficiently.

There is a fine line between knowing when a painting is finished and overworking it. I find myself always seeing one more thing to change but it is the artist in me that lets me know when the painting is complete. It has come together and is the best it can be. It takes distance, walking away from it perhaps for a day or two to look at it with fresh eyes and know that it is complete.

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