Artists might each have their own approach to their work, but some aspects are simply part of the process, and young artists in particular should take note.
by Sydney Bitz
Author’s note: Before you ever begin an artistic process, be patient. Do not doubt yourself. Everyone is an artist. Never compare your art to another person’s. Understand if you are not artistically inclined, others have mastered their craft. Many people have been doing this stuff for years. Everyone is different. So is art.
Just like law, art has a process. There are so many rules that an artist must follow. Just like writing, art takes years. An artist must overcome many mental blocks before the finished product. Just like sports, art must be practiced. It takes many years of dedication to be able to draw or paint so well. Art has so many features and struggles before it is on a museum wall. There is a process that every artist endures and each process is different. This is my artistic process.
The process begins at the first step: inspiration. Inspiration can come from a starry night seen out a window or a painting or whatever awakens the soul. My main sources of inspiration are from songs, nature, and other pieces of artwork. Of course, inspiration never comes to an artist when it is convenient. This is why you will never see an artist just sitting in front of a blank working surface. Inspiration for art always comes to me when I never:
A. Have a camera with me
B. Have a pencil with me
C. Am awake
So I immediately struggle with the art I create. I try to capture what I want to create in my mind and then write it down or sketch it out in the margins of schoolwork.
The second step: time. This is the biggest part of the process. Setting aside time to work on art is a daily struggle that I go through. Sometimes there is just enough time to set up and other times there is enough time to paint the first coat or sketch an outline. Finding time is the hardest part. But I don’t only have to find time, I have to allow time. By allowing time, I mean that I have to allow my art to take more than a few hours or days. I mentally have to understand that I have to be patient and let my art come to be of its own accord. Of course, its own accord is always:
A. During Spanish class
B. During history lectures
So time is probably my most hindering obstacle. Being a student and working a summer job usually keeps me busy enough.
Triple check your volume button because if you share a space or your parents allow you to live there for free, they will greatly appreciate not listening to your weird non-80’s music.
The third step: space. Having the space to create the art is the most important step. It is hard to create when you feel cramped. It is also important to not have your creative space and your bedroom be the same place. This prevents the art from haunting you and gives you an escape from artist’s block. My space is a room two floors down in my house and is just the right size for my work. Having a separate space allows:
A. You to have a place to go and create
B. You to be able to walk away without having to clean up to do something else.
C. You to focus without all the distractions
Creative spaces give you….well, space. My personal space is filled with my supplies and past works. This space you claim is yours to decorate and is filled with energy needed to work.
The fourth step of my artistic process: music. I absolutely cannot be in the mood to make art without tunes. Especially if a song is really inspiring, I MUST PLAY IT ON REPEAT! Songs allow me to focus on the task at hand and keep time. So, one must have a good playlist (in my case, the entirety of 400+ songs on my iPod) and a good speaker. Of course, I inevitably do one of three things:
A. Put on shuffle, then skip to the song I want
B. Put one song on repeat
C. Find the one song to begin and let the rest play through
One must remember this very important part of music playing: volume. Triple check your volume button because if you share a space or your parents allow you to live there for free, they will greatly appreciate not listening to your weird non-80’s music. Especially if it’s on repeat. If you’re alone, just keep it down for the neighbors.
The fifth step: setup. Now begins the actual creation of the art…sort of. Setup is key. Setup is deliberate, practical, and usually gets messed up anyway. Since my space is downstairs from my cave I call a room, I setup by floor. I begin on my room floor, then the main level, finally arriving at my space, grabbing my supplies as I go. Now micromanaging setup begins. I either rearrange the room around my easel or my desk. The most used brushes or pencils are put closer to my dominant side, while the miscellaneous sharpeners and water cups towards the other. In hindsight, I probably should not put the water near my reckless, non-cognitive left hand because:
A. The cup always is knocked over
B. I have to reach across my body to wash brushes
C. There is a reason that my drink is in a different colored cup
Setting up before you sit down to work helps keep you focused on the artwork. You don’t have to keep getting up and down from the seat to grab one or two things. It also keeps clean-up relatively quick and painless.
The sixth step: layout. Planning the layout helps prevent major doubts or mistakes. If I don’t have a clear picture in my mind, I don’t proceed. That’s when scrap paper comes in handy. An extremely rough sketch is very practical. Planning the layout helps you:
A. Not make too many mistakes
B. Decide on goals
C. Keep frustration and doubt to a minimum
Layouts can break down the work to certain parts, helping you focus on a specific aspect of the art.
When I get the inevitable block, I start to doubt myself. My confidence wanes and I compare my work to that of other people.
The seventh step: Part I. Part I is one corner or outline or first layer of paint. You start from the bottom and work to the top. Work lightest color to darkest color. Part I is relatively quick, but still take time and don’t rush. Part I is the very first part of the work coming to life. Part I is probably my favorite step because:
A. I can see my art begin to blossom
B. I don’t yet have a mental block
C. I don’t yet hate the piece
Part I is crucial to the work because there is still time to change the idea. Usually something different than planned will reveal itself. This is the time to let the supplies do the talking and let whatever happens, happen.
The eighth step: Part II. Here begins the completion of the basic picture. Part II is the longest step for me. Part II for me usually encompasses getting everything but the details completed. It’s my proudest moment, mostly because:
A. It looks like I wanted it to
B. The painting is almost done
C. This is the point I can relax
Part II is a nice, long period of just working and getting the idea down. Details come later. It’s a relief because the biggest aspects are completed and the piece looks like it’s finally coming together.
The ninth step: artist’s block. Artist’s block is just like writer’s block. When I get the inevitable block, I start to doubt myself. My confidence wanes and I compare my work to that of other people. It’s a struggle that can last for hours, days, or months. I mostly argue with myself on how to continue with the art. But there is hope. When I get a block:
A. I walk away from the space and focus on something else
B. I take a much needed nap
C. I shove the thoughts about the piece in the back of my brain
The important thing to remember about artist’s block is that everyone gets it. There is no correct way to get over it either. Be patient with the art and with yourself.
The tenth step: details. Detail work is the hardest step. It is very tedious and methodical. It is also very uplifting because it is literally the final touches of work. The home stretch. The longest mile. The last week before graduation. Details are a pain in the hand, though. I always do detail work last because:
A. My piece turns out different than I originally intended
B. Details are easy to redo
C. I don’t really like doing detail work
Details are crucial to the final outcome of the work. It’s the final layer of the cake, not quite the icing.
The eleventh step: recognition. Now, most artists are not artists by occupation, meaning that they have a side job to support the craft. Why? Well, because art isn’t commissioned by museums unless:
A. You are dead
B. You are dead
C. You are dead
But don’t be discouraged. It happens to all of us. Even the greats. Commission is the icing on the cake that you usually never get to see. I haven’t had any of my pieces taken in by museums, but I’ve heard the rumors.
The point of this is that not everyone is an artist. But not everyone understands the hard work of the process. Trust the process. There may be times where you may want to cut your own ear off, but trust me. It’ll all work out in the end. If it doesn’t, just set it all on fire.
Photo: Preparing a glaze (Explored) by Keith Williamson on Flickr