Section 2 of Chapter 1 in Wendy Richmond's book Art Without Compromise is named "The Creative Process Loop." The central purpose for this section is to provide the reader with a method for supporting the creative process. Before defining the "loop," the author describes the feelings and reactions that are common to artists when they struggle to find ideas for their work.
The author describes three common reactions:
- suppression of the initial spark of an idea by our doubts, distractions, fear of seeming derivative, overwhelming techinical complexity, lack of time, lack of discipline, and so on. In other words, destroying the beginning of an idea rather than fully developing it.
- impatience with the process of developing an idea because of the urge to find immediate solutions.
- fear that blocks creativity. Richmond cites two opposing fears: 1) the fear of the unknown where the artist doesn't have a clear idea of what the final product will be and doesn't want to waste valuable time struggling to find it, and 2) the fear an artist feels about comitting too quickly to an intial and idea and investing so much time and energy in it so that it becomes too precious to be abandoned.
That's a BIG question, and here's Richmond's solution:
The Creative Process Loop
Stage 1: Observe -and record your observations in some way that's meaningful to you.
Stage 2: Reflect - over what you've recorded and spend time finding what resonates with you.
Stage 3: Articulate - create a physical piece that can be presented to others.
The "loop" begins after the third stage, when you present the tangible piece and observe the reaction, reflect on the feedback you receive, and create another iteration.
Richmond concludes this section by noting that the most important part of repeating this process is to maintain the balance between not knowing and having the "answer." She feels that it's critically important to move quickly through these stages in order to form rapid prototyping that removes the "preciousness of the investment." Each cycle moves you closer to your goal.
I'm writing this post as I'm reading the text for the very first time, and am amazed to find that Richmond's "loop" is similar to the one I teach in my workshops, but she leaves out a great deal that's important to making it work. I won't elaborate here because I want to encourage students to enroll in my course (forgive me for this shameless self-promotion!). However, I can verify from personal experience that this process works.
I'd like to back up a little and reflect upon what it means to invest so much time and material on an idea that it becomes too precious to abandon. Making progress requires us to take off the blinders, face the fact that something just isn't working, and walk away. It's also important to realize that we didn't waste our time and materials because the very act of creating is instructive even if the final product is unsuccessful.
The second important point is about spending time developing an idea. Most series that I've painted started with an idea that I developed over years! I've learned to be patient with this stage of my process and trust that a good idea will emerge. And this really is the heart of the matter: trusting in oneself to find good solutions - eventually. Patience is its own reward.