The Creative Process and Finishing a Painting


Summer's Bounty


As artists, we are so lucky to be able to create something new that has the ability to communicate and produce a sense of value in others. To originate something wholly new, conceived, and made by our own abilities is something I savor and value every time I paint.

However it is not when everything falls into place with relative ease that I find the creative process most rewarding, no, it is when I have been grappling with a problem and probing for possible solutions over a period of time that I enjoy most. It is when the creative act is something to work for and solve that I feel most rewarded.

This idea of enjoying the creative process is something I try to teach when working with students, because I believe if you love the labor that is involved with the craft of art making, you will continue on and overcome the challenges. Also by loving the exploration of your medium makes every opportunity to create a positive experience, and reduces the need to focus on the outcome.

To be an artist, is about combining your ability to think, plan, and execute ideas. There are times when everything comes together, but there are more often times when the painting is like going down a maze with no sense of direction. I liken these times as periods of being in the wilderness and being mindful of just keep trodding on, but to also put that painting aside and begin another one.

These are the times when you must give the creative process time to develop.

Last summer, when I began this painting, I had a vision, I wanted to create a series of large-scale floral still-life paintings, working only from life, creating a sense of warmth and abundance. So I set up an exuberant bouquet and got to work…

summers-bounty-version-1 {first start}

…but I did not like my first start. It mainly had to do with the surface choice. I had chosen a very fine weave linen that was super smooth and demanded a very high level of finish, similar to the painting Sunflowers and Apples from the summer before. Once I began to work on the second pass, I realized I wanted a rougher linen surface, more in line with the support I had used for the painting Contemplating Motherhood.

So I pulled out a new stretched canvas and got to work all over again.

This time around, the painting went better. I liked how it was progressing for the first stages, but then I also realized it was missing something again…


{end of first phase}

So I hung it in my living room and lived with it for a week or two. Observing it at different times of the day and trying to mentally make changes that would strengthen the composition.

Then I realized it was too sterile and isolated, and that I wanted to change the sense of space in the painting so it really interacted with the viewer. So I added the flowers on the horizontal surface to further heighten the sense of foreground and background. Adding the flowers made a huge difference so I put a frame on it.


{after placing the zinnias on the horizontal surface}

This painting has hung in a frame all through the autumn and winter, teasing me about how wonderful it will be to have summer again and also because I was still not convinced it was finished. It needed something more….

You may wonder how I knew it needed something more, but I knew it did because I was unwilling to submit it to enter into shows. I was unwilling to pronounce it complete because in my gut knew it did not completely express what I had hoped for.

Then last week, I was out painting in the open air when I came home and was struck with an idea on what to change and in the 30 minutes before having to go and pick up Naomi, I removed the painting from its frame and began to mix a new color for the background. In the half light of the fading day, I laid in this new color and then left it to stew for two more days.


{after the first layer of the new background color}

This big change felt good. I also eliminated some of the flowers that were superfluous and added even more of a sense of background by moving the glass jar closer to the wall to have shadows cast on the wall.

When I had a chance to paint all day, I woke up early with purpose and spent the entire day focused on making this painting express what I had been grappling with for almost nine months. And by the end of the day, it was finished.


{just finished and still on the easel}

I firmly believe the creative process cannot be hurried. By being willing to live with the ebbs and flows of the creative process I believe you are able to grow and freely express all your impressions of life and art.