The act of putting these principles into practice brings me to the creative process which has to do with the bringing of something of value into existence. Fundamental to the creative process is an excellent technical performance, a full understanding and execution of the tenets of realism. It must be understood that painting is not an imitation of facts but a summarizing of essentials, to paraphrase Whistler, ‘Nature is always wrong.’ She offers too much. So what I exclude in my work is just as important as what I include, invent, exaggerate, shift in position or suppress.
Because I’m primarily an outdoor landscape painter, discovering fresh and compelling subject matter is an integral part of the creative process. This has to do with emotional response and taste and remains individual and largely a mystery. It can be said, however, that I must be able to visualize a painting in my mind’s eye or I move on.
For me, spontaneity is essential to creative process. Especially in the beginning of a painting, I paint positively and rapidly, trusting that I will have a sufficiency of solutions to solve the problems that arise. Toward the end however I adopt a slower, and yes, tighter procedure.
Whatever the given amount of creativity one possesses, it can be expanded. The key is to establish a life long self-imposed internal discipline dedicated to excellence. Some of the methods I’ve devised to help the growth process along are as follows; to study the methods of an artist I admire and to make some of them my own, to follow the suggestions in a book by a respected artist, to investigate; high key painting, all weather conditions, interiors, night painting, dominant color, impressionist color theory, still life, portraits, to work with a limited palette or from memory. I have studied marines by Frederick Waugh, stared at and sketched the ocean in order to become thoroughly acquainted with waves in their various stages and to gain an understanding of the meeting of land and sea. Lengthy studies of elusive subjects have been profitable. These and many other areas of inquiry are worked on separately from the paintings that find their way into the galleries and shows. I consider these parallel track studies to be essential to the creative process, ‘Art is not a destination, but a means of travel’.
The words “Creative process” are generally used to describe the creation of an individual work of art, but I would suggest that the truly creative process is how the life of an artist is self-created. If the work flowing from that life reveals an ever increasing level of accomplishment then a more fundamental, life enhancing, creative process is in operation.
There have been times, however, when I seemed to have hit a brick wall in terms of growth, when the creative process seems to be stagnating. During these times I don’t paint in the field, sometimes for weeks at a time, but seek ways to shake things up, working in my studio. I experiment by finding new or reorganized approaches. Often experiments fail, but as Henry Ford once said, “Failure is an opportunity to begin again with more information.” So far, I’ve come out of these periods with renewed enthusiasm.