How does the creative process work?

A work of art in essence comprises ideas and the expression of those ideas.  How do they come about and does the second follow the first or is the process more nuanced?   It is often hard for artists themselves to describe their creative process.  But, while it’s fresh in my mind, I will give it a go from the story of a recent work depicted here.

On 4th July, Debbie, Becca and I were having a snack in Becca’s garden in Brighton. All of sudden, a huge gull descended onto the shed just above our heads. 

 It was looking for pickings.  Not that unusual, apparently, in Brighton. I was mesmerised as it flapped out its wings to the full extent and glared down. Becca, sensibly, chased it off. It didn’t go that far though, just on to the flat roof of the kitchen. Before eventually re-ascending, to find another house in the terrace no doubt.

I had in mind straight away to paint the dramatic scene which I had been lucky to capture in part on a photograph.  Just focusing on the gull, its wings and its glare.  

I knew that I wanted a painting that would have a simple background showing that the gull emanated from the expansive sky into a contained space (opposite property wall, onto the shed). Then the open-winged gull dominating this environment.   A middle sized canvas short rectangular canvas was needed. Oils would be best for this one, combining them with a good flow medium so that I could express the movement and tone of the wings in a two or three light layers of paint.  Then a lot of thicker but bright layered paint for a detailed head with its intense stare and pointed beak.  Plus also for the claws on the shed.

There is then another twist in the work entirely coming about as idea within the process of expression (to answer my question at the start).    Zoom into the bottom right corner. What do you see?  I am always a bit uneasy about giving a signature. I then had a thought which absolved me from that but gave me an image which presented ‘me’ as artist. As well as something which would be catching the gull’s glare.  

And my sense of pun (!) kicked in on the back of all that.  I have called the work ‘Gullantics’. 

Hope this illuminates something about the creative process. But it’s still hard to say how it works in every case. But how it starts is maybe a bit easier. Like the gull, it just descends on you in a moment and you feel ‘I need to run with that if I can’.

19th July 2022

Gullantics – Oil on canvas

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