Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Process . . . I know I've spoken and written about 'The Process' before, but since this blog is shortly to begin its ninth year (wow . . . really nine years?), I thought it might be worthwhile to reiterate how my process of composing and coming up with new ideas for works happens. 

This comes about as a result of some time spent yesterday, talking about and showing examples of the very way in which I go about pulling ideas together with an artist friend who occasionally struggles with composing and finalizing the ideas that spark her creative process. The timing was perfect as I had spent the better part of Monday pulling together reference material and building up a compositional framework for an idea that was really set in motion almost a year ago.

Now some would say that they think I spend far too much time in preliminary motions, nitpicking the details, sorting through piles of reference, working out ideas and reworking them till I feel I've reached a point at which I am comfortable to do a final sketch for transfer to the Bristol Board and begin the drawing. Well, that is just the way I work!

As I've often said and repeated time and time again, that is precisely the 'stuff' that sets my mind a-thinking, the grist for my mill, the kindling that sparks my compositional ideas. I relish digging my teeth into piles of reference photos and notations from years previous when sitting down to compose a new work, especially one that might be headed for a jury and a major exhibition opportunity. I think I spend a good amount of time working out ideas before any drawing begins but for those works that I am going to submit for jury consideration, I tend to really get into . . . the process.

And so, I spent about six or seven hours on Monday working out a design for a larger work that will be, most likely, submitted for a major jury later this spring. Now the initial thought process for that time spent on Monday began quite some time ago, with little rumblings of ideas that I stashed away in my 'brain file' and made some written notations that wound up in a pile alongside my drawing board for future reference. 

The 'spark' or initial mind's-eye-vision of this idea was based upon some images I shot of some distant relatives I had lunch with in the spring of last year. The children were enjoying a sunny afternoon chasing and playing with a group of pigeons and gulls on the waterfront in Baltimore. I knew, upon seeing the images back on my computer screen, that there was good 'grist' for possible future inclusion in a drawing or two and the ideas began to float around in my mind on and off over the last ten months. 

By the time I had turned my thoughts to beginning to consider elements of a composition for this particular jury exhibition, I found myself going back to those images of the children and the birds from last spring. Before long, I had formulated the rough outlines of an idea which then called upon me to spend a few hours going through photos from cross country train trips I'd taken in the late 1960s. Now, how did I get from the Baltimore waterfront of the spring of 2012 back to train travel of 1967/68/69 (Back to the Future?)? I can't explain completely the linkage but that is just how my mind tends to work. In any event, poring over all sorts of photos of those train trips, and immersing myself in my personal love for trains and such, I felt I had hit upon a very interesting idea, one that not only excited me as an artist but I thought would, in a possible finished drawing, emote all sorts of connections with a viewer of that finished work.

And so the process began in earnest on Monday. I set out all the photos that I though had possible connections to the idea that I had in my mind's eye and began placing images together in what I hoped would be interesting arrangements. Here is where Photoshop came in quite handy as I would overlap images, getting them to a point that I felt they reflected what my initial vision seemed to be for the work, arranging and rearranging, shifting and substituting until I came up with a final arrangement of the basic important elements of the design that I was happy with. Now all of that shifting and such took a good five or so hours with me constantly refining my initial idea and even making adjustments that happily resulted from seeing things in the photo reference I was working with that had not occurred to me as possibilities in my initial plan.
 When all was said and done, I had settled upon a composition that was pretty close to my original concept, but that had been expanded a bit throughout the process as a result of seeing other, more interesting or unique possibilities as I went along. Staying open to the possibilities of change and alteration and happy discovery during the process of composing is, again, what makes me smile and feeds my creative desires. 

I've stored what I consider to be the 'final' worked out paste up of my composition and at last look yesterday, feel pretty comfortable with it. But, it will sit, unobserved, for the next few days and I will pull it up again over the weekend and take a look and if I don't see an immediate need to alter the placement of the various elements or overall design idea, then I know it is ready to go. But if upon seeing it with fresh eyes in a few days I spot something that seems a bit off, I can make the necessary adjustment, file it away again for a few days and take a second look next week. It's all a part of . . . The Process!


Kathryn Hansen said...

always fascinating to get inside an artists head!! your process is more lengthy than expected...very interesting...thanks for sharing!

Toni Kelly said...

I cannot begin to tell you the perfect timing of your post here. I also spend hours going through photographs and trying to put together a composition. I was thinking I took forever and there was something wrong with me. So thank you i needed that shot in the arm saying to myself it is ok and part of the process. Love your work Terry. Thank you for the inspiration.

Lyndell said...

Thanks, Terry, for explaining what a great deal of thought, imagination, and well honed technique you take into account, prior to putting graphite to paper. Inclusive of those techniques you've mentioned, I do believe that your minds eye is your most cherished, and inexplicable talent. This, I believe you have honed over many years. Perhaps without even knowing, although I do believe you are a very good observer of how, who and what is around you. Whilst you draw in black and white, the content of your drawings are colourful in nature. It is very generous of you to share your thoughtful creative processes with us. Eventually, the ultimate piece of splendid art is placed before us to enjoy, ponder, stand agog and reel by your enthusiasm for what you love to pursue. Wonderful Art!! Performed by a Master Artist who toils steadfastly toward perfectionism. Lyndell