The Richness of process

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Student Paintings

I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.’   


When Picasso said the above quote, he was talking about the creative process. 

Painting is a creative process and like all creative processes it is very complex. It has been the subject of much analysis and essay, from many disciplines. 

When students join my classes they primarily want to learn techniques and skills of painting but very quickly they discover there is more to painting than just learning techniques and skills. Its a case of the more you know the less you realize you know. With the new sense of empowerment the techniques give opportunities to express in ways never before imagined. The first questions arising out of this new found empowerment tends to focus aspirations of personal tastes and aesthetics. Further questions reveal themselves as the student is motivated to master technique. Questions such as ‘ Am I prepared to push a little harder or explore a different subject matter?”. We say in the studio “this painting is only the step towards the next one and so on. Continually there is the next one’ and understanding that come the determination to rise to the challenge of the next painting. With each painting comes the challenge to learned and express something new . And before you know it years have passed with lots of paintings, good and not so good. However, on reflection over time we know we have learned a lot, because we appreciate a lot more. We have fallen in love many times over as we tenderly render each painting, its subject and technique. Each time we finish a painting we can reflect on the moments when we where filled with ecstatic joy of creation, for the love of nature, of people and places, 

As I have written in the past the creative process is in part an intuitive response like meeting the stone in the river. We act automatically and make quick decisions. While our automatic response seems to come from nowhere, it is far from what happens. If you can rename it by calling it a learned response this might shed more light on its origin. The response is automatic because it comes from a deep place of a learned experience, for example from the minute we are born we learn about gravity and how to use our body to counter the gravitational pull. We do not have to think about it nor do we articulate this phenomena because it is just so instinctual. 

The creative process in painting is like this. Before we can articulate what it is we want to create we must learn the techniques and skills of painting just as we instinctively and unconsciously use our bodies to counteract the pull of gravity we need to learn the fundamentals of painting in a way that is automatic The more learned experience we have, ei the more practice to master the things we want to learn the more automatic our response D.T. Suzuki said ‘One has not understood until one has forgottten it’. 

As with mastery of any new learning, it is how you approach the challenge and the discipline attached to the challenge which determines the outcome. I think Picasso sums it up perfectly in my opening quote.