Monthly Archives: June 2016

The MorriguWhat I mean by creative process is the process used by anyone who's making something or finding a solution. This evening I'll be participating in a panel discussion titled “Creative Process Across Disciplines” at CONvergence.  (Sorry, you'll need a membership for the convention to check out the panel).

It's described as “A discussion of the creative process across different industries, science, technology, and the arts. Brainstorming and problem solving. What tools are similar, what are different? Is there a particular mindset one needs to cultivate? Let's explore! Panelists: Christine Mitzuk, Scott Keever, Carrie Patel (mod), Carl Zachmann”

Thursday June 30, 2016 5:00pm - 6:00pm

I'm very excited to hear what other people have to say about their experiences. It's something I'm very interested in lately and I was thinking about it this morning, trying to gather my thoughts. I think the creative process has several phases or parts but I don't think they always happen in a particular order and oftentimes some parts overlap or happen concurently. Here's what I have so far:

  • impetus or inspiration
  • brainstorming
  • preparation
  • exploration and experimentation
  • trial and error, iterations
  • research, reference
  • actually making the thing
  • review, examination, reflection (not always immediately after completing a project).

For me, for making a picture, it looks something more like the following but with a few of these phases overlapping or being revisited throughout the process: impetus, inspiration, idea generation (brainstorming, thumbnails), rough sketch, value studies, reference/research, tighter drawing, color studies, final art, evaluation.

What does your process look like?

There are plenty of resources defining lightfast but I wanted to know what it looked like when something wasn't lightfast.

I wanted to use brown ink as a sketch tool by filling a Niji Waterbrush with it. I was told by one of the sales people at the art supply store that pigment-based ink would clog up the brush and that I should use dye-based ink instead. But I really wanted to use the pigment-based ink because, from what I read, I knew it was more lightfast than the dye-based ink. I wanted to see for myself what the difference was.

I did an experiment based on one of the lightfast tests described in "The Painter's Handbook, Revised and Expanded" by Mark David Gottsegen, 2006, published by Watson-Guptill Publications, New York. I deviated a bit by using thick, white, acid free paper from my sketch book instead of rag paper. On the paper I scribbled two rows of graphite pencil. Then all the way across one row I painted some pigment-based ink and then going down I created a wash with the ink and water. I repeated this process on the second graphite row with the dye-based ink. Next I cut the sheet in half. I taped the loose half in a south facing window where the ink and paper would be hit with the most sunlight. The other half stayed in my sketchbook out of the light.

I checked the strip after about 24 hours and was surprised to see that the dye-based ink had faded to a value of about 60-70% from the original dark brown. The pigment-based ink had a barely noticeable loss of color or value.

Day 2 and 3 showed no noticeable loss in either strip.

Day 4 the pigment-based ink still didn't appear to have changed much. The dye-based ink appeared to have lost a lot more color and value. It was down to about 30% of its original quality.

Day 5, 6, and 7 the pigment-based ink still didn't have a visible change but the dye-based ink appeared orange. Wow, how interesting. I was not expecting that.

a strip of paper with a stripe of brown pigment-based ink over graphite pencil marks and a strip of dye-based brown ink over graphite pencil marksI left the strip in the window for over a month and there wasn't much noticeable change to the colors after day 7. The paper did get lighter and possibly a little yellow compared to the half I left in the sketchbook.

I don't take this result to mean that all my sketches done with pigment-based ink will last forever. There are many variables that affect the longevity of a picture besides the lightfastness of the pigments used. I interpret the result as: if I want my sketches to have a good chance of looking as I intended for a long time (if I put any of them on display) I should stick with my original thought of using the pigment-based ink.

Frustrated with getting marks on paper or keeping a journal? Here's one idea to help ease the frustration: crayons!

Yup, wax crayons.

Here's what I noticed this does for me:
It changes my mindset to one more of play time, a child-like mind of exploring and just being and making.
It removes some of the rules.
It gives me permission to take the whole process less seriously.

Then I gave myself an assignment to focus my practice: color studies.
I'm doing color studies, with his permission, of photos by my friend David Ginsberg. His work is very inspiring and a joy to look at. He paints with light and his eye for color and composition is stunning. His range of design is excellent. Some pieces lean to the abstract, some are more narrative. You can find his work at He does have prints available so don't be shy in contacting him.

crayon color studies on tan toned paper
Color studies done in crayon of photos by David Ginsberg. I'm still learning about how I can layer crayon so I think in some of these I could push the darks darker.

I think doing color studies is helpful in figuring out composition. They offer the opportunity to puzzle out balance, flow, leading the eye, value design, and color design. Doing them in wax crayon forces me to simplify the values, the shapes, and to think more on color relationships and temperatures. I think this is helping me think more in terms of design rather than replicating what I'm seeing and I'm enjoying it.

The studies I've done so far are mainly from Dave's "American Light" collection and one from "Driving Eastward"

Here's a small version of one of his photos from "American Light" to give you an idea of the excellence in Dave's images.

mystery filled photo of a path through bamboo by david ginsberg
"The Bamboo Road" Copyright 2010 by David Ginsberg

So if you're feeling stuck with your mark making, maybe try changing up your media. You might discover something enjoyable.

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Photo I shot of a waterlily at Como Park Conservatory from about 2010. I still love the backlighting on the petals.
Photo I shot of a waterlily at Como Park Conservatory from about 2010. I still love the backlighting on the petals.

I asked an artist once how he developed his latest style and way of working. He shared his thoughts which I thought were helpful and maybe you'll find them helpful too.

His most recent way of working was markedly different from what he created in previous years. I was very curious how he shifted creative gears and what appeared from the outside as reinventing himself. But maybe it was just finding what he was really wanting in his art. I'm paraphrasing: he said notice what you notice. Pay attention to what you are drawn to. What do you like? What do you see that makes you pause or get excited or linger.

I don't think I can express exactly what that is for me but some of the things I'm drawn to are nature, organic forms, space (as in nebulae). I continue to learn about this with each new drawing or painting I make. I think that's all part of the artistic journey and the fun of creating.

What are you drawn to?

Snap shot of oil painting in progress.
Snap shot of oil painting in progress.

Finding a balance between imagination and realism. After the lay-in (getting a first layer to start setting up value and color relationships) this time I decided to tackle the flesh tones in the face first before developing other areas. I'm trying for a dusk or night time look so I mixed a "flesh" color first and then added some different blues and maybe a little Raw Umber to shift the color to look like a moonlit situation. Trial and error, experimentation. I like what I found.

Blues I experimented with: Prussian Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Phthalo Blue.