Creating Original Work. When to talk about it and when to shut up and just do it already!
Updated: Oct 26
The process of creating original work has always been an intriguing topic for me. How an artist evolves an idea from a single thought to a finished artistic piece can range from complicated to very simple. How each individual artist works their craft, performs their art or creates their universe is as individual as the artists themselves.
However, the ability to talk about, or articulate, the process of creating art can be an entirely different kind of practice. It's not a skill that comes easy to many artists. Arguably, that's why they are artists! They allow their art to speak for them.
The PBS series ART21 is a resource, archive and history of contemporary art. It follows the artist's perspective, documenting their work. Their goal is to raise awareness and encourage creativity. It is also an incredibly wonderful and intimate look at how each artist articulates their work. It gives insight to each unique process. And after watching several episodes, you soon realize that not every artists is skilled in verbally talking about their creative process. Which isn't a judgment, just an observation. However, I did recognize that most artists in this series had a system or process that they understood. Even if nobody else understood what they were doing, they figured out a way to articulate their process for themselves and their own creative journey.
The documentary film The Creative process chronicles fourteen different artists from all walks of life, revealing their most personal experiences, asking why they make art. And there are many other documentary films to wet your appetite on the creative process. I've seen many. Some are better than others, but all of them give great insight into how artists communicate about their work.
No matter what kind of art you create, over the years you develop your own way of work. It changes over time, you meet new people, get excited about new techniques and next thing you know, your process has transformed into something new. It constantly evolves. Finding ways to talk about your art offers the opportunity to share ideas and solidify theories. It can be a transitory place from imagination to practice. You think it, your articulate it, and then you put it into action.
And I really do enjoy talking about creating original work. And in addition, part of my own process is keeping a journal about the process itself. I write down my curiosities, methods of practice, creative relationships, struggles, etc; All with the intention to use the journal to solve certain challenges I have along the way of creating. Over the years, it has proven to be an extremely helpful way to organize my thoughts and turn them into doable actions.
My guess would be that most artists keep a journal of some kind. However, others might rely on their friends and colleagues to talk about process. Or perhaps they are enrolled in a class, part of a group or art salon. Regardless of how they talk about process, they are articulating it, even if they aren't consciously aware of it.
I have found that purposefully working towards articulating your process can be a great reward in itself. As a means to understand your artistic evolution, examining your history and your future, you can chart the progress of your process. You are not just depending on your memory to tell you all your previous methods of creating art, but you have created a written history of your technique. New methods will come and go and will never be lost. Which might prove useful if you ever want to repeat something you've tried before.
However, I have also had to learn "Art, like life, is understood through experience, not explanations" - which in this case simply translates to... you can't spend all your time trying to articulate the creative process... occasionally you have to stop talking about it.. and actually do it!
In other words, 'shut up Chatty Chatterbox and go make something!"