What is Creative Process?

Artwork by Carrie Brummer, All Rights Reserved

I’ve decided this school year I am going to focus on exactly this question for my students as well as for myself. Generally our art department has much to be proud of (go team!) but there is always room for improvement. My colleague and I plan to focus a bit more on studio work as students’ workbooks are so strong. I want to better understand and help my students address the act of creating to improve their studio product. It’s something I’ve also been thinking about  this summer while I took a creative break from my studio art: How do I make art? What are my strongest artworks and how did I go about creating them?

This is the first time in a long while I am creating art just to create. I have no commissions and only one competition in the background to even be thinking about. Yet, even so, I have caught myself judging and my inner voice wondering about details of the work when it’s not yet completed! I wonder how much of that is my personality and how much of it is something we all hear…that inner voice questioning choices and wondering if the work is any good. I just want to plug out that noise and make art to create art.

When I start with only a general idea and allow the work to direct my decisions, the work is completely different than my art I plan out. The process is fluid and all about problem solving. It also releases me from my preconceived notions of what the artwork should look like when it is finished.

When I look at work I’m most proud of or pieces that have gained recognition, most of the works have been unplanned. I have started with one idea that changes itself drastically over the course of the artwork.

For example, Looking Glass (above) started from an incomplete painting that was staring me down, waiting for its resolution. I had this image of flowers from Monet’s garden I began painting as a break from my portraiture inclination. Something got a hold of me and I never finished it. I’d come home to see it everyday as a constant reminder of my lack of follow through. Finally, when I was sick of looking at it I got out some paste and chicken wire I’d wanted to play with and began covering the painting with it. The notion of layering, not being able to see the full story, or even have two stories merge appealed to me. I saw the white texture paste as an entirely new substrate to work on and… Voila!

None of this was fully planned or even considered in my workbook, it came as intuitively as my inclination to create did: quietly and without notice. It feels like the work was there all along, as it should be.

ARTIST THINK ACTION: Are you a planner or an intuitive when you create? Why do you think one approach is more successful than another? Start a discussion with creatives and discover different ways of  making art.


  1. Great post, Carrie. This is a key question I asked every artist on my road trip. Every one had his/her own answer, but a common theme emerged, namely, trust your muse. When an artist of any type surrenders, even a bit, to those creative impulses inside him/her, it can lead to unexpected creative output, which I think is what you’re talking about here with unplanned work. A lot of them planned out their work extensively beforehand but still allowed for an organic process during production.

    Of course, trusting your muse really means trusting yourself, which means turning off that judgmental voice inside you.

    • Hi Patrick! I do think having some trust in yourself can lead to better and greater art. I have never really acknowledged how one specific process has allowed me more opportunity for creative expression than others. Having some time away made me reflect on which “way” of working best suited my art.

  2. I think it may be a requirement that creativity isn’t completely planned. If you can conceive it in your conscious, logical mind before producing it, then it already existed in some form and you’re not creating something original. To truly create, you have to let ideas come through you in a spontaneous way–at least at some point in the process–because our planning mind simply doesn’t have access to anything it hasn’t already experienced. You can set out with an intention or plan in mind, but then you have to play, experiment and release expectations so that the original stuff can come through.

    • I completely agree Sue. That is an inherent part of inspiration…a fluidity of thought and openness to new ideas. Although I do argue with my students: is there anything original anymore or are we a product of our environments even as artists? Releasing my expectations is always the hardest for me. I am by nature a planner, which can be helpful in terms of time management but I sometimes think it gets in the way of my creative process. Thank you for your thoughtful post.



  1. Creativity Tweets of the Week – 9/9/11 « The Artist's Road - [...] “What is Creative Process?” Carrie Brummer, Artist Think: Carrie answers the question I asked every artist I interviewed on …

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>