On artistic process

Trying to explain your artistic process is a little like trying to describe yourself to someone who you've never met: it can be in turns clunky and awkward, an exchange fraught with lengthy pauses as you attempt to put words to the things you’ve only ever just felt, questioning all of your assumptions and examining every word under a microscope as if you’re talking about a stranger rather than your body, your personality, or the things you like to do. James Baldwin (novelist, playwright, poet, essayist, cultural critic) wrote: “the barrier between oneself and one’s knowledge of oneself is high indeed” and it’s true, especially when it comes to fully understanding who we are in the context of our art.

Process doesn’t really feel like a process when there are no formalized methodologies or mechanics around it, no particular end goal in mind (what I've always advocated for) since the act of creating itself dictates the final physical product. One must not focus as much on the end goal or the final work of art, I believe, as much as we should focus on the innate ability and intuition and inner knowledge it takes to get there including the questions it helps us ask (and answer). Critic Harold Rosenberg believed that “what was to go on the canvas was not a picture but an event," so we could call process instead creative “intention” or “the act,” whichever terms helps us describe the feeling of lunging toward creativity, art-making as more of a dialogue between artist and canvas versus the mere fabrication of a piece. Camus talks about the correlation between extreme risk and the freedom of art as well the inverse, art as freedom. He says “We have art in order not to die of life” and I get that. We live to make, we make to live. 

As artists, our existence and the existence of our art can often feel like a form of salvation sometimes, a righting of our world, a way to make sense through feeling and emotion rather than merely relying on the rational and socially acceptable to dictate existence and experience. Process, then, released from expectation, becomes about something more, its broader impact — creative process as life, as activism leading us to a more powerful state of being instead of merely a means to an end. Audre Lorde called it the “transformation of silence into language and action.” Peeling away the superfluous to expose the fleshy authentic inside, shaping meaning and reinforcing our existence through acts of art-making, we replace the mechanical with motivation, embodying an easier, more natural, and ever-changing state of creating and being. 

(Photo Credit: Amaren Colosi Photography


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