The ever-illusive, mysterious, creative process; how does this work exactly? The specifics are different for every artist of every medium, but I have seen a general pattern with my work, and the creative minds around me.
When starting something new, be it a new project, story, painting, etc., there is always that initial excitement. You have the vision, you're planning it out, there is some uncertainty, but that excites you. Today is day one, and you're ready to start moving mountains and shaking the earth with this new idea.
Next thing you know, you're putting the pen to paper, brush to canvas, getting the nails and hammers together, adjusting lights, the beginning stages of assembly. For me, this stage is one of my two favorites. There are so many possibilities for the end result of my work I am already envisioning, based on the way the modeling paste is being applied to the blank canvas, based on the first few scribbles and drips of the Krink pens, and so on. This is, in my mind, the most magical stage. It is a good idea to get as much done in this stage as possible. These are the bones of your work, if you get a good skeletal system in while you're fresh and beaming with excitement, it will make the process afterwards significantly easier.
As the piece progresses, the initial excitement is starting to wear off and it starts becoming work. Now, I love what I do, don't get me wrong. Being a professional artist is what I dreamed of as a kid. However, if an artist doesn't experience their passion being "work" at some point, they're doing something wrong. As Chuck Close says, "amateurs look for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work." This could not be more accurate. As a creative mind, you are not always going to feel "inspired" to create. This is the reality. The lack of inspiration is like a test; how much do you really love what you do? If the answer is along the lines of "more than anything," you will make the effort to push through those times where inspiration has taken a vacation and is making the creative work load a bit heavier. If the answer is anything less, you will fall into the rut of, "maybe tomorrow," or "just not feeling it today," and when three months have passed and you haven't produced any work, you have to look at what has been keeping you from it. A lot of times for me, it's the physical act of painting that can exhaust me. When I think about standing for 6-8 hours trying to fix a piece I possibly screwed up the day before makes me want to crawl under the covers and wait for the little elves to come in and fix my painting while I sleep the day away. Unfortunately this has not worked (yet) so I have to just get up, and go to work.
What happens next is what I like to compare to a second wind. It's similar to the beginning stages, where there are visions of creative genius flowing and inspiration is plenty. These are created by the small successes along the way, when you push through the writers block, or finally solve the area of the painting that just wasn't working for you. These happen sporadically throughout the creation of your work, and will fuel you to the very end, if you continues to push through.
There are, however, those projects you're excited about, you start it, you love it, it's going great (or so you think). Then you take a moment to step away from the piece, and when you come back, you realize this is not something you want to continue working on. This can be caused by many factors, such as: the vision you had no longer fits the piece, you have changed/grown as an artist/creative, the effort to fix it is not worth the end result. These are all valid reasons to toss a piece and begin again. It's your work, your process, your voice. The only thing you need to be completely dedicated to is your true self.
Finally, there is the completion of a work of art. This is the moment you've been working towards, seeing your vision fully matured. It is ready for the world to see and enjoy and be moved by. The final brushstrokes, signing the piece, the varnish, wiring the back, and the final photograph. The last few details are always my favorite, because I am bringing my work to a brand new level of excellence I have never achieved before. Every piece is a level up from the last.
I'm currently working on a piece between the second wind, and completion (my other favorite stage). I have two pieces I have been trying to push to the stage of completion, and it has been quite the journey. I got the vision for this piece in October, and hadn't been able to start it until January. This week my amazing friend challenged me to finish this painting no matter what it took, even if I had to sit in front of it for hours and just stare at it. So when I woke up that morning, that's what I did. I sat right in front of my painting and did nothing but stare at it for about 15 minutes before I broke down and finally started working on it. Once I got started, and got into a good flow, I was able to finish it completely. I had saved what I felt was the most difficult/tedious part for last and that's why I was dreading it. After getting started, though, it wasn't as difficult as I had worked it up to be in my mind (why do we do that?). I felt such a great sense of accomplishment, and was able to really focus on my other work for the rest of the week. I even finished a second painting! I love having those little successes (and the big ones, too). Sometimes they really are just the boost you need to push you through to the next level.
( To the right, I have photos of the progress I've made on my two favorite pieces in my portfolio to date 💗 )