The Creative Process

I love the freedom to create.  When you see a master at work, they make it look so effortless.  It’s only when you step into the arena and dare to try on your own that you realize how much skill and dedication has been invested.  The hours it requires to hone a craft are part of what yields incredible results.  A personal favorite quote from Beethoven; “Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine.”   That idea of practicing your art and forcing your way into its secrets is fascinating to me.  Last time I posted about creating a painting and the struggle there-in.  I recently gave it another go and thought I’d document my creative process.  Here goes;

I wanted to create a painting as a gift for my sister who lives in the California.  I began by imagining a picture in my head of what I wanted the finished painting to look like; it’s the rocky and rugged coastline of Carmel. I’ve been there, so I could feel the wind whipping around me, taste the salt in the air on my tounge as I listen to the waves crashing on the rocks. With an image in my head as place to start, I couldn’t still couldn’t see it exactly. It’s kind of like a dream; you remember it vaguely, but not in clear detail.
It was only recently, after doing some research, I discovered most artists are working from an actual existing image, not concocting something from their minds eye or memory.  I found this very freeing as the artwork from my minds eye never quite turned out how I wanted.  So I started with a blank canvas and looked for images I found inspiring.  I ended up planning to combined two images of the same point on the Camel Valley Coastline.

Once I had a good reference picture, I prepped my paints and my pallet knives.

The artist whose technique I’m seeking to master is Leonid Afremov.  He works strictly with pallet knives, no brushes and his work is outstanding.  See below for a sample of what he is capable of.


It was with this in mind that I began to work. Now keep in mind I haven’t just looked at his painting, but I’ve watched his videos and studied his technique.  And yet…

This is what my efforts resulted in.

Yikes! There is a specific way and order you are supposed to add the layers, texture and color. It wasn’t working out as I hoped. So I decided to scrape the canvas.

And then began again, but with a different technique in mind.

I was mixing two reference pictures, one with an amazing sunset and one with a mostly clouded sky. I realized the lighting would be completely off if I tried to combine the two. So I went with clouded day as it looked more interesting to me. I began to add some basic form.

I liked how this was developing and began to feel like I was making progress in the right direction; adding in some detail here and there.

I worked the water a bit more by adding some highlights where the sun would strike the foam. You’ll see yellow in the painting but I realized with a clouded sun, the highlights should have been more muted. The smaller rocks above to the left of the tree look more like a beard than stones.

Here I’ve worked those rocks some more and added some shade and shadow to the waves and rocks in the water.

At this point, you’ll see I’ve decided to work the background by adding clouds. It’s important to understand that each change posed an element of artistic danger for me as I thought “what if I break it?” I knew it wasn’t complete, and I wasn’t yet happy with how it looked, so I had to chance it and continue to risk by tweaking it and add things here and there.

It’s looking pretty good, but there was a few finishing touches that needed to be added. I had to change some of the shading coloring from the green I had added in before. When I do a painting, I love to add colors. A splash of vermilion, a dab of purple, what ever strikes my eye in the moment. The problem is, things don’t look quite right when the color scheme isn’t consistent. I’d describe my style as somewhere between realism and impressionistic. Strictly impressionistic and you could have had cotton candy colored trees and who is to say it shouldn’t be that way. But I wanted it closer to reality. So I tweaked the shading and the peninsula a bit more and thought I was finished.


After a day or two of walking by it, looking at it, hoping I was done and wouldn’t do anything else that could wreak it, I came back and added some final finishing touches in the shading and color of the trees and smaller rocks. When giving a painting as a gift, you never know if someone will like it or not. Taste is subjective, and tastes in art even more so. Below is the reference and the final out come of my risking to create something better than I have. I still haven’t come close to creating a painting using the technique of artist I referenced above, but I’ll keep at it till I discover the secrets of my art. I hope this encourages you to take risks, finding the secrets of your art no matter what that looks like in your life. Be encouraged!

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