“How did you do that?” Some musings on the creative process …

Posted by Dawn Curtis on August 2, 2020 in Art, Inspiration

When viewing my work, people often ask about my creative process. How do I decide on colours? How do I achieve depth? How can it look textured yet be smooth to the touch? How long does it take to complete a painting?

I don’t think too much about what I’m doing when I’m doing it, at least at the beginning stages. Sometimes I’ll be inspired by a landscape, person, object or image, or the texture of something I see. Whatever it is, I try to let go and bring the emotional energy—the feeling it evokes in me—into my work. This isn’t always a conscious act! 

The first stage is pure play, putting down marks and colours with abandon, sometimes adding collage paper and other media. As I work, I add layers, let them dry, sand, glaze, scratch, and gouge into the surface. As the layers build up (sometimes as many as 20 or more by the time I’m done) certain elements start to emerge that define the piece. 

The later stages of a painting are the most challenging and can take quite a while. What does it have, and what does it need? Is it balanced? I spend time contemplating a piece before adding the final touches, sometimes putting a painting away out of sight for weeks or even months before coming back to it with fresh eyes. 

Here are just a few of the stages of this mixed media piece “High Road” from near the beginning, to the finished work.


Want to learn more? I highly recommend checking out Pamela Caughey at www.artandsuccess.com and Gillian Lee Smith at www.gillianleesmithartschool.com . I am greatly inspired by the work of these two talented artists and teachers, and have learned a great deal from them.

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