On Creative Process: Conclusion & Diagram (4 of 4)

On Creative Process: Conclusion & Diagram (4 of 4)


So far in this series we established that the creative process of art making consists of four main pillars upon which every artwork is built. These are Inspiration, Idea, Expression and Design. We discussed each in detail so in case you missed any of them I encourage you to go back and read them. Thus far we have considered the four elements separately. In this article I’d like to show how they function in the context of the creative process as a whole.

I would like to put these four elements into a diagram that would give you a good overview of their individual position in the process as well as their function as a whole. I’ve chosen a triangle to represent their relationships. Triangle, or pyramid, is a symbol of great strength and importance. In this case, the triangle is separated into levels. If I will one day teach a workshop or a class in person, a copy of this diagram will probably be the first thing my students would see.

Creative Process Diagram

What this diagram shows us, surprisingly, is that Design is placed at the very top. This means two things. Firstly, that Design occupies the least amount of space in the triangle, so its function is the least important (within the diagram), and secondly, that it being at top means that a viewer perceives it first.

Below Design we can find Expression. As we discussed earlier, Expression takes form through Design and Idea. In it we recognize the character of the artist. By the way they approach Design and Idea we see who they are.

Idea is occupying still more space in the triangle and that means that it is a very vital part of the process. As I mentioned earlier, today we don’t give much thought to Idea in our work and I think that is one of our biggest transgressions. As for its placement in the triangle, it suggests that the Idea can be quite complex and almost “invisible” to the uneducated viewer. However, when we consider the approach to Idea we see often in art today, unfortunately we can find that the Idea is infantile and sometimes crudely screams at the viewer, robbing the artwork of its value.

Notice the inner triangle within triangle formed by Idea, Expression and Design. This suggests that the three are very much connected, because our personality (Expression) forms the final Idea and Design choices we make. The way to the final painting is through our selves and the trio Idea, Expression and Design is the path we take. These three elements engage our mind, eye and hand.

Inspiration is at the bottom of the triangle and occupies the most space. Despite my brief description of this vital element I must stress that it is absolutely essential to the process. It is the Why we decided to pick up a brush in the first place. It gives tone to our life’s work, it enfolds the motives, desires, fascinations, love, our creative spirit. Inspiration is the heart of the process. It engages our most inner feelings and convictions.

Finally, the top of the triangle shows Finished painting, which is the manifestation of our successful engagement in the creative process. It is the least important part of the process in the sense that for us it serves as a symbol, a milestone of expanding our knowledge and understanding of self and the world. It is the result of greatly engaging activity that lead us on the way of self discovery. Finished painting is symbolized by a symbol of heart within hand. Hand represents the very manual aspect of art making, after all we use our hands, arms, our whole body movement to make our paintings. The heart suggests that while the process ends with manual labor, it starts with our hearts.

The triangle also symbolizes the way we get to know the artist’s personality and motives. When we look at a finished painting, we first see what’s most visible to the eye, the brushwork, the colors, shapes and values – Design. When we reach beyond it we can observe more of who the artist is, how he thinks and approaches his work by considering his Expressive means. We observe those in the way they treat Design and Idea. When we understand their approach to Idea we can then understand the very motives of why they set out to paint in the first place, we get to know their Inspiration and then we know who they are.

I hope you found this conclusion and the diagram useful. Feel free to download it and use it as a reference. If you have any questions leave them in the comments down below. Now that the series on the Elements of the creative process is finished I encourage you to start a discussion, sharing your thoughts on the process, your convictions and motives. I’m excited to engage with you in a discussion.

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  1. Sharon Wieland

    Your diagram is infintely helpful! Yes, it would be a great way to start your class. I would love to see you write an article on design patterns, perhaps building on Whitney’s thoughts. Thank you for this series of articles!

    1. Thank you very much!
      I am working on the article on design patterns right now. Hopefully I can get it done for next week release.

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