How artist’s get there is just as important as where they arrive. This is the creative process rather than the creative product.
People have always been unusually curious about how I make my work. In part, this is because I work with new technologies and the many creative possibilities they open. And in part, this is because I work with many media simultaneously; photography, drawing, sculpture, writing, music. Why do I do so many things? Curiosity. And, each medium brings something new to light. When I use different tools I experience the world and myself differently.
I started drawing before I could talk – and I’ve never stopped. It was my primary medium until digital photography enabled me to render images in my mind’s eye in even greater detail. While the drawing is rarely the final product for me now, I often make many drawings to get to finished works. I draw to find and record ideas. It’s true some pictures are worth a thousand words, sometimes more. I draw to find and refine compositions. I draw to create and refine sequences of images. I even draw after the final composition is made to better understand it, stripping it back down to its essentials. When you draw you come to know something by hand. Drawing offers a physical understanding that is both tactile and gestural. Above all, drawing’s ability to make ideas visible fascinates me most.
The best thing about photography is that it renders so much detail and the worst thing about photography is that it renders so much detail. The challenge with it is to present significant detail. Photography is wonderfully specific. It can show you more detail than you can see or remember. It can show you what you can’t see with the naked eye. It can draw things that are far away close or look deeply into the tiny worlds that surround us and even create images with heat, x-rays, and electro-magnetism. It can freeze or extend time. Photography extends our perception. And yet, so often, with it, we find ourselves at the mercy of our own experience, which is so much more than visual.
Sculpture offers unique possibilities to make and know things by touch. Sculptures beg you to interact with them physically. As you walk around and sometimes through a sculpture one object can present many different but interconnected experiences. These are qualities I often try to transfer into my flat two-dimensional images of deep spaces. I consider my work to be a form of earth art in virtual space. I shy away from shaping the land, preferring to leave it as it is, so that others can have their own experiences with it and make their own interpretations from it. Recently, I’ve begun making objects that bring the outside inside. But I guess all of my work brings the outside in and the inside out.
Words can be so helpful in so many ways. I write to find ideas. Words are wonderful for brainstorming. I write to find feelings. Words can be powerful tools for expressing emotions, their nature, causes, and consequences. I write to find connections. Words align the heart and the gut with the mind unlocking a unique synergy. I write to find clarify. Good writing distills and organizes thought; it’s often the most direct path to meaning. I write to find purpose. I make lots of plans … and continually revise them. I write to communicate with others about what I’ve done. When I write about my work I try to do so in a way that expands and opens rather than limits or closes perception and possibilities. The challenge with words is that they tempt the mind to think that they can figure it all out and then creative searching stops. If something is deep there’s always more to be discovered – with more words … and many other tools. Sometimes, I don’t finish my sentences. Sometimes all I need is one word – the right word. But more often than not, I need to write a lot of other words before I find it. And sometimes, to get their full benefit, words need to be spoken rather than written.
I play music – privately. Music hasn’t made its way into my finished works. One of the reasons I value music so highly is because with it I can be an amateur – someone who does something simply for the love of doing it. Music informs my understanding of the creative process and of myself. When I play music I can quickly tell whether I’m in a state of flow or not and connect with pure unfiltered emotions. I use music to tune in, to play, to be more spontaneous, to be less concerned with and take my time getting to finished results. Time spent exploring and savoring is time well spent.
I find each tool creates a very specific window into the world. When I change the tool, I change the way I interact with the world. When I use different tools, I am different.
Knowing how an artist works offers new ways of looking at their works – and the world. Hopefully, it inspires others to try new things themselves – or at the very least imagine doing so. I hope you’ve been inspired by my process. I hope my creative process energizes your creative process.