Art, making things, Prose, writing

The Creative Process

I like to make things – lots of things. I like to write, paint, knit, sew, cook, grow plants. Lately, though, even the tomatoes have been a challenge.

Happy tomato plant - finally!
Even these Thai peppers are falling into line


These have some common elements but by far he toughest for me is the writing and maybe that’s why it’s the dearest to my heart.

Here are the first few paragraphs of a piece I am working on:


Say Nothing by Jessica Argyle

            A handsome man, in his early forties, peered into his large walk-in closet and fingered an orderly row of perfectly hung white shirts, all facing eastward. The casual observer could be forgiven for assuming they were multiples, but he knew exactly which one he wanted. It had the faintest blue cast, was cool rather than warm in tone and served as a perfect foil for a good portion of his ninety-seven pairs of cufflinks.

            Brandon Hauser’s closet was a masterpiece of engineering with drawers that swelled and swiveled, hydraulic tie and belt racks and all manner of genius shelving on hinges and mounts that seemed to challenge the very laws of gravity themselves.

            This was the master domain, the private and guilty pleasure of the freshly divorced Brandon Hauser.  His large divorce settlement enabled him to build hidden displays for his two most valuable collections. He considered it an irony that her money built the lavish compartment for his valuable stamp collection. And no one enjoyed irony more than Brandon.


I’m on the home stretch  – almost finished this piece after having to rethink it many times. It is a work -in-progress  but I think I have broken the spine of the thing to use an appropriatly violent metaphor for what I go through with my writing.

There’s nothing like successfully completing a story and having it go more or less where I want it to go. Painting is different. I have just started another session with Roberta Marks and it is still a very challenging experience – and I’m not alone. We all value what Roberta has to say – we may not like it because Roberta is never personal. She says what she means for better or for ill. Probably what I like most about this class experience is that it’s not about producing art that people like, it’s about expanding what we know and our approach with what we do. It is a paradox because the minute we reach our goal and become good – acquire some special expertise – a formula that works, we are encouraged to abandon it and move forward.

This entire process is about removing any and all commercial and practical considerations, not playing to an audience, refusing to care about the opinions of others. When describing this class, I find myself using the word ‘integrity’ a lot.

Here’s what I’m working on – another WIP

Abstract art is not something I ever would have thought would work for me – or even interest me. Here’s what I have learned so far

Don’t go for the predictable,

Don’t be afraid to trash your work – ideas are not that precious.

Slash through it, see what the painting (or character) is trying to tell you,  forms that reveal themselves – then work through them.

It’s a two-step. First just act, write or paint with stream-of-conscious bluster, going with an idea or feel. Then stand back with a more critical eye, use judgment.  So first  feel, then think. Feel, think, feel, think  – then have a nap – or at least a pizza or go shopping.

Seriously, though – the great payoff is that just when it seems most impossible, when frustration reaches an apex and no coaxing, tweaking will make a dent, sometimes I just slash a hole in the middle, a large destructive energetic mark under the theory that anything is better than stasis and anyhow, its all I have left. The best thing about painting is that you get to make a grand gesture even with a relatively small canvas.   It creates immediate tension and sometimes possibilities begin to emerge – a crack appears, a fissure to peer inside of  . . .

I have a friend – someone I am trying to push. The problem with this guy is that he has gotten really good at what he does, the kind of books he writes work and he could easily carry on in the exact same manner. Worse yet, the minute he diverges from this path, he will likely alienate many hard won readers because they know what to expect and like the style. So why should he change anything?  I hope he does because I would love to see what he could come up with – he has the talent, but desire, oh desire  . . .

I remember a poem from long ago – I never knew the author – it goes like this:

This tree would like to grow

& yet be embryo

emerge and yet escape

the pain of taking shape


Painting & writing are really solitary art forms, unpredictable. Maybe that’s why I like sewing, cooking. Done well, they both make me look good.  And, yes, it’s true,  I so like to be appreciated.

I just finished making this from somebody else’s pattern.

This is a pattern called Gaya, available locally at the Seam Shoppe. The fabric comes from them as well.

Here’s a close up of the neckline:

And by the way, I happen to look absolutely fabulous in it.

2 thoughts on “The Creative Process”

  1. Susan Kent says:

    Another interesting post!

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