My original idea for this creative project was to learn to paint with a medium I am not confident using and complete a small series of self-portraits. The biggest issue I had with this, was the amount of time there was to complete the project. One semester seems like sufficient time, but for me, learning to paint with watercolours would probably take a lot longer and I wanted the end result of the project to be semi decent. Although I deviated from the original idea, I feel that I have created something to be proud of. I will also continue to practice painting with watercolours.
I chose to paint a self portrait because I wanted the project to express how I feel at this present time in regards to studying an arts degree. I drew inspiration from other artists such as Kathleen Lolley and Mark Demsteader. Lolley, with her painting of a girl with an owl mask and Demsteader and his style of painting portraits. Although obviously my painting was going to be in my own style of painting, I find that by gathering images of other artists work as inspiration at the starting point of my creative process gets my creativity going.
As I mentioned before, the painting was a way to express my feelings about studying and choosing art as a career path. I thought that having a symbolic element would be the best way to achieve this. I chose an owl as it is seen as a symbol of wisdom among other things, “The owl, represents wisdom, change and detachment. Always aware of its surroundings, the owl uses intuition courageously, with insight into hidden truth…” (“Owl Symbolism,” n.d.) I feel that where I am at now, I possess none of these characteristics but will hopefully one day, which is why I left most of my face blank in the painting. This represents my incompleteness as a creative individual. I am still growing.
I chose to switch to acrylic paints as I was finding watercolours hard to paint with, although I started of practicing with the paints I only came up with one decent painting, although having said that I wasn’t very impressed with the painting overall and felt that I could come up with something more interesting, I would just have to change my original idea.
In regards to the weekly readings I found that Csikszentmihalyi’s 9 aspects of flow was the theory of creativity I can relate this project to.
1. There are clear goals every step of the way
2. There is immediate feedback to one’s actions
3. There is a balance between challenges and skills
4. Action and awareness are merged
5. Distractions are excluded
6. There is no worry of failure
7. Self-consciousness disappears
8. Sense of time becomes distorted
9. The activity becomes autotelic
I found I had reached my creative flow once I had decided to have just one painting and to use acrylic paints instead of watercolour. What is now the final product had been swimming around in my thoughts for a while, but I kind of disregarded it as it wasn’t achievable if I had stuck with my original idea. I found that the thought of having to use watercolours made me put of starting the project and once I made the decision to swap everything fell into place and I eager to start and I knew all the steps to take to reach the final piece of work.
The third aspect, a balance between challenges and skills, was something that had me thinking about my creative process. When painting the final piece, you will see in the video, that I start painting the owl and then I wipe it off and start it again at another point. When I am working on a creative piece I will use reference photos to paint from, but before actually starting the painting I will usually draw or paint the subject quickly over and over again until I get it right. With this painting, as I left it for so long I had to wing it as it was the first time painting the owl. I think this perfectly relates to the third aspect as when I was in my creative flow I knew exactly what had to be done to complete the project, but this shows that there was a balance between my skills and challenges.
When I am painting, time seems to fly when I am finding the painting to be enjoyable and distractions usually are excluded. For the project I decided to record the process as a video to show the entire process not just snippets from pictures at different stages of the painting. This was the only distraction I had when I was painting, as the camera would turn off at 15 minute intervals and I would have to briefly stop to turn around and turn the camera back on and continue recording as to not miss any of the process. I didn’t find it to be an annoying distraction, but at times it would break my concentration. Although having said that I don’t find that it was enough of a distraction that I couldn’t get the work completed it just meant at the end I had to put all the together. (Sorry, I don’t know film terminology)
In conclusion, I am happy with the end result even though it was not my original intention or aim. I think that the deviation and deciding to change things as I went was an integral part of my creative process. Although I would like to one day follow through with the original project idea, this current project shows that I have a style and a creative process that I was not really aware of until now.
Owl Symbolism. [n.d.]. Retrieved from the Macrameowl website: http://www.macrameowl.com/owl_symbolism.html
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). The Flow of Creativity. Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention (pp. 107-126). New York: HarperCollins.