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My 4 Step Creative Process

Jul 01, 2023

Starting a project can sometimes be overwhelming.  If I begin to think of ALL the steps that I need to do to create the piece, I begin to feel like, I don't have time and put it off for another day.  Sometimes it begins to feel too complicated, so the supplies just sit on the table waiting to get used.  This is a trap that we as artist have a tendency to fall into.

I needed to relax my thinking and allow myself to Enjoy the Process.  Therefore, I decided to begin thinking about my process in steps so that I could focus on one thing at a time; yet stay congruent with the whole piece.  

I found that while I was creating a project, typically I followed the same 4 steps.   So I named them and listed them here for you.   This post is not intended to dive deep into any of these steps; but rather to give an overview and help you get started if you have been putting off being creative.

 You have probably heard others say this before, "Create in layers."    I like to think of building a cake....yes, I love cake. ❤️.   It only becomes a cake after all the steps (layers) have been completed.   Another wonderful tip about working in layers is that if you had to stop what you were creating suddenly... you could easy find a place to stop by finishing one of the layers.  Similar to a cake,  you can add the ingredients, bake the cake and then wrap it up to be frosted another time.  Layer help you know right where to pick back up again. 

  • Layers also add depth to a project, creating this wonderful curiosity of how something was created.  Layers can bring a "flat" picture to life. 
  • Best of all, when you think of your project in LAYERS, then it does not seem overwhelming, or too complicated.  Rather than thinking of what to do all at once....break it down a layer at a time. 


I took a video project I created, sped it up so that you would not be sitting for hours 🤗, and divided it up so that you can see how I created each "layer".  I believe the video is only 8 mins long, but I take you through my whole process.

See my 4 steps below.  I hope it is helpful for you.


My 4 Step Process


Step 1:  Experimentation & Play:   

Starting a project without any idea of to create, is typically the hardest part for most artists.  Some call it, "staring at the white page."    This first step can create a lot of pressure and anxiety, causing the artist to put off spending time creating.   Art was never meant to be a burden...or something that creates stress, and I decided I wanted to change that feeling❣️. 

 I begin by looking at my paper, or canvas as a space to experiment and play.    I tell myself that it can be covered up, so just get started by adding paint or paper.


Step 2:  Options & Possibilities:

After I create that first layer...a foundation that holds and supports the rest of the art, I begin thinking of the ways I can use the Elements of Design to create interest. 

  • What colors are starting to show up in the work and how can I make them work and play well with each other?
  • Will repeating something, or creating a rhythm make for more interest?
  • Perhaps I need to balance out the shapes, colors etc.

This step sounds complicated...but it is not.  We naturally do this step everyday of our life.  When we look at something, we are drawn to it because of the color, or perhaps the texture.  There is a human tendency to balance out things...for example, if you see a picture hanging off to the may want to walk up and straighten it....that is balance. 

Learning more about the Elements of Design helps us be more aware of these simple tools and how they can help and enhance our work.

I found that it is also during this step that images and ideas begin to form in my mind.  Perhaps the way the paint lays on the paper reminds me of the shape of a tree, or the flow of water.  We begin to see things in our work and how to bring them out...which leads us to Step 3


Step 3:  The Focal Point.  This is where your story begins.   In this step you decide what is going to be the main focus of your work.  What kind of story are you trying to tell?  How do you want your viewer to feel?  Do you want them to reach out and touch your work?     

When I taught an Interior Design course and we started talking about the arranging of things in a room, I taught them that every room needs (1) focal point to grab the eye of the person as they walked into the room.  Everything else in that room was chosen and arranged to add interest.... helping the view to continue looking around the room until they were brought back to the main focal point again.    That same thought process can also be used in our art.  What is the main idea that I want to get across?  That becomes my focal point.


Step 4:  Details and Finishing Touches.  This step is when the piece really comes to life.  It is just those few added touches that bring everything together and adds emphasis in the places you want it.  For me, this is the step when I add my line work and white highlights.  I may also go back and add another detail or two.