The Process Behind 'Welcome' #1

After releasing my latest painting into the wild I thought it was probably best to tell you a little bit about the process I go through in creating my images. I start with an idea; it could be a feeling, a problem, a desire, anything really that lurks around in the dark secluded areas of my mind. At this stage I already have an idea about how I’m going to represent it visually but I’m very open to change.


I write down the central idea at the top of a piece of paper and then use free association (the mental process by which one word or image may spontaneously suggest another without any necessary logical connection) to derive a list of words. I try not to think about why I’ve chosen these words, I put them down and consider the implications later. Then I look at this first list and see which word(s) jump out at me. Again, I don’t think why, I just go with it. I choose one of these words, start a new list and then repeat the free association. Making lists for each of the words that jumped out is time consuming but it generates a lot of ideas. Finally I repeat this whole process a third time, seeing which words jump out and making new lists. I do it three times because I think that this stops me from skittering about on the surface and forces me to delve deeper. Many times I will reach one of the third level lists, a word will spring from my mind and I’ll think, "Ah, that’s what this is all about!". Using all of the lists, I look for suitable words to mould the direction of the painting. This can sometimes cause radical changes. On my painting ‘Welcome’ the background stayed fairly similar to my original idea but the character changed dramatically. My initial plan was to make her a wizened old witch with leathery skin and deranged eyes. I don’t know which would have been more fun painting, but finding reference material for the current version was certainly interesting. I got the idea for using free association from the screenwriting book ‘Story’ by Robert McKee. It advises looking at your script, seeing which words jump out at you, and then free associating. Doing this process with a script was a revelation that certainly delved deeper into the characters' motivations and personalities. So I pinched the idea for my painting. There I was, feeling a tiny bit smug, thinking that I’d found a new method of creating images, and oh... it turns out the surrealists got there quite a few years before me. Ah well, here’s hoping that the process will deliver some original images instead.

For Part 2, Click Here.

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