Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Planning the Creative Process

Creative projects of all types have two distinctly different parts to the creative process:
  • The creation/planning phase
  • The production phase.
Some creative projects have definite parameters, like building a bridge or constructing a home. Create a plan, follow it, finish it and move on.

In reality there is always a little cross-over between the two phases. Some challenge not considered in the plan has to be creatively solved during the production phase. The bigger the project, the more important that most of the creative work is finished in the planning phase, as resources and time may not be available to make many mistakes during the production phase. A smaller project, like painting a small image or composing a song can be more flexible (less resources of time and materials are at stake).

The trick for me (and other highly intuitive types) when we plan is to not feel hemmed in by the original plan. I know enough now about my creative working process to nurture my strengths.

I became very aware of the importance of planning a large painting when I painted billboards in the late 1980's. Until then, the most I would do before beginning a painting was a cursory sketch, and I'd often skip that step, preferring to work the sketch out in paint. When the painting became 24 feet long and 11' tall, there was much less room in the time and materials budget to make a mistake. For the most part, I eliminated as many errors as possible before I got to the production phase of the painting.

Planning was crucial when I illustrated a children's book, setting up the 17 paintings necessary for the text. I had to paint them all at the same time to ensure the same exact style from beginning to end. Because my style is very fluid, I knew that I would "loosen" as I painted the images. By planning a synchronized completion of the images, I ensured that the final pieces would fit perfectly together.

When I'm putting together a large project, I am most creative when I work with people who have a certain comfort level with what appears to be chaos (but is actually creativity). I recognize the downside to my strengths (sometimes referred to as a weakness) and set up a safety net. I'm not linear or tidy, and my organization style tends to look like a big wind swept through my studio. Hiring an organized, linear, tidy helper to handle the accounting and to keep my routine administrative tasks in order is one of the ways I plan for success. That leaves me free to do what I do best, and when that happens, my projects are much more successful.

All images and writing on this blog copyright protected Cristina Acosta 2008

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