When I paint a new design I generally only have a basic idea to start. So I start drawing it in pencil, usually doing a few versions before I settle on one that I like. Once I know I'm happy with it, I outline it in ink. Those steps are a relatively simple process, although it often takes a couple of weeks. But when it comes to the color, for some reason that's a much more organic process. I start by painting the first one or two colors and then I have to leave it alone for anywhere from an hour to a few days.
When I come back I can usually clearly see what the next color or few colors should be. I paint one or two more areas and then I need another break. Again, I'll walk away, let it sit, come back later and add more color. This process takes days or sometimes even up to a few weeks of doing small sections, walking away and coming back over and over again as the design reveals itself to me.
I can never envision the finished design ahead of time. For me it feels like the painting tells me where to go....
I have always wondered if it's like this for other artists, so I asked my friends. I wanted to know, do they start with sketches? Can they see it fully formed in their head before they start working on it and recreate it exactly as they see it? Or do they take it a step at a time like I do? I got so many great replies, I decided to share them here. These responses are from wonderful artists all over the country. You can read their responses and visit their websites to see what they do:
Marienela Borsten, Nela Ceramics: In my media you need to have something envisioned in your mind. Sometimes I don't draw but usually I like to sketch the shapes first. Then I kinda go from there. When it comes to color (glaze) that's another thing and I've had a lot of pieces sitting for months if not years waiting to be "dressed". I've found that the whole process goes faster when I get to "see" the finished piece in my mind. Otherwise, I just ask the piece what it wants to be.
Charlotte Behrens, Charlotte Arvelle Glass
The work comes to me in different ways. Sometimes I see the shape and the color follows and that's usually quite quick on that. Other times like some of the larger pieces it's in my head for days, weeks or months where I can "see" it. Kinda hard to explain. I can usually look up and see it in space in front of me. I've been caught "drawing" in the air with my fingers working on the piece while it's in my head. I think about that design until it's done and when I draw it out it's done. What's weird is that on of my close friends can "see" what I'm drawing in space even the colors sometimes without me saying it. Now that's crazy huh?
Kate Van Herik Tonguis, Sinistra Studio
When I'm dry on inspiration I look at work anywhere I can find it. Then I let what I saw sink in for about a week. It morphs into something else in my head before I make it. I have always thrown my work in my head before I sit down at my wheel so that I have the pitfalls ironed out before I begin. Glaze is something else - sometimes the pot tells me, sometimes the client tells me.
Charan Sachar, Creative with Clay
I am always drawing and doodling new forms for my work and new patterns for my decoration. The forms always remain at the back of my mind and I am always thinking how I can make them. The form, the construction, the process and if extruded then making the die all require a lot of planning. But the cool thing is that after all that planning and extruding my form, the new gestures and curves give me ideas to change things or make something else out of it than what I intended. It is a very dynamic process for me.
Coni Brown, Coni's Cabins Beach Bum Gallery
I do wholesale work for shops in south Fl. 15 yrs.- whimsical beach art paintings on signs, cabinets, lazy susans, tables, etc. I draw whatever beach scenes pop into my mind...then paint sky & water and leave the fun colors on beach houses, boats, clotheslines, etc. for the end!
Cathy Wallace Crain, Crain Art Studio
If I have a construction problem, I stay in bed in the morning with my eyes closed and figure it out. It is that place between sleep & awake...always works for me. I visual virtually everything I do. I rarely draw it out. After the first hr. or so, they take on a life of their own and tell me what to do.
Joanna Craft, Joanna Craft Jewelry
I keep notebooks of doodles and ideas that inspire me. Sometimes I do a more refined sketch of an idea, but mostly I just start working with metal and see how it evolves. These days, though, with the price of silver, I usually do the rough version in copper first!
Dee Jannsen, Dee Jannsen Glassworks
i also have a thing about designing new pieces in my head while I'm trying to fall asleep or just after i wake up. then i try to write it down before the details escape me. i have a notebook for that and a new notebook for potential jewelry cast designs that incorporate my glass as a "stone". M
Mark Rosenbaum, Rosetree Glass
don't do a lot of drawings. I figure out what I want to do, and work it out through the glass. I find that with drawings, I work through the piece and almost seem to skip steps to get to the end piece. Working directly with the material keeps the dialogue going with me and the glass. I think a lot while I am working on other pieces (mindless production). I am working right now on a series of large fruits and vegetables for a new restaurant and I am deconstructing the pieces and then writing down steps to make them look real, but not sketching them.
Amy Peters, Amy Peters' Studio
I do both sketching or working directly with the metal. But sometimes I do the marketing material first. I know...I'm a total marketing geek. But sometimes it's as much about the story and the packaging as the piece.
Angelika Traylor, Angelika Traylor Stained Glass
With my large panels, lamps & commission work I go through days of drawing, rarely sit, mostly pace and constantly walk away from it, I always feel like a caged tiger, very intense. It goes from a rough idea to a sketch then to a full sized drawing, lots of corrections, then all colored in so I don't lose my way when cutting the glass. The small things for my gift line are like play, nice and easy, I sketch it out and refine it, usually can tell if it will be a good seller.
Geri Comstock, Comstock Art Glass
It depends on what I'm making. I spent several months designing and drawing the sterling and fused glass flatware I made. There were a number of fabrication issues that had to be worked out on paper before I could start fabricating the sterling. The matching goblet designs came out of my head without drawing. The rest of my work comes from playing with glass and silver until I get a good feeling about it and make it without drawing anything.
Sandra Kevin - Sandra's Satchels
I have never used a pattern for my satchels. The best advice I ever received was from a sculptor, who said, "let the fabric tell you what it wants to be". My process also involves selecting fabrics. My fabrics select me. It is usually a"love at first sight" reaction. Now and then I have selected something without being head over heals in love with it, but not so much any more. Like any relationship, if it doesn't feel right, down to my toes right, I usually don't get it. Sometimes I'll buy a button and wonder why I bought it, and a week or two later, the fabric that cries out for that button appears. Funny thing, I think the handbags, fabrics and buttons choose me. I feel like I'm just along for the ride. Most of creating is to keep my head out of the way, and just dance with it.
Thanks to Mark Rosenbaum for suggesting the title of this post!