In the last week or so I’ve been brought to think about my philosophy of art several times (read: several times more than usual). In the ceramics studio this week we had a critique and one of the themes that emerged was that the problem solving process in which we discovered the sort of objects we want to bring into the world was far more engaging and rewarding than the actual finished object itself. Our graphic design class took a field trip to Fresh Produce (www.pickfresh.com), a local graphic design agency this week as well. They discussed their design process, which also happens to be all about the creative process (marinating ideas!). The Fresh Produce office also happens to be about the coolest office imaginable. All this talk about the process got me thinking I would give my shot at explaining my feelings on the subject – and the timing worked out perfectly with an assignment in graphic design, the prompt being simply “art is…”.
I decided I would do an illustration of the process. It’s ironic because I went through such a struggle trying to find a way to show what “art is” through one image – and that struggle turned out to be the image. I sat down and for several hours threw as many ideas out of my head and into my sketchbook, the result being that most of them wound up being crumpled up and tossed out (metaphorically – I think it is useful to keep the preliminary ideas around, as you never know when part of that idea will also be part of the solution down the road). This probably sounds really frustrating, and it can be.
But there is also something exhilarating about wrestling with a problem, and we’ve all experienced that feeling. Think about a time when you stubbornly refused to give up on a problem, because deep down you were enjoying the problem-solving process, as frustrating as it may have been. And then when you finally found the solution, you were maybe even saddened that you were no longer working on the search for that solution. That is how I felt with this last illustration. I am fairly happy with the final product, but the real enjoyment and the worth were inherently part of the process (as well as a couple of really late nights spent with wheat thins and a mocha chai latte!).
So I suppose I ought to explain the process for creating the image then if that’s where the art is, right? Once I had finally settled on a direction (I won’t go into detail about all the concepts on the path to this one, I imagine most wouldn’t find it nearly as interesting as I do), I took a whole bunch of reference photos, since I’m not at the level yet where that sort of drawing can just jump straight out of my head (I’m working at it!). Then it was a matter of making the four separate drawings from a composite of different elements of my references. I drew the lines in Photoshop, and once the line drawings were finished I brought them into Illustrator where I used a nifty little feature called Live Trace which basically turns your linework into a vector based image – as if you had drawn it in Illustrator to begin with. With the four drawings in Illustrator I arranged them into the final composition, focusing on creating a sense of movement from one figure into the other. I learned a great deal about altering brush settings in Photoshop as well as the live trace settings in Illustrator while working on this image – another reason the process is so valuable to me.
With that, what are your thoughts about process vs. product? I imagine there are some instances where the final product absolutely must be the emphasis, but don’t lose sight of the worth of the journey in getting there!
(p.s. If there is any interest, I would love to put up a tutorial for creating a good drawing brush in photoshop. Drop a comment if you’d like that!)