When In Doubt, Process Art

Exploring color and line

Many preschools and Kindergartens embrace this type of art as they understand that for children, the value is in the experience gained from making the art. Unfortunately for many of us, as we grow, more and more value is placed on the end product. This focus on a finished piece of artistic work, leaves many of us feeling like maybe we are just not creative people. Often by middle school, it seems that society has divided the “creatives” from the “not-creatives.” Those deemed creative are taught to refine their skills to produce art worthy of hanging on a wall to be viewed and shared with the world. Those deemed not creative are guided away from creative pursuits, only to be taught the bare minimum required for a “well rounded” education. What is missing, in my opinion, is the focus on the personal benefits of creative activity in our lives. Don’t we all deserve these benefits? Creative activities can be hugely beneficial to our quality of life even if we are not creating art for display.

Benefits of Creative Activities

  • Art gives us the ability to express our inner thoughts and feelings.
  • Art can help us work through difficult emotions.
  • Studies have shown that creating art can relieve stress and anxiety.
  • Engaging in creative activities can improve brain function including plasticity and memory.
  • Creative activities can improve self esteem and an overall sense of wellbeing.
Exploring a single shape, loops

Yes, there are some of us who will develop our art skills to the point where we are showing or even selling our art, but even if that is not you…or not you now, you can still enjoy the process of creating! You can still reap the many benefits that creative activities bring to our lives.

Art Journaling Page

Process art does not require us to focus on a finished product. It is OK if our art is messy or even ugly because the benefit comes from the making of the art! Sometimes the finished product will be something you like and sometimes it will not. Either is fine. In truth the more art you make , the more finished products you will like simply because your skill and confidence is building with each creative practice session. There may even come a day when you wish to begin sharing your work. The choice is yours though. Sharing is not a requirement!

How To Create Process Art

  1. Start by releasing expectations for a specific outcome or finished product. Give yourself permission to play and explore…even if it is messy or ugly!
  2. Choose your medium. Markers? Paint? Collage? Something Else?
  3. Ask yourself , “What if…” then follow your curiosity. Start by simply making a mark and see where it leads.
  4. Don’t be afraid to “waste” paper or supplies at this stage, there is no need to use the most expensive supplies either. You are simply playing and seeing what these supplies can do, and that sometimes takes a few tries! After all, it is not a waste if you are benefiting form the experience, right?
  5. Notice. Pay attention to the sensations in your body as you create. Notice the thoughts that arise in your head. Allow yourself to discover new interests or ideas. Do you particularly enjoy a certain color or texture? Does a certain technique feel relaxing? Go deeper. Explore those things more. You may also notice things you dislike…maybe you don’t enjoy the feel of a chalk pastel in your hand. That is fine, simply try a different medium. Begin to discover what you enjoy, what brings you joy!

When you are creating process art you may wish to collect your work in a sketchbook or journal. You may choose to work on loose paper or even paper scraps. I love both of these options! Loose papers can be stored in a folder or box for later use, they make great collage fodder! Art journals can be a fun way to explore both visually and possibly even document your experience through written reflection. There may be art that you don’t wish to keep at all, totally fine! Choose what works for you.

Next Steps

As you create process art, you will likely begin to feel inspired to go a bit deeper. Ideas will pop into your head. Maybe you want to see what happens if you use a specific technique on a canvas instead of paper. Or maybe you are really inspired by a color you mixed and you want to try using that color to create an entire composition. Maybe you want to use your stack of loose process art to create a torn paper collage? Follow your curiosity, go deeper. At this stage begin to allow yourself to explore the possibility of a more finished piece of art. Keep in mind though that it is still OK if this finished piece is not something you love. The goal at this stage is to push yourself to create more purposefully while still remaining focused on the process of creating. At this stage you might want to explore slightly nicer art supplies too. You have built your confidence to a point where you want to see what some other possibilities might be. For example, you may wish to trade in the Crayola watercolor palette for some tube watercolors. You may be curious to see how a higher quality paper might react differently than your usual paper. Explore.

Final Thoughts

Process art is a great practice to return to time and time again. As your creative practice grows you will likely be drawn to more product based art. You will have ideas you want to explore in more depth. This is a great thing, but sometimes when you reach this stage, you begin to feel that inner critic creeping in. That inner critic loves build on your insecurities, and it can lead to a creative freeze. If and when this happens, return to process art. Remind yourself to release expectations, to give yourself permission to play…even if it is messy or ugly! In my personal practice I return to process art frequently. It is a great reset for me.

Published by Art-Breaks presented by J. MacIsaac Studios

Art Breaks are for everyone! They are moments of creativity big or small for infants, kids, and adults. They offer a connection to mindfulness that can enrich your life. A practice in creative mindfulness is perfect for anyone looking to establish a richer connection to themselves. You do not even need to be an artist to explore creative mindfulness practices. We are all born to create.

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