by Miriam Schulman
Whenever I go to an art fair or show my art in public, I am always asked:
“How long did it take you to make that?”
This is such a hard question to answer since my artworks generally evolve over weeks and even months at a time. Paintings are started and then abandoned and restarted later. Moreover, multiples are made at the same time when I am working on a series.
This blog post will give you an inside look on this creative process.
Working on a Series
Usually, you will find me working on three or more pieces at a time so I can switch between works as they dry. There are also many more canvases partially started leaning against the walls of my studio or stored in the closet.
For example, for my 2017 Spring series I worked on all the backgrounds first, and then added layers to each so they developed as one coherent body of work. This way, even though there are both animals and florals in the series, all the artworks tie together with related colors, textures and marks.
Contemplate Focal Points
After I have created the backgrounds, I often will contemplate focal points for the next stage in the creation process. Sometimes, I will have a series of watercolor animal studies that I will use as the focal point and then I have fun deciding which animals go best with each background. There is a little bit or serendipity and magic that happens when I don’t start with a preconceived notion of the final outcome and let the materials and colors tell me what to do.
Building Layers with Color
From there, I will find something to expand upon, such as color, and keep building up layers with paint as I go. This process has become pretty consistent in my work. My process has patterns that allow for me to really focus on the play of imagery.
Sometimes, I do not use watercolor studies as the final focal point. In that case, I build the imagery directly on the canvas by drawing freehand. Those themes usually evolve into organic shapes such as trees and flowers.
Working on more than one piece at a time, and working with imagery that becomes thematic, I find working in multiples makes my time in the studio most productive.
Quieting the Inner Critic
You cannot do your best work if you are constantly critiquing yourself. I find that the creation process and the editing process must be separated whether I am making art or writing.
If I work in silence or even to music, critical voices start chiming in their opinions whether I want them to or not! Sometimes the voices are not criticizing my art, but simply reminding me of unpleasant thoughts. Although meditation has helped with this tremendously, I’ve found that the best way to quiet the inner critic is to put on a podcast or audio book while I’m working.
Narratives, not music or silence
I prefer these narratives to music because the voice in my head gets replaced with another. You might think I would need silence to work intensely but I find my muse works best when my conscious mind is distracted and that allows my unconscious mind and the spirits inside of me to take over.
Other blog posts you might like:
Gratitude for Paintings sold in 2016
5 life lessons from animals (art and poetry)
Creativity doesn’t care about results
About Me (Miriam Schulman)
In case we haven’t met yet, I’m an artist and founder of The Inspiration Place, where I help other artists learn how to profit from their passion or become better artists. Through online classes, business coaching programs, and a top-ranked podcast, I’ve helped thousands of artists around the world develop their skill sets and create more time and freedom to do what they love. My signature coaching program, The Artist Incubator, helps artists go from so-so sales to sold-out collections.
A graduate of Dartmouth College and M.I.T, I initially pursued finance but after witnessing 9/11, I abandoned a lucrative hedge fund job to work on my art full time. Since then, my art and my story have been featured in major publications including Forbes, The New York Times, Art of Man, Art Journaling magazine as well as featured on NBC’s “Parenthood” and the Amazon series “Hunters” with Al Pacino. My forthcoming book with HarperCollins Leadership on how to make it as an artist is scheduled to be released January 31, 2023. When I’m not in the studio, you can find me hanging out with my husband, adult kids, and a tuxedo cat named Ebony. I’d love to invite you to check out one of my free resources for art lovers (of every passion level) at schulmanart.com/freebies