The Creative Journey, The Creative Process

When people ask me how to paint, I always tell them that it

is as important to know when not to work on a painting, as it

is to know when to actually paint. For me, painting is as

much about listening as it is about doing. I spend a great

deal of time listening to my paintings, so that when I do

paint, I can paint with deliberation, because I know what the

paintings are saying. To most people, it looks like I am

doing nothing. It takes a great deal of confidence to hold the

secret, not to say anything, to know that in reality, a great

deal is going on inside.

I have a lot of people who want to come and study with me. I

always say, “yes”, but warn them that almost nobody lasts. I

tell them that there is no one to hold their hand, no one to

tell them what to do, no one to tell them what to paint or

when to paint and no one to paint with, and it is up to them

to find a suitable place in which to create–for this is what it

is like to be a professional artist. Art is not for the faint of


I once heard a scientist describe her creative process. She

painted a wonderful picture of the cycles of the seasons.

She said it started with Spring, the blooming of an idea, then

the long work of Summer, the harvesting of Fall and the long

dormancy of Winter, for which there can be no Spring, no

new ideas. I have never heard a better description of what

the creative process is like.

Those “ah ha” moments, the germination of an idea for a

painting is one of the most exciting times in the process. In

the beginning I plan a whole series of paintings, usually

seven to eleven, and then work on them as a group. This is

the “Spring” of the creative process-seeing ten paintings

beginning to blossom on my studio walls.

The long work of Summer, that the time of actually physically

putting paint to paper or canvas, can be the really hard part.

Creativity is not a straight and paved thoroughfare for me.

Rather, it is a circuitous path which I explore with

deliberation, hope and expectation. At the end of the day,

that small step along the journey, I often have no idea

whether what was created is effective or not. The next

morning I am usually relieved to see that not only a great

deal was accomplished, but also that it was a successful

step along the way.

Finishing the piece of art work, the Fall, is rewarding, short

and infinitely enjoyable. I know when a painting is done

when I sign my name. All seven to eleven paintings usually

get done within the same time frame. The “letting go” of the

paintings is when I photograph them. After that, they are for

anyone to purchase

Then there is the long dormant winter, when there are no

ideas, and it takes pure faith that somewhere inside one’s

personal soul is the ability to create once again. Because

then there is, not only the blank canvas, but also the blank

studio wall as well, to be filled again with paintings. It takes

great deal of courage to believe that there really will be a

“Spring” again of “ah ha” moments, that there will be a

studio full of new paintings and that the creative journey

really will happen all over again.

© Mary Baker 2005

General Ideas

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