The Creative Process

By: on 02/16/2010   4 Comments

After Dinner Nap - Painting by Bernadette Kazmarski

One of the questions I’m often asked, especially by people who don’t think of themselves as creative,  is “how do you come up with things to write about?”  or “How do you write?  Do you just sit down and it just comes to you?”  I’m never quite sure how to answer these questions, because I really don’t give that much thought to my creative process.  I really just sit down and write.  I am very much aware that my writing often comes from something greater than myself – whether you call it Source, Spirit, soul, it’s that true place inside of us that is who we really are.  But I don’t have a process per se that I could describe on how I connect with that space.  I just do.  And I’m almost afraid that if I do analyze it too much, I will loose the connection, so I just appreciate it and go with it.

The questions did make me curious, though, and I began asking other writers and creative types about their creative process.  One of the most fascinating answers came from animal artist and fellow cat writer Bernadette Kazmarski.  Bernadette  is a multi-faceted creative spirit:  artist, writer, graphic designer, painter, animal advocate, environmentalist.  I met Bernadette at the Cat Writers Association Conference last November, and I’ve been fascinated by her creations ever since.  From commissioned pet portraits to animal inspired merchandise ranging from prints to textiles to greeting cards, looking around Bernadette’s website is a feast for the senses. 

One thing Bernadette and I have in common is that for both of us, our cats are the inspiration behind our creations.  I asked Bernadette how her cats inspired her to become an artist.  Here’s what she said:

At a time in my life when my artwork was ready to emerge, they were there as my muse. I studied English in college and intended to be a writer and a college professor of English, and someday take the time to follow my interest in art, but I never thought I had much talent. My career plans changed and I found myself with some time after work as a typesetter at the end of the day and was moved to try drawing again on my own. I was visualizing sketches of my cats, and I’m convinced that those first sketches were successful because of how I loved my cats, and that success encouraged me to keep returning night after night to do more and experiment with new media. If that family of cats hadn’t been there, I don’t know that I would have continued, or even made a serious start at drawing and painting.

Next, I asked Bernadette whether she paints her cat paintings from live models, memory or photographs.  Her answer was:

I actually work in all three ways to get there, usually a combination of the three in one work I always start from my initial “inspiration” which comes from life, something I’ve seen or experienced, even if the work is not realistic, then if it’s not possible to be able to do the work in that moment, which it usually is not, then I have memory and photographs as reference. In the end I put everything aside and simply intuit the last details that come from my deep, creative self and then I know the painting is finished. All this is true not just for paintings but also writing and photography as well.

Visualization of that finished work is not a conscious act nor is it something I can force, it’s just something that’s always been a part of my consciousness from the time I can remember, even before I could draw or read or write as my imagination turns the world into a finished piece of art. It is constant, and I could never complete all the images and works that I visualize; it’s like having a series of precious gifts offered and being told to choose which ones are the one I want most.

I learned in painting my cats how important this visualization was and that it needs to exist before I can start—and how lucky I am that I can do this. I need to see my goal before I start or I don’t know what to do. Not that I can always see it in all its detail, or that I always end up with that initial visualization or force myself to stay with it. I can usually see the medium I’ll use, and this even happened before I knew how to use a medium, like watercolor. All of my images of my own cats were created this way, not just the paintings and sketches but even the block prints and photographs—I saw that beautiful moment that I wanted to share and in that moment saw the finished work. Then I set about enjoying my path to that end. I then applied this to all the other work I do and I’ve found it’s how I instill a part of myself in each one.

I then asked Bernadette whether the creative process was different for her when she writes.  Here’s her answer:

Unless it’s poetry, yes, I’m much more concerned with keeping my creative self organized when I write because it’s easy to go off on a tangent and get distracted, forgetting your audience entirely! In a visual endeavor, I have that visualization that is my goal and I can let myself flit around with colors and techniques and ideals that are important to letting my mind flow creatively, but aren’t necessarily important to the finished work. But with writing the “visualization” is much less tangible and it doesn’t act as a center as it does with visual art. With poetry, however, I usually begin with a visualization similar to that for a visual work, and even though my medium is words I can let my creative self flow in the same way. That probably sounds like gibberish to most people, but I liken the processes to meditation, and if you think of focusing on a center point to clear your mind of all but that focal point, that’s very similar to how it begins, then I organize my creative materials differently for each task.

Bernadette is also a web designer and graphic artist (you can see some of her work here).  I wondered whether the experience of creating a business design was different from creating a painting.  According to Bernadette,

Oddly enough, in many ways it’s the same and it’s the expansion of my statement that my cats gave me my career. I initially decided I’d work at home because I wanted to be closer to my art—and, of course, my cats. I built my freelance business while working full time in preparation for working at home, and when I began designing I was really kind of imitating other designs I’d seen, working more logically. The more freelance design I created and the more deeply I became involved in my clients’ businesses, the more I realized that the same principles I used to create a piece of artwork were what I used to create a logo or brochure or website or any other communicative piece beginning with inspiration and visualization—it’s all about communication, sharing an inspired idea, the same as my fine art. In this case, as in a commissioned portrait, I’ve discussed the project with the customer, learned about their business and even about themselves, and the inspiration is given to me, and from that the visualization of the end product. It needs to come from me, not my mind, and that was one of the first things I had learned all those years before when I was sketching my cats at night, and it’s been the key to my success in a very highly competitive field.

What is your creative process?  Who or what inspires you?


4 Responses to “The Creative Process”

  1. […] King, author of Buckley’s Story, has featured me again on Buckley’s Story in “The Creative Process” as I get to offer my understanding of how I create a piece of artwork, writing or a poem, and how […]

  2. Marg says:

    I am definitely inspired by my cats to write. I have always wanted to write things, but have always been too busy. Now with all these cats, they give me lots of things to write about especially trying to convince people to spay and neuter their pets. This sounds like something really old and boring but it is so important when you see how many homeless cats and dogs there are right now.
    And these feral cats give me lots to write about.

  3. Ingrid King says:

    I’ve always felt that cats are the perfect writer’s pet. Sounds like you have lots of inspiration to draw from, Marg!

  4. […] King, author of Buckley’s Story, has featured me again on Buckley’s Story in “The Creative Process” as I get to offer my understanding of how I create a piece of artwork, writing or a poem, and how […]

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