Making The First Mark

Seedling, Soft Pastel on A4 paper

Ideas are the seeds of creative imagination.

The things that we do in service of an idea generate new ideas, and the process goes on and on. And sometimes we fail and have to start again.

Shaun McNiff, Trust the Process (1998)

These seeds exist in our minds and its partnership with the physical qualities of art-making result in the act of creation. Oftentimes, we can grow frustrated when our initial expression doesn’t look like our ideas. This is a great opportunity for creative problem solving; according to Shaun McNiff, this is a process of give and take – it is a building process. He encourages us to keep at it, to trust the process and access the energies of creative movement.

What I have found especially helpful in bypassing my punitive “inner critic” and cognitive rigidity is to heed McNiff’s advice of repeating a spontaneous gesture (i.e. Circles). Having had the privilege of attending his workshop in 2017, a few of his words stood out for me: “What drives you most crazy, is what you have to learn the most”, “Art in service of the soul”, “Simple is deep”.

…we can never do the same picture twice. Repetition encourages reverie and letting go.

Shaun McNiff, Trust the Process (1998)

As I paint the same circular gesture over and over, it changes as I use new colours; quieting the inner critic and entering a state of calm. I am reminded to be flexible and open to new influences that we experience through the creative process and that important results are not always immediate.

“The creative process requires the active participation of the artist over a period of time.”

Shaun McNiff, Trust the Process (1998)

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