Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Insiders' Look at the Creative Process

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

pig art | pig painting | animal art | animal painting | art by Miriam Schulman
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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

rooster art | chicken art | rooster painting | chicken painting by Miriam Schulman
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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.
lamb art | sheep art | lamb painting | sheep painting
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flower art | floral art | orange poppies | art by Miriam Schulman
Explore more floral art in this series.

Organic Images

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.

Rosie the Cow, in progress (see the finished painting

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.

The Pig's Tale, in progress

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.

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About Me (Miriam Schulman)
Miriam Schulman, founder of The Inspiration Place

In case we haven’t met yet, I’m a watercolor and mixed media artist. My art has been featured in numerous publications such as Somerset Studio, and Im the founder of The Inspiration Place  where I give my students stepping stones to create beautiful art as well as the emotional support they need to stay inspired. See the art I create at or learn how to paint with me at