People have always been curious to learn about the creative process. “Where do you get your ideas?… How long does it take?… Do you draw it first?”… etc.
When I am asked these questions, here is what I have to say about my process:
In the past, I have occasionally had a complete and preconceived idea, gone to my studio, detailed drawings in hand, and executed that idea. But that is rare these days. It was more likely to happen in the 1970’s when I was starting my career. It made sense then. My ideas and sculptures were more simple then. Now, instead of pre-planning, I am more likely to work with my materials in an intuitive way, and see what happens. There is a constant dialog between me, the material, and the shape I am creating. I am relying on instincts, but I also have to be able to censor them. Many instinctual visions that pop into my head are technically impossible. Some might be wonderful, but would result in a shape that is simply too big or impractical. Crossroad decisions like this can happen ten to twenty times during the creation of one sculpture. Frequently, I labor over each piece for long periods of time, weighing options.
This interplay of initial vision, instinctual changing visions, calculated analysis, and practical limits all go in to the final shape of the sculpture. I often have roughly fourty partially completed sculptures at any time. Once in a while, sometimes years later, I will open a box of incomplete pieces and see what is in there. It may be a form that suddenly energizes me and turns out, after some work, to be an exciting piece. Ten years later, the same thing can happen between me and a new piece. Some of my best sculptures have resulted from such multi-year re-workings. For example, one of the sculptures I just finished formed over three distinct phases: 1978, the original Orbits; 2010, Orbits V; and 2015, Orbits 5.5. That’s a 37 year evolution! I like all three stages in different ways, but the 2015 version is clearly the strongest.
The creative process for artists is rarely quick and clean. Usually, its long and difficult… but ultimately, exhilarating!