14 Artists Break Down the Creative Process

By Evan Mantyk
Evan Mantyk
Evan Mantyk
Evan Mantyk is an English teacher in New York and President of the Society of Classical Poets.
April 25, 2017 Updated: April 25, 2017

The act of creation—making something from nothing—is remarkable. Survey after survey reveals what a valued trait creativity is to us today, and scholars strive to get at why.

The prolific artist Wim Wenders is known not only for his strong vision but his interest in other artists. The writer, photographer, painter, and filmmaker has documented dancers and designers on film, and written about the world of forgotten musicians, among other endeavors.

Wim Wenders. (Donata Wenders/Sundance Selects)
Wim Wenders. (Donata Wenders/Sundance Selects)

“I think the last adventure left on this planet is creativity; because we have been everywhere, there is not much left to explore, but there is exploration left in human imagination,” Wenders told Epoch Times correspondent Masha Savitz. “I think there is nothing more exciting than to learn about somebody’s creativity—also, their craft.”

The Epoch Times spoke to artists from a variety of disciplines to understand what creativity means to them, and to glean insight on the creative process. Some tell us it’s about a strong work ethic, or collaboration, or perhaps, most importantly, just the courage to start.

Creativity Is Obsessive Problem-Solving

Sabin Howard works on drawing concepts for his "The Weight of Sacrifice,
Sabin Howard works on drawing concepts for his “The Weight of Sacrifice,” for the national World War I memorial. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

Sabin Howard is a sculptor and foremost expert on modern classicism. He has been commissioned to design and create a sculpture as part of the National World War I Memorial in Washington. He’s currently in the process of designing a 65-foot-long, bas-relief bronze wall to explain the horror and heroism of World War I.

Training Your Creativity

Perspiration is the mother of creation. There is an analogy between sports and making art that is not often mentioned. Getting really good at making art depends on how often you train that part of your brain. Being consistent is crucial for reaching one’s potential as an artist, and I always found that inspiration begins once you enter into the process of making the art.

It’s all about momentum. If you’re practicing every day and that’s what you do, it’s easy to get on the bike and travel to work even if you’re tired. I like to get to the studio and start in the morning and work until around 6 p.m. I bike to and from work because it’s a way to create a transition and to clear my mind so that I don’t carry the art with me at the end of the day.

Problems and Solutions

Frustration is also another part of creating art that is crucial for making it really great. If you are always cruising and doing things you know you can pull off, there is a tendency to not push. If you are involved in a project that has a raised bar that puts you in a slightly uncomfortable position, there’s a tendency to try harder so you can break through.

Art is all about problem-solving. The harder the problem is to solve, the more effort it takes.

This gets me to try things that normally I wouldn’t try. You go down new roads and avenues that you might not go down if everything is cushy. If you are slightly uncomfortable and not used to the territory, there is less of a tendency to move toward the formulaic and more of a tendency to be experimental and use the tools and structure that you have to solve the problem. Most artists are obsessively compulsive types, so they never want to give up until they solve the problem. This is the act of creation.

Simply Inspired

Sally Cook (Courtesy of Sally Cook)
Sally Cook (Courtesy of Sally Cook)

Sally Cook is a six-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize and a regular contributor to National Review. Also a painter, Cook’s present works in the style known as magic realism are represented in national collections such as the D.A.R. Museum in Washington and the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo, New York.

The Creator’s Experience

In my mind visual arts and language both have the same sources and are nourished by the creator’s experience. I respond to nature, nature morte (still-life), and the perspective of the speaker.

Occasionally, the poems arrive almost finished, as do some paintings. Who can say why? Clouds seem to open, and a spirit of creativity flows in.


I almost never write on the computer. During the day, things are too fractious to sit down with a clear mind. Rather, I keep a pad and pencil next to the bed. That way, if I wake up with a line or a rhyme or a subject for a poem running through my head, I know there is nothing for me to do but turn on the light, prop up a pillow, and start writing. In short, I write in longhand and type it in the morning.

Having an Active Mind 24/7

Fernando Martin Diez-Cabeza with his unfinished
Fernando Martin Diez-Cabeza with his unfinished “The Gentleman with the Red Bow Tie,” painting at his apartment in New York on Aug. 28, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

Fernando Martin Diez-Cabeza is a Spanish painter, fashion designer, and producer based in New York. He is known for his life-size portraits and his “unveilings,” extravaganzas he hosts to celebrate the creation of his paintings and the people he portrays. He has designed for labels like Calvin Klein Jeans, Polo Ralph Lauren, Escada, and others. He made a brief cameo in the documentary film “Advanced Style.”

Constant Inspiration

I’m thinking about ideas all the time. I paint portraits, so I get inspired having conversations and observing people. They give me hints for ideas. It’s like my mind is fishing 24/7, and when something comes my way, I just catch it. It’s a very organic process, basically. The main thing is to have an active mind all the time.

When I am actually producing work, I make it a ceremony. Before I paint, I change clothes. I put on a big shirt, a hat, and gloves. I get into a uniform, like a bullfighter before going into the ring. I also put on music, I put a special rug on the floor, etc. I create a whole environment to motivate myself, because otherwise it is really hard to switch gears. A ritual helps you enter that dimension for creating—gloves, a comfy shirt, a hat, and that’s it.

Taking Breaks and Switching Gears

The best way to get over any obstacle is to take a break. If I get stuck when I’m painting, I’ll switch to designing a fashion line, or I’ll do a storyboard for a music video for my niece, for example; I move and revisit.

Creativity in the fashion industry is different because of the pressure of having to deliver a product by a certain date, and there are specific guidelines to follow. It’s trickier. A brand will ask me to be free, to be creative, to be myself, but to deliver a collection that will match their universe, that is sellable but also new and different. So that is creativity to the maximum, and it’s challenging in a different way.

When I do my own paintings, I feel like the king of my universe. I am completely myself, creating something that is my footprint in the world.

How do I get out of a block when designing clothes? I walk on the street, look at how people dress, and then something clicks. Or I’ll think of a movie, a character; I picture a girl, and how she would dress in a specific world that fits the brand I’m working for.

The common denominator in the three fields that I work in is that they all relate to human beings and to a story. When your creativity is grounded by a persona, or a character, it is easier to come up with a narrative that guides you through to the finish line.

Creating on Your Own Terms

Diane Bell. (Courtesy of Diane Bell)
Diane Bell. (Courtesy of Diane Bell)

Diane Bell won numerous awards for her debut film, “Obselidia,” which premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Bell has a very eclectic background; the native Scot grew up in Japan, Australia, and Germany, and later earned a master’s degree in mental philosophy at Edinburgh University in Scotland. She is a long-term practitioner of ashtanga yoga and taught yoga in Barcelona, Spain. Her second film, “Bleeding Heart,” starring Jessica Biel and Zosia Mamet, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2015.

Describe your creative process.

A mixture of intuition and discipline.  The intuition tells me what I should work on, the discipline keeps me at the desk every day making it real. Intuitively, there are things I want to explore through writing and filmmaking, but it’s hard-edged discipline that keeps me at work on them until they are complete.

Inspiration is the intuition, something that comes from the subconscious mind. Structure is the conscious part, the part that is of this world. Both are necessary, in equal measure.

What is the most challenging part of the process, and how do you overcome it?

For many years, the most challenging part was having the courage to do it, to take the leap and create and complete work while always fearing it wasn’t good enough. 

Luckily, I’m mostly over that phase of crippling self-doubt, but now I find that often the most challenging part of the process is seeing the work with objective eyes, knowing if it needs more work, or recognizing if more work will over-bake it. For this, I rely a lot upon close friends and colleagues, but it’s not always easy.

I feel inspired by anyone who makes it happen on their own terms, who carves out their own path and stays to true to it regardless of commercial pressures or fashions.

Rational Thinking Versus Spontaneous Solutions

Anton Glikin of Peter Pennoyer Architects at the "Art of Architecture" exhibit at Eleventh Street Arts gallery in Queens, New York, on March 2, 2017. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Anton Glikin of Peter Pennoyer Architects at the “Art of Architecture” exhibit at Eleventh Street Arts gallery in Queens, New York, on March 2, 2017. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Anton Glikin is an associate design director at the Peter Pennoyer Architects firm in New York. 

How do you work?

When I am drawing, painting, or designing, I am listening to audiobooks. Later, when I look at my work, I can easily remember what Hilaire Belloc said as I was painting a cloud, or what G.K. Chesterton argued for when I was designing a pediment. Likewise, an image of a table leg I designed earlier could suddenly appear in my head while I am reading a familiar verse.

In general, I think drawing or designing is a very therapeutic process—to me, it is like woodwork or needlework.

I have to relax in order to do my creative work. The more I concentrate, the more likely I am to overlook some of the most interesting design solutions.

To me, drawing or designing is a great opportunity to turn off my rational thinking. Very often, the best ideas come to mind in random places, such as in a supermarket, so I write or sketch them down right away.

Likewise, certain practical things, such as a need to buy pipe-draining liquid, come to mind when I am painting a sunset.   

A Creative Life

Steven Melendez. (Courtesy of Steven Melendez)
Steven Melendez. (Courtesy of Steven Melendez)

Steven Melendez is a principal dancer at the New York Theatre Ballet. He has danced leading roles in repertoire staples choreographed by George Balanchine, Fredrick Aston, and Agnes DeMille, as well as parts choreographed for him. He also teaches and choreographs ballets.

Material for Creation

The beginning of the creative process actually starts with making sure I’m living my life outside of the dance studio. If I spent my whole life just studying ballet and classical technique, I think I would be sort of stifled as an artist.

For me, one of the most important things is creating theater that reflects actual, real human beings. Of course, I love classical ballet, I grew up in classical ballet, and I perform classical ballet, but I don’t personally know any princes or princesses, and I don’t know anyone who fell asleep for a hundred years and got woken up by a kiss, or someone who went mad from a broken heart. But I do know today’s society.

If I incorporate the romance I have in my real life, or the heartbreak or tragedy or victory, and then bring it into the studio with the dancers and express those ideas through them, or ask them to think of their own experiences with those themes and bounce it back, that’s the great inspiration of the creative process. I rely heavily on the dancers to bring the movement most comfortable for them, but also to connect to the theme. If they don’t seem to understand an idea, I have to sit back and think, “Well, if I can’t get it across, is it such a good idea?”

Creativity is a fundamental part of being human. If you believe in the existence of a soul, and those philosophical ideas, then creativity is up there with that. I think everyone has creativity, and it’s different in different people. There’s certainly creativity in the arts, but I also think it’s in mathematics, science, law. It’s definitely an openness, a receptiveness to trying to understand something from a different perspective. 

Art for Others

The first time I choreographed was for this recital at the school where I teach. I was really interested in how the music and the dance came together, and being put in a position to create it, I realized that there was a whole other angle to dance that I had not been experiencing as a performer. Once I had a taste of that, working with the kids, I started to enjoy it.

I don’t see my choreography as a vehicle for me to have some kind of therapeutic expression of myself. I’m interested in holding a mirror up to society and reflecting what I see in the world.

I think a lot of great art is not so much about the artist but the art itself, and what it’s giving to the audience.

Interpretation Versus Creation

Learning a part from any choreographer is very interesting. You get to have a little input into what it becomes, hopefully. You get to understand the original intention of a movement that definitely the third or fourth cast down the road won’t understand. When you’re working second- or thirdhand, the artist definitely has more to say. 

But I think the degree of how much of yourself you can genuinely put into something varies for different ballets and different characters.

Say with “Swan Lake” or “Sleeping Beauty,” those characters are so defined, they’re given a narrative, and a hundred years of precedent. If your interpretation of Prince Siegfried is that he’s secretly a demon from another planet, that’s not creativity; I think we’d call that just wrong. Whereas with something brand new today, you can go out there and put your stamp on it and make it what you want. It can be different with different choreographers. 

Believing in the Process

Matt Ross on the set of "Captain Fantastic". (Wilson Webb / Bleecker Street)
Matt Ross on the set of “Captain Fantastic”. (Wilson Webb / Bleecker Street)

Matt Ross wrote and directed the 2016 feature film “Captain Fantastic,” starring Viggo Mortensen, which has garnered him several awards, including best director in Un Certain Regard at Cannes Film Festival, and a spot on Variety’s “Ten Directors to Watch 2016.” As an actor, Ross is best known as Gavin Belson in the HBO series “Silicon Valley” and as Alby Grant in “Big Love.”

Collaboration and Leadership

I firmly believe that filmmaking is a collaborative process. If I write the screenplay, there is a degree of authorship that perhaps doesn’t exist if I am only the director, as directing is largely interpretative. 

But regardless of those definitions, fundamentally, I try to hire people who are excellent at their jobs and who want to make the same film that I do (meaning, share a common vision). Then I create an environment where their individual processes can flourish, create an environment where they are valued and heard.

In the end, as the writer and director, I will have the final say, but I genuinely want people to fight for how they see something, fight for their interpretation. That goes for the actors, the director of photography, the production designer, creative producer, the costume designer—all the voices that make up the filmmaking team.

We can argue and disagree and great ideas may come out of that. It’s collaborative, with a benign dictator steering the ship.

Structure and Inspiration

Inspiration is the seed: For whatever reason, I’m inspired to ask certain questions, inspired to explore a particular kind of person or environment or even genre, perhaps.

And then the structure comes next, form follows function. It’s the frame that holds the story together; it’s the “math” of the narrative necessary to create meaning and emotion.

The structure is everything, really.

It determines the “point” of the story. “How” you tell any particular story (the structure) determines everything. That’s all very philosophical, I suppose, but all I mean to say is that I believe very strongly in structured stories. I outline before I write, but sometimes I end up going in slightly different directions. It’s a living thing, but highly structured.

Solitary Magic

Writing is probably the most challenging. It’s solitary and takes enormous discipline. [What’s challenging is] finding ideas, stories that are worth telling.

That can be very challenging. It’s so easy to second-guess yourself, or self-negate. But I also think writing is the most spiritual. Who said, “Before me—nothing. Because of me—this?” That’s how I feel about it.

It is a kind of magic, a kind of conjuring.

So I overcome the self-doubt, the self-negation by allowing myself to fail, to stop, to do something else. And by believing in the process itself: As long as I return to it, as long as I keep at it, eventually, I know I will be able to find my way out of the dark forest. It may not be great, but I’ll get out with something. And that something, after re-writing and re-writing and re-writing, may be worth the effort.

Feeding the Creative Spirit

Henry Jaglom. (Courtesy of Henry Jaglom)
Henry Jaglom. (Courtesy of Henry Jaglom)

Henry Jaglom has had a long and illustrious career as an indie filmmaker, playwright, and actor that began with training with Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio in New York in the 1960s. He moved to Los Angeles and acted in a number of films and TV shows before he began his own filmmaking career, directing some of the great talents of the ’70s and exploring social issues in his work. His latest film, “Train to Zakopane,” recently premiered in Los Angeles.

Routine and Creative Urges

It will sound strange, but I have two very different urges creatively that push me, one more female and one more male. I have a great sense of ongoing connection with myself manifested in 45 years of journals; they carry with them emotional truths and the source of much of my creativity.

I open up the book everyday even if I just write the day, the date, time, and city, and one line. It has given me a creative structure, like a girlfriend. I am telling her all the stuff, not literary or intellectual, but emotional. It’s a place for my emotions. I cannot imagine a life without her.

When I made my first film, “A Safe Place,” I just reached into the book, which was written 10 years before I made the movie. I pulled out full speeches.

A Fellow Inspiring Journal Keeper 

Many years ago, Anaïs Nin came to visit me in my apartment; I was staying in Tuesday Weld’s place at the time. She read my journals and said, “You have 50 movies here!”

I said, “It’s because of you.”

It came from reading her journals when I was young. “It had all the sadness and loneliness,” I told her. And she added, “And all the joy and excitement!”

The Challenging Truth

The biggest challenge is to tell the truth—not to be tempted to make it good, to make it usable as a play or short story. Telling “her” (the journal) the truth, I cannot cross anything out. Instead, maybe I have to say I’m not emotionally up for telling it yet.

Poetry That Grows Organically

Joseph Salemi. (Courtesy of Joseph Salemi)
Joseph Salemi. (Courtesy of Joseph Salemi)

Joseph S. Salemi has published five books of poetry and edits the literary magazine Trinacria. His poems, translations, and scholarly articles have appeared in over 100 publications worldwide.  

What inspires a poem?

Different motives inspire different individual poems. Many of my satiric pieces are written out of sheer anger and hatred, while other poems might be inspired by a desire to capture a lost memory, or by a need to explain some abstruse point, or by a desire to present an exemplum, in the medieval manner. 

To be quite honest, however, many of my poems have their beginning in a single perfect line in perfect meter that comes into my head, and from that perfect line, the rest of the poem grows, as if from a seedling.

Is it like there truly is a muse? Do poems come out perfect or near-perfect the first time?

The image of the Muse is just a metaphor. No one really knows how inspiration works, and I’m sure it works differently for various poets. My own creative process is not complicated—it starts with either a phrase or a line that I jot down, and afterward I’ll develop that phrase or line fairly quickly into a nearly perfect rough draft of a poem. I leave it for a few days, and then give it a bit of revision.

Frequently, I get an idea from something that I am reading. One of my best recent poems came as a result of reading the Burgundian code of law from 6th-century France. I’ve never had a completely perfect poem come to me all at once, though in rare cases (when I was composing light verse), a poem came to me nearly perfect and just needed a small touch here and there.

Creating Meaning Through Sound

Susan Liu. (Courtesy of Susan Liu)
Susan Liu. (Courtesy of Susan Liu)

Susan Liu composes music for singers, dancers, orchestras, and chamber ensembles. She has unique expertise in combining the musical styles of the East and West, and many of the works she has been hired to write or arrange is an exploration in how to best blend these very different musical languages. Her work has been commissioned for unique ensembles and specific occasions, and notably for the premier dance company Shen Yun Performing Arts. 

Music That Uplifts

My ideal is writing something that goes from my heart to your heart, from my soul to your soul. Whatever I am feeling, I wish I could make you feel the same. If I’m working with lyrics, I wish the music to portray whatever the lyrics mean.

Robert Schumann said, “To send light into the darkness of men’s hearts—such is the duty of the artist.” And Handel said, “I should be sorry if I only entertained them. I wish to make them better.”

I very much feel the same.

Talent and Rules

Composing is something that has been my passion since I was very, very little, though I was always hiding it because composing was for “very great people,” or at least that’s what my school said, that supposedly only a genius could compose. But my mom always encouraged me; she put me in composing classes and all kinds of things. 

How do we compose? Composing isn’t limited to just coming up with a melody; I also use what I learned in my musical education to accommodate the melody, to construct the entire form. It’s a challenge to combine the Chinese and Western styles together, to infuse the musical language of one with the other.

With Chinese melodies, most are in the pentatonic scale. I have to avoid orchestrating in too much of a traditional style, because the harmonic language is not very developed (compared to Western tonal music). I also have to avoid using the style of contemporary Chinese music of the pentatonic scale, which is not traditional, and to avoid sounding like everybody else.

Recently, I arranged “Glorious Realm” (a vocal piece written by Shen Yun Artistic Director D.F.) for piano. With this melody, I deeply recognized the beauty he wrote and the different levels of meaning within the melody—of the divinity achieved. With arranging, the objective is to bring those meanings out.

I divided this into three sections. In the first, I used a pentatonic scale to bring out this gorgeous, divine melody—a Chinese melody—in its native language. Then in the second portion, I used Western harmonies to create a church chorale atmosphere—serious, solemn, humble, and reverent. In the third section, I wanted to bring out the grandiose nature of the melody and used large arpeggios, so as to let the listener hear these different levels contained within this seemingly simple melody.

Whether it’s art or music or poetry, there is a formula to follow, in a sense. There is a form, but within that, it’s not really strict. It gives you freedom within the form. 

Doing the Work

Jim DeVita. (Zane Williams)
Jim DeVita. (Zane Williams)

Jim DeVita is an actor, novelist, theater director, and award-winning playwright. DeVita knew he wanted to be a writer from a very young age and constantly wrote plays, monologues, poetry, short stories, and so on. As an actor, he mostly performs classical repertoire. 

One Sentence at a Time

I believe in doing all the work necessary so that inspiration has a chance of showing up. I keep a quote based on Hemingway next to my computer. I’m looking at it right now as I write this: “Just write one true sentence.”

On the days when inspiration doesn’t show up—which is quite often—one still needs to work. You still have to set the alarm, get up, make the coffee, trudge out to the writing studio, and write—inspired or not. But I find quite often that once I stop waiting for inspiration to strike and get to work, get some words down on paper, inspiration often shows up. I write a lot of bad pages sometimes before that elusive inspiration shows itself. I believe it is through that act of writing—often badly—that we open ourselves up to the greater ideas and words that live somewhere inside us, or outside of us—wherever they are—but we need to take the steps to be able to receive them.

Writing while inspired is fun—it’s fast, you feel like you can barely keep up with the ideas. Writing every day, inspiration or no, is not as fun, per se, but it is still rewarding and challenging.

There was a chapter in my last book where I didn’t know how to continue. One of the main characters in the book is a children’s book writer, and that morning I could not think of how to continue her story. I glanced at the Hemingway-inspired quote, “Just write one true sentence,” and then wrote, “I don’t know what to write today.” It worked, and I was off and running.

Routines and Habits

When I am on a project, I write early morning. I’m usually up by 5:30 a.m. and writing by about 6 a.m. or so. I got into this habit because my day job, working in the theater (rehearsing), usually starts at noon. So I can get in a few hours of writing before going to work. I’ve been doing it for so many years now that I find it nearly impossible to write creatively at any other time of the day. I can do editing and revision work at other times of the day, but the creative work happens early in the morning.

I usually begin the morning by editing the previous day’s work. This gets me back into the feel of where I am in the story, what might be coming up next—and it also allows me to finish my first cup of coffee and wake up a bit more. I’m generally really writing by about 7:30 a.m. or so, and if I can, in a good three hours after that. That’s a good day.

Kick-Starting After a Hiatus 

Because I rarely write on commission, I often have to put a project aside for a while to take a “paying” job. It’s quite hard getting back into a book after an 8- to 10-week hiatus. You quite literally change in that long of a period of time—the world changes. I often find that I am using different words after such a length of time; I am interested in different ideas and hearing different influences in the world around me.

The Inner Critic

But perhaps the biggest challenge for me is not judging myself while I am in the process of writing. Anne Lamott in her wonderful book “Bird by Bird calls it “the screaming monkeys”—those voices in your head chattering away, “This is bad. It’s been done. Blah, blah, blah.”

How to stop this? Well, I have a mantra. It’s not very profound, but it usually helps. I say it to myself again and again and again: “Shut up and write.”

Creating the Emotional Space for Creation

Cassia Harvey. (Josh Pelta-Heller)
Cassia Harvey. (Josh Pelta-Heller)

Cassia Harvey is a cellist, composer, and teacher, and writer of exercise books for string instruments. She has published over 160 of these books, which are used worldwide.

What is creativity?

People tell me all the time that they are not creative. As a teacher, I have seen enough brilliance to know that this is not true. I believe in the infinite creative capacity of the human mind. If you can nurture your creativity, make room in your life to create, and discipline the mind to focus, it can absolutely happen.

How do you create?

First, I do believe in inspiration, but I know I have to go out of my way to nurture creativity. I take time to go to museums, to pick up books, and to watch documentaries (even just a few minutes at a time). If there is no time for these things, I look for inspiration wherever I can find it; sometimes in nature, sometimes from my students, or from a random article online.

Second, I make time and emotional space to create. This means pushing things aside that might seem pressing or even essential and choosing to be free to create instead.

Third, to prepare for actually writing a method book, I deliberately think about the problem I want to solve. I find that my mind often focuses on unimportant things and has to be redirected to ponder the problem at hand. Through the day, in the car, while eating, even while I am practicing cello, I will choose to insistently mull over the problem until I come up with a way to approach it in a book.

Fourth, I never force creation. If I sit and try to write music and get stuck, I immediately switch to creating something else entirely–in my case, writing book descriptions or designing covers.

Fifth, I am not afraid to not be creative. Sometimes, my brain hurts or feels exhausted, and creative thinking is just not possible. I turn to repetitive tasks and let my mind rest. This is especially helpful when the mind is consumed with outside issues or emotions.

Sixth, when I am writing and it is going well, I respect how important that is and I don’t let anything interfere or stop the flow. Any kind of break in the writing could mean that the book is never finished or, at best, there is a gap in continuity. If I absolutely must take a break, I go back to step three and deliberately think about what I am writing until I am able to resume.

And lastly, I never ruminate on what I have finished; my mind is always thinking ahead to the next project as soon as I have sent a book to the printer. Life is so very precious, time is short, and there is so much still to be written.

Creativity is a Commitment

Timothy J. Clark. (Courtesy of Timothy J. Clark)

Timothy J. Clark is known for his expressive interiors, urban landscapes, portraits, and figures. His watercolors, oils, and drawings are in more than 20 museum collections, including the permanent collections at the National Portrait Gallery and the Library of Congress Works on Paper in Washington; the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio; the City Museum of New York; and Maine’s Farnsworth Art Museum. Clark lectured for several years at Yale University’s Graduate School in Rome and is currently the interim director of the Art Students League of New York. He maintains studios in New York City; Capistrano Beach, California; and West Bath, Maine.

Inspiration is way down the line. This is all I have done in my life. It is ingrained deeply in me that I am responsible to make art every day. It’s the best job. Everybody seems to think it’s a breeze; it’s not, it’s hard work. I go to bed and I think about what I am going to paint, and I dream I’m painting it. I dreamt I was painting last night—I think it, I live it, I dream it.

Are there rituals? You bet there are. I carry a pocketknife, because I never use a pencil sharpener. I sharpen my pencils with a knife to a particular angle. I keep a sketchbook with me at all times. I draw every day (I don’t sketch). Drawing has a purpose. It knows what it wants. It’s directed.

Whatever I do, I process my life through my drawing book and I never stop drawing. Sometimes there’s a lousy drawing and sometimes there is a great drawing. If I get a great drawing, I very often take it back to my studio and create a painting from it. It is a lifetime commitment.

I have the ability to paint anywhere. When I see something that I want to paint, I paint it. I don’t say, “Oh, maybe some day.” Some day doesn’t happen.

Artists have some part of their soul that gets fed by being an artist. Things happen that we don’t always want to talk about, but we can paint. We can build our own life with our art, and that’s what lets us cope with life. We see life through our drawings and paintings.

Lorna Davis. (Courtesy of Lorna Davis)
Lorna Davis. (Courtesy of Lorna Davis)

Writing About Writing

Lorna Davis is an accredited classical poet living in California. She is retired from the field of business management. Her own experience of poetry has led her to agree with Robert Frost’s assertion that “to be a poet is a condition, not a profession.”

When the Poem Speaks to the Poet

There is a moment when the work is done,
And every line’s been polished, one by one,
Or clipped and shaped like branches of a tree
To fit the poem’s form and symmetry,
If I, distracted by this ancient art
Of finding just the right word for each part
Have lost the thought that made me lift my pen—
A mason building wand’ring walls—that’s when
Another voice, perhaps, comes sifting through,
Another point my words start drifting to,
And, standing back to view what has been built,
I find a new and unexpected tilt.

Within my words, there lies a foreign thought,
And I, who aimed to teach, instead am taught.

Evan Mantyk
Evan Mantyk is an English teacher in New York and President of the Society of Classical Poets.