Quality is the first norm for art, but its final norm is love and truth, the enriching of human life, the deepening of our vision.

The Creative Process

The in-between

by Colin Black

Embarking on a painting is like beginning a journey, although physical journeys are generally planned in advance by studying timetables, getting connection times right, estimating an ETA. It is all about eradicating any possible inconveniences, making the process as straightforward and smooth as possible. 

Creative journeys on the other hand are very different. They are full of mishaps, accidents, wrong turnings, and generally a struggle as if one was cutting an untrodden path through dense undergrowth. But it certainly makes the journey memorable and ultimately gives immense satisfaction.

Having taught art for many years, many students have said that they are struggling, confessing that their creative ability is below standard. My reply is always ‘good,’ explaining that struggle is part of the creative process and to start worrying if they don’t!

Artists talk about the creative process, that period of time that exists between the start and the finish. I was told that the difference between the professional and amateur painter is that the amateur paints to make pictures, whereas the professional paints to learn how to paint. There is something profound in this. I recently went to an exhibition about pilgrimage at York Minster, England, and was reminded that for the pilgrim it is the journey itself that is central to the experience and the getting to one’s destination is secondary. 

After finishing a work great artists are onto the next thing, they have learnt from the previous undertaking and can now apply that knowledge and understanding further.

Making Pathways was a process of discovery. It started as a very obvious set of pathways that met and divided as they meandered to and from the horizon. As I continued to work on the painting I felt they needed to be less obvious as if they were half-hidden and not imposed on the landscape. Maybe making them less obvious was my visual way of saying that our personal journey isn’t always obvious to us and that the grappling is part of the learning.


Colin Black: Pathways, 2022, mixed media on board.

Colin Black works and teaches in York, England. He and his wife Sallie run Seek Art School in York, He has recently been interviewed by ‘York Creatives’ about teaching, the importance of the creative process and ‘serious play’ as a way of developing ideas.