Illustration as a process of Creativity

To talk about how I go about designing a picturebook in terms of a creative process, I began to categorise steps I take to reach a final output. I found this procedure fitted with a structure of creativity identified by Graham Wallas a political scientist and psychologist working in the early twentieth century. These stages are: preparation, incubation, illumination and verification and form the structure of this talk. By considering these stages in the context of my practice, I have found a way of explaining how the creative process can appear unstructured but on further analysis, be revealed to have an underlying strategy. These stages are, however, a simplification of my practice and all approaches to the creative process are individual, diverse and can fluctuate.

Creativity may have been thought of as a mad or unstructured process because in creation, something new is implied and all new things appear odd. I think that the term ‘madness’ has previously been associated with the creative process because the extreme dedication that creativity demands and the novelty of the creative output is unusual. As we don’t fully understand the process of being creative, even to the person in the creative act, it remains a peculiar and beguiling experience.

A creative impulse is a starting point and motivation for making. As Picasso said: “An idea is a point of departure and no more”. Like a ship with it’s cargo of information, it sets sail around the world to see where it can process it’s ware, where it can find use and value and become a functional part in the web of trade and exchange of knowledge and skill. In reflecting on my methodology of production, it has become clear to me that the creative process is methodical but in the throes of it, seems chaotic and unstructured because so much cognitive work is happening. It is only when the illumination or outcome is achieved that other people can interact with it, the piece of the puzzle fits and a successful meaning is communicated.

In selecting elements from my environment to reconstruct images, it is in a sense alchemical. The process of creativity may seem unstructured, but perhaps that is because it is less evident than straight facts. It is something like invisible joins between dots, or dark matter between galaxies of knowledge.

And if creativity can still be thought of as an unstructured pursuit, to bring the talk to its starting point, Lewis Carroll has Alice ask:
“have i gone mad?
To which Alice’s Father replies: “I’m afraid so, but let me tell you something, the best people usually are.”

Illustration of the character of the Cheshire Cat by John Tenniel illustrated for Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

This is an edited excerpt from a paper for ‘Creativity: Method or Madness? The 4th International Postgraduate Conference’ held on the 26th and 27th May 2015 at the University of Glasgow.


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