Creativity and a state of mind.

Posted by Ivan Grieve on

This, like many elements of the artistic world is a subjective view, perhaps though, it may chime with some readers and possibly cause others to raise an eyebrow. The aim is to touch on the elements of materials and their uses and disciplines and techniques from a mental and emotional point of view rather than a formal view. The art schools and their formally trained artists are vociferous enough to provide ample sources of the latter.


Materials used have a conscious and subconscious effect on an artist’s feelings as an expression is formed. The sounds and movements, the sensations felt, the connection of brain, body and materials. The creativity, the act of creating is what is sought, the end result is often not always the main objective.

As Rosenberg (Action Painting late 1940s to 1960) put it.. “The painter no longer approached the easel with an image in his mind; he went up to it with material in his hand to do something to that other material in front of him. The image would be the result of this encounter.”

But is this dialogue, a dialogue with the canvas or surface at all? Can it simply be a desire to express…to speak or think out loud? Or is it the process of using materials that in itself is rewarding in some way to the user?


I returned to making and creating without any materials to speak of really. I had some pva glue, ink and a head full of things that needed to be put into some sort of order. Collage is an art form that can be so much fun, expressive and versatile.Collage and drawing with newsprint, adding charcoal and ink, exploring a space, feeling freedom.


(left; relief of Moorish arch detail in collage and right; the walls of a gallery covered in newspaper)

The “performing” of the drawing in the gallery as the week progressed, inviting and encouraging contemplative time and performance was a key element of the expression. Music and art combining to form a mesmerising pattern against a backdrop of columnists and their columns (walls and press).

Sometimes it is the particular time and place, the materials that are at hand or the surfaces themselves that attract a form of expression. A combination of both a corporeal urge and disembodiment, or somewhere along a spectrum connecting the two.  The creative journey of exploring and experimentation has for me, had it ups and downs, like many things in life. But it is the constant searching and willingness to find new and interesting artistic pathways, without fear of judgement, that for me remains exciting. Adapting to circumstances of the mind and daily life whilst realising the benefits of creativity.


I really enjoy using and exploring what is to hand almost everywhere I go, creativity does not have to be constrained by what is expected of the artist. However sometimes it is the state of mind of the artist that triggers the direction of creative expression and perhaps some improvisation is needed.

The desire to wrap a monument on the anniversary of Rosa Park’s birthday was public and perhaps about the process of rejection. Stopped by the police at half past three in the morning, meant “getting permission” and the wrap did not take place until Bob Dylan’s birthday and that of my sister. Meetings and  the bureaucracy of acceptance, “jumping through the hoops” of discussions with the town council and mayor, samples of fabric and a stream of emails to and from various public bodies… but why? It was because it was public and anonymous/ clandestine subversive that appealed.. non conformist and an expression of how I felt. The procession of meetings and correspondences was just as much part of the creative journey as in other work I has made.


Often intrigued by how people want themselves to be perceived and how they actually are.. buying things consuming things… or are you, what you eat perhaps?  It was what people discarded I felt described them. Like a serpent discarding its skin. With no materials again.. or any money with which to buy materials, I quietly gathered discarded shopping lists. The irony stared me in the face each day as I saw how people were spending their money. 

I looked through the lists again and again seeing patterns emerge, people types and habits, the same persons lists week after week. I made some work on boards using the materials that the shoppers were buying. Jam, custard powder, pads, deodorants,cleaning equipment etc. I realised that making of the artworks was a journey and the that the works could be exhibited the shopping lists being used as a prop alongside the artworks. It meant that a wider “audience” could be included as the show was not simply to look at but one in which the “viewer” could participate and react in too. The gallery becoming a result of an encounter?


( left ;Working with turmeric and coffee grounds, iodine and muslin and sack cloth. Right; Using creams and prescribed medication with food materials in self portrait.)

 There are times when the techniques and materials reflect the mood or mind set perhaps. Yachts and boats hauled from the water and thrust upon supports to be maintained. They looked uncomfortable and out of place. Some ply board squares and corrugated cardboard, ink and a printer running out of ink (so the colours were totally unpredictable) became a series of mini collages that made up one )large image. It was circumstance and the need to delicately build up layers and then cut into them and ink into them that absorbed me. Small detailed pieces that made up a greater picture that I could visualise but did not have words to express.



The use of both materials used and even the tones or colours expressed are sometimes reflected in what is being created as a means to handle it, to mollify…to deal with “IT” .  The support of Outside In;  and realising a sense of self worth and opportunity has played a very important role in my work and direction. A charity I work as an Ambassador and proud volunteer, Outside In have been inclusive and advisory, supportive as well as company. A number of self portraits I made defined me by the materials and gestures made, the techniques of the “touch” self portraits too. The mood lifted and the horizon beckoned and a fascination with the seasons and Mother Nature beckoned. This led to involvement with a wonderful environmental project, The SaltMarsh project. 


 The gestures or movements are complicit in the form of expression, this little article just touches on some thoughts and as always please feel free to e mail or contact for more information. Or go to the Linkedin page see above (project Obscurity) and follow links to more explanatory notes and images on creative projects mentioned here.




artistic process artist’s mind artist’s project colour creativity expressive feelings hints inclusion interventions magazine making mood natural outside in passion perception responding seasons selfportrait senses social media story working practice

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