Notes on Creativity

Christian Lloyd, OCA tutor for visual communication, illustration and creative arts, mentioned in the discuss forum his work on writing the new HE4 level course unit ‘Visual Dynamics’. He asked for some student (or tutor) contributions from a range of different disciplines and levels, providing a few general questions about our creative process (to be rephrased and /or annotated with images). Our responses to return to him through the thread, or by email to .

I felt that this would be good opportunity in parallel to my current theory course UVC to reflect on my journey in HE4 (drawing and painting) before embarking soon onto HE5 on my way towards a BA (hons) in Fine Arts. I will write my responses in this blog post alongside some images to illustrate my recent way of working

How would you describe your creative process?

It is like a walk in a field with no beaten pathway. I am a lateral thinker and absorb very much from all different areas. Building a repository of ideas that need to get linked in my projects.  Because of my lateral approach that is also highly visual (I often have inner images rapidly appearing) I need to see my wide field not in a sequential order but as a map. Therefore, I am very much into visual mind maps (see attached images): for research or for mapping my project development or just for brainstorming verbal ideas, what at times I do also on the go on my iPad.

Ideas can come from all sorts of directions: seeing works in museums, galleries, books, journals. At times some talk with friends are sufficient to keep my spirit high and to get excited to develop visual ideas and artworks, e.g when a friend of mine told me about an arson attack on an old shipyard it triggered sensations, emotions and ideas of medium as burned paper in my mind. With that input I do start and experiment a lot, in my sketchbooks or in smaller scale.

With coursework I am trying to find my own approach to a task or theme. Reading and looking around and more experiments with materials eventually lead me to more elaborated works.

What’s the relationship between intentions and making in your creative process?
In the past I worked from a clear idea that I wanted to put down on my support through drawing or painting. But after a while, studying with OCA I went away from this and typically start either with some brief external input (see above) or most likely I experiment with various media, materials and supports. Often my final result is quite different to the initial thought. Therefore, I am less inclined to put too much efforts in the first step. In theory projects like UVC it is different, collecting information through reading and at the very end sketch in writing my conclusion to build my argumentation.
How are restrictions impacting my creativity?
Restrictions are an important aspect in looking deeper and less wide or superficial. Examples are painting with limited palette or even monochrome versus a wide range of colors. Through these restrictions I am more challenged in a positive way to look behind the obvious, the known, the safe.

Restrictions in time e.g. deadlines help me to keep momentum and stay more focused. At times I am too wide and too curious to see beyond and behind all sort of things. I am procrastinating to allow myself that ‘luxury’. In professional jobs I am very much spot on time or before. But in creative arts I need both, wide openness and restrictions. Deadlines (external or self made) are pushing my limits and typically I am moving then more out of a comfort zone. I can work than day and night if needed.

OCA encourages creative experimentation
I do fill sketchbooks , a lot, per course unit (drawing 1 and painting 1) twelf in various sizes. I sketch my ideas on the go, at times taken photographs as notetaking on site, or sketch in my studio. Or the other side, large scale . I love thick paper on rolls (e.g. Fabriano 1.4x10m). And I use whatever I find around me: cardboard, plastic sheets, rolls, soil, mud, leaves… Also to make my own stuff e.g liquid shellac (spirit plus shellac flakes) or mud paint. I love to prepare my supports, still have ready to paint canvas in storage, not used since a long time.

Other approaches include audio-video recording myself while making works (see links below). This gives me not only a different way of self-reflection but also acts as documentation of my process works compared to works that are valid as a final picture alone.

What do you need to be creative?
Space and space to breath and to be fully immersed (see image of studio work in progress). I need to feel it with my body. Often I work on the floor, or at the wall, less at an easel or table. I like the unframed openness of the edges. And I need a  variety of input to built on, that can be news, images, sounds or thoughts by others.  Nothing fancy, most of the times the small details of human interaction and empathy keeps me moving. As mentioned above materials or views are sufficient to keep moving.

Time assignment is important. I can plan regularly time slots for studio time and get started with no issues. I think the artist who waits for inspiration is a myth. Typically, it is hard and productive work, making many sketches, studies and works that give great results.

Images: (c) SJSchaffeld, 2016-2017

Fig. 1: Visual Research Map:

SJSchaffeld - Visual Research - Drawing 1

Fig. 1: SJSchaffeld – Visual Research – Drawing 1

Fig.2: Visual Map of project development:

SJSchaffeld - Visual Map Personal Project Development - Drawing 1

Fig. 2: SJSchaffeld – Visual Map Personal Project Development – Drawing 1

Fig. 3: Visual Practice-led Research Map:

SJSchaffeld - Visual Map - practice-led research for personal project - Painting 1

Fig. 3: SJSchaffeld – Visual Map – practice-led research for personal project – Painting 1


Fig. 4: Studio space – work in progress (the ‘mess’)

SJSchaffeld - Work in studio - Drawing 1

Fig. 4: SJSchaffeld – Work in studio – Drawing 1


documentation as reflection:

  2 comments for “Notes on Creativity

  1. October 18, 2017 at 6:12 pm

    great post – Loved the studio pictures. So full of you energy, dedication!

    • Stefan
      October 18, 2017 at 6:28 pm

      Thanks Inger – yes, when I have these around me it seems all moves in a flow

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