HomeArt ArticlesSkills and TechniquesPainting Your Dreams: Oil Your Creative Gears

Painting Your Dreams: Oil Your Creative Gears

The ancient art of visual creation dawned millennia ago. The human urge to place lines and vibrant, expressive colors on flat, uninteresting surfaces to create images of deep self-expression arose at least 40,000 years ago. Then, many ancient artists imitated what they saw; pictures of buffalo, birds and other game were common. Ancient artists also pulled images filled with personal expression from the recesses of their minds and developed powerful depictions of ancient life. Those images began and evolved into what we know as the creative process.

The most renowned painters—Vincent van Gogh, Wassily Kandinsky, Claude Monet and Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, to name a few—employed creative processes to breathe life into their blank canvases. The creative process is unique to each individual and cracking the creative code takes patience, time and diligence. Each creative process unfolds and billows over each person in a different way. Despite this, multiple methods exist and help new artists research themselves, understand their environments and develop a productive creative flow.

Paintings are living, breathing creations of which the artist may lose control. Attempting to restrain a painting through control can create a stiff, structured image, which may or may not fulfill the artist’s hunger for creativity. Consequently, preparing to paint not only encompasses preparation of materials; it involves allowing yourself to wander through your own mind. Learning to identify ideas, develop them and balance the creative process takes time, experience and a basic understanding of the creative process.


Preparing the canvas is optional, but preparing the mind is essential. The mind of an artist usually functions at its best in an environment conducive to creativity. The preparation portion of the creative process assists artists with researching subject matter, developing it and translating it into a distant or concrete idea. Preparation sources material. Dreams, environmental settings, photographs or memories lend themselves to the preparation process. Novice painters can prepare their ideas by observing the interactions of people, analyzing the movements of animals or mentally recording the graceful tilt of a flower’s petals. Dreams offer a foundation for researching oneself and each of the images that create an individual artist’s consciousness.

"I dream my painting and I paint my dream." - Vincent Van Gogh


Once an artist develops an idea from preparation, the brainstorming process further develops it. Individual brainstorming—a creative process that is synonymous with creativity—helps an artist cultivate visual ideas. The novice artist might take words or sentences that describe the original visual idea and use free association, the creation of a list of words or additional images linked to each word, to develop visual metaphors. The purpose of brainstorming is to break free from “logical” or “confined” thinking about a subject and discover new and interesting visual representations, reflections or observations of a thought or idea.

"It's on the strength of observation and reflection that one finds a way. So we must dig and delve unceasingly." - Claude Monet


The creation process varies as significantly as each painter, but the goal remains the same: pull an image from the mind and give it life on a canvas or other medium. Similar to raising a child, painters experience moments of frustration, joy and elation; images develop their own lives and yearn for the freedom to express themselves. Consequently, the best approach to take, no matter the artist’s medium, is freedom from criticism, doubt, fear or embarrassment. Creating a sketched foundation might bring the novice painter relief; sketches offer a loose framework. Completing a “color blocking” step—filling in specific areas with foundation colors—builds upon the sketch and offers depth and definition. The blending stage follows and delivers the overall color structure that will appear dominant in the finished piece.

"The true work of art is born from the 'artist': a mysterious, enigmatic, and mystical creation. It detaches itself from him, it acquires an autonomous life, becomes a personality, an independent subject, animated with a spiritual breath, the living subject of a real existence of being." - Wassily Kandinsky

The Painting Guide Getting Started - This page provides a detailed overview of the creation process, including pictures and a video on painting techniques.

The Cognitive Processes of Artistic Creation - This interesting and informative study describes the processes used by a Chinese ink artist and observed under controlled conditions.

Brainstorming: The Creative Process - This brief article and video describes brainstorming and offers information about how anyone can open their minds to effective brainstorming.

Setting Up Your Studio - An informative guide from paint suppy specialist, Winsor Newton, on setting up any studio for maximum safety and effectiveness.

The Painting Process - This page offers guidance on the drawing of an image to the selection of fitting color palettes to complete a painting project.

About the Author:
Clare Tames is a self-employed freelance graphic designer, formidable cook, and avid reader. She written on contemporary and classical art in various print publications, and is just now beginning a writing career online. She works out of her home office in California, where her two children attend high school. Expect more from her at ArtsHeaven.com and around the web, and, if you like, drop her a line at her Google+ page!

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