How Does One Creative Process Shape Another?



I was poking through archives, thinking about a particular painting I’m working on and looking for a visual reference. Texture, colour, form … Perhaps I over-think these things … In any case, I found a bit of spring, and a bit of autumn. If you put them together it seems you don’t get summer. But anyway, it is these earthy tones that draw me in.

I remember walking among these young trees in the early spring, the water high, and the thin trunks appearing like lanky hoofed legs wading in a river mangrove. Their reflections moving like a deep gentle breath. What sort of creatures would be attached to these spindly legs?

Of course, there is no such thing as a mangrove here, but if there was, it would be in this place where the trees are living on the edge rooted in both water and land.

Like the shifting seasons – one foot here, the other stepping towards the next. Tentatively. So far.
WaterRooted3As I write this there is classical music (mostly strings) playing in the background. Would my text be shaped differently if I had been listening to another sort of music? Would I have chosen different words or remembered these experiences the same way?
How does one creative process (in this case, listening) shape another?

[These images are layered photographs, made with equal parts of spring and fall]

© Karen McRae, 2013

50 thoughts on “How Does One Creative Process Shape Another?

  1. The photographs are so beautiful and seem to suggest silence should be the atmosphere when looking at them (or stringed music), like the grass is “stringed”. I listened to Jackson Browne in the studio yesterday; today it might be cello and we’ll see what that brings out.

    1. I rarely listen to music when I work with photographs but it just worked out to be playing in the next room, it got me thinking about those subtle influences. Or not so subtle in some cases.
      I do enjoy music when I paint, though. I’m looking forward to seeing some of your new work, Judy!

  2. I think outer influences like music affect my mood so the things I am writing get changed. My sense of what is under the words is coloured by it. So I generally write in silence, but if I am dealing with pictures it gets a loud background. Pictures can inspire my words, quite often in fact. I see things and it triggers, word images, memories maybe. The interaction is everything. I like the melange of seasons, a nice idea to create summer.


  3. I know that listening to music effects my writing, when I do both at the same time…I can imagine that your listening to your soothing music would cause you to view your images and select among them differently if you were listening to something less soothing….I don’t think we’d be looking at the above photo combinations if everything were different. Nice thoughts to ponder, Karen…with a complement of beautiful images….I especially like the last one…..

  4. Important and really interesting questions Karen. And, I say “yes”. I think every influence counts-some are obvious, others are tucked up out of conscious knowing. Same goes for the viewer. Absolutely beautiful images- no matter how they came to be.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Elena. Yes, there are so many influences, as you say, some we aren’t even aware of … and the viewer having them also is an important point. : )

  5. Karen. You’re such a poet!
    And, speaking of poetry, I think it’s something that I often draw from for inspiration – or at least, if not directly, it will shape or colour whatever is in my head.
    Great post, these are great questions to ponder. Thank you!

  6. Hi Karen thanks a thought provoking post. I have often wondered what the effect would be to listen to different moods of music when printing. Invariably for the past ten years when not in the darkroom I have printed inkjet in silence.

    One of my hero’s photographic Eugene Smith aided his printing with a fifth? of whiskey and the late Beethoven Piano and and string quartets, which are all rather dark and moody.
    Thanks for the prompt. I must give it a go in the near future. Andy

    1. I rarely listen to music when I’m editing photographs, I guess that’s why it struck me that hearing music was perhaps influencing me artistically.
      Yes, we all have our influences, for sure! Whether we are conscious of them or not. Thanks for your comment, Andy.

  7. Amazing images, Karen!
    As a musician I’m inclined to say yes. However, I believe that when we are creating we enter another sphere and it is intirely at our discretion to let influences in or not.

    1. Thank you, Marina. I think that possibly some of us are more open to influences than others! Some things can be difficult to tune out, but yes we have some choice in the matter.
      Thanks for your thoughts! : )

  8. Absolutely the mood I am in determines how my photographs turn out especially when I am editing them..they might turn out light and colourful if I am happy or dark and brooding if I am not .. As for the creatures.. well definitely ancient Giraffe Ghosts..

  9. Beautiful images, excellent questions. I don’t listen to music when I work but I often take a break to go on my spin bike and when I do, I listen to music, bring a pen, and prop my pad of paper on the handle bars to take notes, because the music always pulls ideas out of me.

  10. You pose very thought provoking questions about the creative process. And I agree spring plus fall just can’t make summer! Astonishing how much that doesn’t work. I love your hooved trees.

  11. I let music drift into my studio. The door is gently left ajar. It adds, but the tone influences. Trick is to know the tools we have, which you do. Wonderful work Karen.

  12. I know I would be drawn in (and am)!
    I’m always surprised how much mood (and the atmosphere that shapes it) affect things! Sometimes I will re-visit a project (feeling a bit differently than I had initially) and find myself going in a completely opposite direction with things.

  13. Hi Karen!
    First of all I love the lanky hoofed legs walking towards me. I could say more about your beautiful work but what comes to mind about influences in our creative process. Friday i was in my studio working on a painting that I started in the woods, listening to quiet and an occasional bird song. It got harder to paint – outside in the background of my mind a conversation was happening, I peeked out through a clear space on my sprayed fogged up window. A few street guys were talking, one big guy was bouncing a girl on his shoulders. The crowd got bigger, the words got rougher. I looked at my painting and I wasn’t there anymore. I was in the present. in the city with a bunch of rowdy guys outside my door. Driving by my studio a few minutes later, I saw one policeman hanging out as the crowd dispersed.

  14. What a fascinating idea – and what light falling on these alien landscapes. The images would work really well with classical music. Do you listen to music when you take photographs, Karen?

  15. Unlike a visual signal which we tend to “recognize” in a category, hence in a word,
    music appeals straight to our subconscious where our inspiration, creativity works.
    But in your case, Karen, you often handle your photos, by your subconscious
    alone, hence your photos contain “something what we can not able to convert to a word” = So, in a murky darkness of your subconsciousness, the music and the image of your photo mingle and interact. —– It must be interesting to test by going to the same place twice to take photos, after immersed to one music, and next time with another music. (but please not to use Beethoven’s 6th or Vivaldi’s Four season
    kind 😀 )

  16. The creative process lifts us, Karen, like air under the birds wings, with a breeze or a wind sometimes to send us forward where we would not have dared to go. I love your examples… love your beautiful images. It is a pleasure to follow you.

  17. These are such beautiful images Karen. I’m quite sure we are affected by everything around us when we create. Being out in the pre-dawn, as the new day starts, quiet with often no people in site at all absolutely influences my creative process and it’s why I seek out those times, I like what it does to me and I’m pretty sure that is reflected in the work I produce at those times.. 🙂

  18. I love this! Yes, your creative process would be different and that is what is fantastic about process! I need to paint again! You are always so inspiring with your words and works of art! Keep up the amazing work 🙂 great post!

  19. This layered images are gorgeous, they emit a feeling of quietness, stillness and peace. Spring and fall in one – how thrilling isn’t that! Can music influence your creativity in one way or another? I think so, and I think different music will bring about a different result. Creativity is also about being sensitive, isn’t it?

  20. You’re right, they really are hooves, so delicately placed..I can sense the strings for sure, there is a beautiful clarity and would be interesting to see if I would have guessed the instrument had you not told us, I wonder..I personally can’t work with music on as I get too distracted, but when I have done I certainly find it changing to mood of whatever I am making..

  21. ciao! spectacular images that transport…you are an artist and as such, your senses are so in tune with every detail; surely all that surrounds you must have an effect on you, including your attitude at a given moment…which reminds that silence speaks as well:)

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