Tag Archives: process

5 Stages of Life and Art: Tornado, Aftermath, Cleanup, Rebuild, Rinse and Repeat

The Gathering

"The Gathering" ©2010 Janice Tanton. Oil on panel. 10"x14"

It’s been a very crazy week. Just reflecting on that, I was sitting down to write a post about what happens within the cycles of creativity and business in the studio. Four hundred pages of backup material to the CRA, two project statements written, six new paintings delivered to a new gallery, and a snowstorm later, I have reason to reflect this morning.

Building a new body of work for the past year has been an amazing project and exercise for me as an artist and I’ve been able to see the cycle of activities fairly clearly. They kinda go like this:


This is the stage where a wild and crazy idea comes to me, or where I am in the flurry of creating and working on a painting or group of paintings that I have no idea where the time went or how  it got so crazy busy all of a sudden. It might be because of a number of things happening in the administration of the studio, requirements and demands from business or the rush to meet a deadline. The tornado is always fast, furious and happens without you anticipating it. Sometimes you just need to run for cover while that which you can’t control…happens all around you. The Tornado is the time that the Creator makes to remind you that no matter how much planning you’ve done, YOU…are not in control.


This is that little period of shock after the Tornado. It’s when you look about your studio and office and wondered for a few brief moments what the hell happened. You scratch your head and wonder how you even managed to get done what you did get done, and vow that you will have some control over it the next time around. The studio looks a mess. Nothing is in it’s organized state that you’ve worked so hard to control. The Aftermath is the time the Creator gives you to think about what is precious to you and what is not – what you could afford to lose.


The cleanup can take days or weeks, months or years depending upon the level of devastation from the Tornado stage. I tend to tackle the small things that look like I have some control over first…and leave those big jobs for more thinking time. Those are the ones where you can think about things for some time, and see what kind of approach you can muster the next time a Tornado blows in…and it will blow in. The Cleanup Stage is when the Creator gives you the opportunity to take a little more charge over your own destiny and process.


Time to put things back into place…but this time to build them better, stronger and more resilient. The next Tornado will be stronger, and you need to be strategic about the systems you put in place to handle the workload, the studio, perhaps a new solo show or a new gallery. Really assess what you need and what you don’t need and don’t forget about the Tornado you just went through…or the ones before that, or before that. There are lessons in all of them and ones that you don’t know or understand until quite some time after the mess. The Rebuild is how the Creator shows us that all things are possible. Use this time to create!

Rinse and Repeat

This week had a number of little tornados nested in a bigger tornado – all of them lessons to me as to how I can better manage my business, think ahead and create meaningful and relevant work for the next stage of my career. It seems that I’m not alone in this. Check out artist Lisa Call’s  – “Rebooting After The Big Push”.

There are so many metaphors about what we all go through in life and in art. You can prepare yourself, but not fully – for the surprises that come. Finding your sweetspot, knowing how to be prepared for the next Tornado, and learning the lessons out of each stage of the process is important to developing yourself as an artist and a Full Time Human Being.

This is what we do.

The Artist’s Daughter – Work In Progress, Day 1

Earlier this month, I finished a sketch of my daughter Grace. My intent is to work through this painting in a method akin to the school of academic realists currently working in New York and around the world.  I’m a big fan of Jacob Collins and his contemporaries at The Grand Central Academy and I’d love to spend some time there with guys like Scott Waddell and Graydon Parrish.

In the meantime, while I contemplate the pipe dream of a summer studying in New York with these guys, I’m going to take a crack at working through this method and approach to classical painting.

With that in mind, here’s the start of the painting of “The Artist’s Daughter” that I worked on this afternoon. After finishing the sketch, I made a transfer outline onto a 14″x18″ belgian linen board that I hand finished myself. (More on how to do that in another post, methinks!) The board has been primed and sanded, and then received a coat of raw umber a couple of weeks ago just to tone the surface. I used raw umber to start this, and I’ll post more as I go along.

Here’s the initial sketch:

The Artist's Daughter: ©2012 Janice Tanton. Graphite on paper. 18x14.

The Artist's Daughter: ©2012 Janice Tanton. Graphite on paper. 18x14.

And here’s a quick one minute video I cobbled together this afternoon from some shots of the painting as I worked. I wanted to change the image slightly and tilt her head into the painting more. Nice to try something new! These are just the first stages of the painting. I thought it would be nice to share my process on this with you.

Please follow this blog for updates on the progression of works. Share your process with me. I’m interested in how you approach a painting or a work of art in any form.

Related Posts:

The Initial Sketch

The Artist’s Daughter – Work In Progress, Day 2

The Artist’s Daughter – Day 3 – Learning When to Stop Painting

What is the purpose of art?

Big question. Reminds me of that other big question:

“What is the meaning of life?”

"Lie To Me" © 2009 Janice Tanton.

"Lie To Me" © 2009 Janice Tanton.

Speaking from my own experience, the purpose of art in my life is in the making of the art. It’s all in the process. The gooey-delicious-get-your-hands-&-your-head-dirty-step-by-step procedures that all come together to create the vision.

Yesterday, while meeting with a partner over some rather interesting logistical linear processes in project management, he pointed to a flipcharted list of steps I’d just scribbled out and asked me,

“Do you enjoy this stuff? I mean, as an artist – do you enjoy this kind of stuff too?”

I didn’t even hesitate when I answered.

“Of course! I LOVE it! It means we are mapping out the steps to get to that creative, wonderful vision we have. How could I not love it? It’s all part of the act of travelling there. It IS art.”

I know that the process of creating a great painting, sculpture or film is the same as creating a great business plan or entreprenurial model.

  • You have the vision of the final product.
  • You plan how to get there.
  • You gather the materials that you need.
  • You employ the skills that are available to you.
  • You do the work.
  • You learn along the way through your mistakes and your triumphs. You keep your eyes open for opportunity.
  • You work through what needs to be done in proper timelines.
  • You realize your vision and celebrate the success.

Truly? It’s the same process for life.


Purpose of Art =  {(Process+Life) x (RiskReward)} x Vision
Purpose of Life = {(Process+Vision) x (Risk-Reward)} x Art

…..now who said artists can’t do complex math.