On the Creative Process. ~ Kathy McCullough

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I’m thinking a lot about art these days, assembling some thoughts on the creative process.

The creative process is the magic of transforming mere potential into the fact of the “actual”—and art is the act of making “if only” into the definity that is “indeed”—the deed of doing it.

However, the creative process often involves more sweat and effort than we bargain for. Joseph Campbell tells us to “follow [our] bliss,” but more often than not that heap of happiness is one illusive devil. He  plays a game of hide-and-seek with artists—offering a smoke-and-mirrors, difficult-to-grasp promise of meaning and beauty that would seem more fiction than fact.

For me the creative promise begins with a glimpse of potential—a sneak peak at what could be “if only”.   But too often the process of actualizing “if only” is more agony than art—more dream than reality.

Inevitably, for me, the process gets going with a glimpse—one that takes my breath away—but only for a fraction of second—gone as soon as I see it—almost before I see it.

Sometimes I see it from behind just as it turns away—illusion—dream—a whisp of I don’t know what—departing—leaving—gone.

Sometimes I see it obliquely—out of the corner of my eye—almost, nearly, never quite.

For me the creative process involves chasing that image, that illusion—that departing, nearly, almost gone. The creative process means making that image real, actualizing it, so it stands still long enough for me to touch it, feel it, know it in a tangible and transformative way.

When it’s potential trash that offers you that glimpse—the process of making that peak less seek and more found, less hide and more mine—is all the more difficult and at times so close to pain it seems counter-intuitive to continue.

But pain or not, today I thought I’d give you a sneak peak at this process as it relates to the trashed table I’m currently trying to transform, one I found along the side of the street on Sunday. It’s far from finished.I’m still chasing the dream.

(And to prove the illusive can, indeed, become real, I’ll also include at the end photos of another piece of junk furniture I transformed in Haiti.)

So, open your eyes to the potential. Sneak a peak with me at just how far I haven’t gotten.


Though this piece is far from finished, this process can end in actual art—the deed of transformation does become “indeed,” indeed. And to help you believe that, I’m adding below a few photos of a piece I completed in Haiti—one that began just-as-much junk and ended so much more than that.

The bar is nearly nine and a half feet long and lives on an upstairs patio at my partner Sara’s office in Port-au-Prince.

It was white, ugly, an eye-sore, really. But Sara wanted to save it. She thought it, like Haiti itself, should be given a second chance at life, that the bar could be used for receptions and to serve meals on special occasions.

The bar incorporates the logo of the NGO Sara worked for in strategic places, as well as decoupaged-maps of Port-au-Prince and each location in Haiti the organization works.

I also included stories from the local newspaper, highlighting big events in the news during the months after the earthquake.

I included text from the organization’s 6-month, post-earthquake report, as well as the names of almost all the people who had worked on the NGO’s reconstruction effort—folks from more than a dozen countries around the world.

The front of the bar repeats the organization’s logo above each flower petal:

As well as the names of staff in black and white circles:

The top of the bar includes the maps and newspaper text:

Completing this piece about Haiti reminded me that, indeed, beauty can come from unexpected places, even out of earthquake’s ruin.

But the bottom line is this:

I love the creative process and I love the “indeed” that it implies. I love the word itself—adore not only the feel of it in my mouth—but also the definity it implies.

More than anything I love what the word implies about the creative process. The act of creating—the tenacity of making—is more often than not a painful one. It’s a process of making “if only” into “indeed”—a definity, an actuality, an event—one, not only worth waiting for, but also worth working toward.

May all your artistic “if onlys” become “indeeds”—indeed!

And do something creative this weekend—take a risk—make a dream come true!


Prepared by Jill Barth/Editor: Kate Bartolotta.


Kathy McCullough is a writer, artist, and former university instructor. She lived in Vietnam during 2009 and Haiti in 2010, where her partner directed earthquake recovery for a major international NGO. She blogs at Reinventing the Event Horizon.

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anonymous Mar 25, 2012 3:16pm

[…] to think—and yoga philosophy—the way in which we teach our minds what to think—, enticed our imagination to a colorful yoga love story where our hearts were fed with tranquil and happy rhythms of life. […]

anonymous Mar 12, 2012 1:53pm

I love the bar, Kathy. It's wonderful! 🙂

    anonymous Mar 13, 2012 7:49am

    Thanks so much, Robin. I'm so pleased you like it. It was a hugely meaningful project–especially knowing that I was giving something back to an organization such as Habitat for Humanity.

anonymous Mar 12, 2012 6:20am

So inspirational…I just love your spirit, Kathy!

    anonymous Mar 12, 2012 8:00am

    Thanks so much for taking a look. I'm so happy to inspire! You have made my day.

anonymous Mar 11, 2012 11:08am

Truly a work of art.

    anonymous Mar 12, 2012 1:32pm

    So glad you think so. Thank you! Happy Monday to you.

anonymous Mar 10, 2012 4:32pm

[…] A Friday Manifesto on the Creative Process. ~ Kathy McCullough … […]

anonymous Mar 10, 2012 8:37am

Wow! They turned out beautifully – love all the color – so invigorating 🙂 MJ

    anonymous Mar 10, 2012 10:06am

    Thanks, MJ. I'm so pleased you enjoyed these projects. The greatest thing about the bar was knowing it would benefit Habitat for Humanity!

anonymous Mar 9, 2012 7:00pm

These are amazing, Kathy. I love the way you see potential in trash and make it something remarkable. And it's fun to see your visual art juxtaposed with your writing and see that you push the limits with visual elements the way you do with words. Very cool.

    anonymous Mar 10, 2012 3:32am

    I'm so happy to like my art. I love the idea of taking objects others would throw away and giving them new life. To me that's what the creative process is all about. Thanks for taking a look!

anonymous Mar 9, 2012 2:14pm

Wonderful and inspiring. Thanks! A creative manifesto, indeed.

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    anonymous Mar 9, 2012 3:24pm

    Thanks so much, Andrea! I'm delighted to hear you ejoyed the post. How fun!

anonymous Mar 9, 2012 12:16pm

Loved seeing these images again, Kathy! You are such a talented woman!

    anonymous Mar 9, 2012 12:31pm

    Thanks so much for taking another look, Dana. Great to hear from you!

anonymous Mar 9, 2012 11:58am

WOW! What true artist you are! You are such a multifaceted woman, so creative in every aspect. I cannot tell you how much I admire your creativity and your willingness to share it. Some of us who hide in our shells should learn from you. Great post, great work, awesome talent!

    anonymous Mar 9, 2012 12:15pm

    Thanks, my friend. You are pretty darn creative yourself. The bar I did for Habitat Haiti was a hugely meaningful project. Now I wish I could do more art donations to NGOs. Have a great weekend, Miranda!

anonymous Mar 9, 2012 11:52am

WOW! Absolutely gorgeous!

    anonymous Mar 9, 2012 12:12pm

    Oh, I'm so glad you liked it. It was a really, really fun project. Hope you have a great weekend!

anonymous Mar 9, 2012 11:34am

Wow. Thanks, Celeste. It's so sweet of you to say that. Creativity is a huge amount of fun.

anonymous Mar 9, 2012 11:06am

Kathy, you are so amazing, and I admire your approach to the creative process in life. Having seen the table in person, as well as all the other lovely elements of creativity in your home, I am witness to the fact that you live the creative process in every element of your being. That is something I aspire to.

    anonymous Mar 9, 2012 11:41am

    Oh, Lisa, you are such a sweetie. I'm so pleased you got to see the finished table in person. It was fun sharing it with you. I admire your creativity, as well!

anonymous Mar 9, 2012 11:04am

As noted above…you make this look easy…but such creativity is hard work…enjoyed you post.

    anonymous Mar 9, 2012 11:39am

    It may be a little tedious and time-consuming, but, really, it isn't difficult. You should try a project yourself.

anonymous Mar 9, 2012 10:45am

In theory, Kathy, you make this look easy. In reality, it's not. You have a way of looking at what I'd see as trash and seeing something with potential. All I see is a haven for bedbugs. Glad your vision reached fruition. Both the table and bar are wonderfully creative.

    anonymous Mar 9, 2012 11:38am

    Gosh, V, I appreciate your saying this. The issue of bugs really never occurs to me. Maybe it should. Yikes! No, seriously, I don't worry about bugs with something that can be scrubbed and sanded.

anonymous Mar 9, 2012 10:42am

I love the details in the bar Kathy – a beautiful combination of structure and the seemingly random. They're amazing, and all the more amazing for giving something a new life. I love it. Eagerly anticipating further masterpieces of grace and precision!

    anonymous Mar 9, 2012 11:36am

    Thanks so much, my friend. The project for Habitat for Humanity was especially fun, since I knew it was a donation of sorts to the organization. I appreciate your taking a look.

anonymous Mar 9, 2012 10:12am

OH, it is so amazing! You are a very talented woman.

anonymous Mar 9, 2012 10:09am

The depth of your creativity is amazing and the bar is more than art..it is life, devotion and caring. I can hardly wait to see your new completed table!!! If I had not given up navy years ago I would be all shades of green!

    anonymous Mar 9, 2012 11:33am

    Actually, the table is finished. I will try to post photos. How fun that you appreciate the creativity. Thanks so much, Chris!

anonymous Mar 9, 2012 10:09am

I posted this to the Elephant Green Facebook page. Thanks for sharing!

Jill Barth, Green Editor
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    anonymous Mar 9, 2012 11:32am

    How great! I appreciate that Jill!

anonymous Mar 9, 2012 10:00am

Beautiful work Kathy!

    anonymous Mar 9, 2012 11:31am

    Thanks so much, Deb! Glad you could stop by and take a look.

anonymous Mar 9, 2012 9:54am

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