the GOODAESTHETIC creative process

Recently, I’ve been getting a lot of questions on how I come up with my creative ideas. While this is never a linear strategy, there are certain ambiguous steps that I find myself doing as I craft my work. Whether it is visual art, music, fashion, or even food, the steps to creating compelling art have many similarities. I recently created a visual concept called The Lightning God for an exhibit at Temple University of Philadelphia at night, which I will be using to further describe this process.

it starts with a trigger

I cannot adequately explain the way my mind works, only that I am always subconsciously thinking of concepts and formulating art. It is an innate visionary quality as a creative, but a trait that can be developed with practice. I am often triggered by external stimuli that reflects how I am feeling internally, and also find deep inspiration in the unyielding beauty of the natural world. Recently, I have been drawn to humanity as a whole, and how our collective experiences are intertwined to form a sum greater than its parts. These subconscious feelings of existentialism and the recognition of a greater power in the universe have been common themes in my recent work, and I find myself drawn to any provocation which explores these ideas in a nuanced way.

Similarly, focus on what triggers your mind - what stands out among an inundation of other stimuli - and use this to drive your creative thinking. Triggers are different for everybody, but they can come from even the most underwhelming circumstances. Musical artists experience this phenomenon when they are suddenly struck with a clear melody, even if the room around them is filled with white noise. It is important to be conscious of what awakens your creative brain, and spend time in a space where you can actively foster this thinking. The initial trigger will often not be a concrete idea - it can be as small as seeing a quote that interests you or noticing a new fashion trend - but these observations lead to the formation of deeper concepts. We are all paying attention to different dimensions of the world, and it is crucial as an artist to hone in on what excites your visionary brain, as this is how you find your voice.

The trigger behind The Lightning God was simple - the beauty of Philadelphia at night. From living in the city, I have observed the quiet way the sunset fades to black, and the millions of tiny lights become stars. It has always fascinated me how much brighter the world seems at night from the middle of Broad Street. Everyone is walking around under a hazy yellow glow, and you can look up and see the blinking skyline in the distance of a city that never shuts off. To elaborate on the point I made earlier of having an “innate visionary quality,” some people would see the city at night and rush home to safety or warmth, failing to appreciate the beauty of the darkness. Yet, my mind finds endless inspiration. This is not to say one way of thinking is better or worse, only that when you are in a creative mindset, everything is a trigger, regardless of how mundane it may seem.

a few more gunshots

It is important to always write down your triggers, even if they initially seem inadequate. There is no such thing as a bad idea, only unused ones. Being conscious of where your inspiration comes from will help you to recognize your unique thought patterns and how they evolve from a trigger to an idea. Try not to rush this process - continue to observe and imagine and daydream. When you have a subject or concept in mind, be sure to take the time to understand it from all angles before you begin structuring the framework for your masterpiece. I find that once I start a project, ideas begin to take shape on their own, because I am fully immersed in a state of creative thinking.

Once you begin to refine your concept, I find it helpful to revisit past triggers in order to explore your idea with a more universal perspective. Keep an open mind throughout this process, and do not be afraid to use techniques like contrast or exaggeration. Sometimes two triggers that seem unrelated can become an unconventional idea, but you cannot arrive at this mental state without allowing yourself the freedom to think outside your creative box. Research your concept if you feel stuck, but do not be afraid to take your work to a place where it has not gone before, as this is the mark of truly compelling art. Another tip during this process is to share your ideas with other creatives, and ask for their outlook. It can be easy to get trapped inside our own linear mindset, and focus on what we see as the artist, rather than what the audience will perceive. Although no artist enjoys hearing negative feedback, I believe this is one of the most helpful tools in creative development.

After thinking about my concept, I continued to observe the city after dark and realized it wasn’t the darkness I was drawn to, but the contrast which makes the lights appear even brighter against a black sky. I wanted to somehow exaggerate this contrast, while keeping the focus on illumination rather than darkness. I began shooting Philly at night to continue to explore this idea, immersing myself in the environment which I was drawn to, and gathering real life inspiration. Here are some photos from the original shoot:

the final EXPLOSION!

The aha moment! An illumination of the imaginary lightbulb hanging over our heads. If I have learned anything about this process, it is that the harder you think about this crucial moment, the farther away it seems to get. Take a step back, and explore your ideas. Sleep on them. Work on another project in the meantime. A moment of creative explosion will often occur when you are least expecting it, but it will hit you hard. Explosions can come from small moments, like a conversation, song lyric, or quiet thought, but more often than not, they strike me when I am in a highly stimulating situation. Even if my concept has nothing to do with myself personally, the heightened intellectual sense I feel when I am emotionally triggered often leads to a burst of ingenuity.

It is important to remember that just because you have had this explosion does not mean you are finished. Sometimes, there is more than one explosion, and your idea will continue to develop once you have reached a mindset that fosters creativity. The execution of a concept is also rarely without complication, and you will know your idea has a solid foundation if it is fluid enough to overcome any minor technical obstacles. Your big idea should be powerful, compelling, and rooted in a concept that you would be drawn to if the role of artist and audience were reversed. I would describe it as the last missing puzzle piece that connects all of your triggers and external ideas into one comprehensive masterpiece.

My big idea came from a conversation with a stranger who saw me editing these photos and was intrigued by the concept. I had imagined the lightning would be a powerful visual, but he happened to mention that it made him think of a scene out of greek mythology. Suddenly, the aha moment! I began to visualize a more imaginary concept where the power of Zeus, the lightning god, flips an arbitrary switch and illuminates the city. With this idea in mind, I had a stronger sense of what I wanted my work to look like, and was able to start creating the final project.

FLASH: a weekly photo series coming soon

For a while now, I have been wanting to formulate an outlet on GOODAESTHETIC dedicated to inspiration in the form of weekly visuals. Incubation of my idea through this creative process has lead me to create FLASH: a weekly photo series that spotlights a topic which has inspired me. December 14th will be the first #flashfriday, focused on Philadelphia after dark and how it lead to the creation of The Lighting God.