Getting comfortable with additive & subtractive processes in creativity
Let’s clarify what are “additive” processes in art? Examples include: adding marks when drawing with pencil on paper, building with cardboard, painting colour, tone and texture on canvas. In contrast, “subtractive” processes in art include: rubbing out shade to create highlights in a drawing, carving into marble, painting negative space around an object, removing clay from a sculpture.
The reason I find these concepts so intriguing is because they are both equally part of creative processes yet strangley seem to be in opposition. When we think of being 'creative' we usually associate this with building, formulating, and producing, yet we often overlook the fact that selectivity, excluding, abandoning and eliminating are integral parts of this process too.
It feels very final, a little scary even, that we're going to need to leave behind and eradicate some things! In a painting or a sculpture this is often a part we've lovingly slaved over and carefully nurtured, but yet still needs to go. And as we wipe things out or cut them off we're usually left with a void, a hole, a gap. It's specifically that empty space that can feel so frighteningly daunting. It's the space BEFORE creation, the dark night BEFORE the dawn, the emptiness BEFORE the signs of life. We often get very good at avoiding this void and either cling on to the old, or race to fill it with things as quickly as possible.
It's time to get comfortable with emptiness! Then in turn we will be able to step away from and say 'no' to elements in our artwork that are not serving us. We're prepared to 'go dark and deep' in order to make right, to progress and to break through. We're prepare to stay in temporary uncertainty, knowing it's the forerunner to greater things. Belief helps too. It's far easier to abandon something and step into a void when you're absolutely certain that things will come to you in the right time and the right place. We can rest assured that the life cycle includes death and following stages include birth, growth, expansion, and fulfillment. We can feel content in the knowledge that all parts of life cycles are good.
I think this is why I like the term 'push/pull' instead of 'addition/subtraction'. It feels gentler, kinder and as though we are deliberately moulding a future outcome. It's an ongoing thing that takes patience, and actually becomes the part of the creation process we love the most!
Once again I'm noting strong parallels between art and life here. In the light of being creators of our own lives, is there anything that is not serving us in our current existence that can be gently yet resolutely set aside with the hope and belief that better will come in its place?