Saturday, January 28, 2023

What is “Process”?


1/26/23 Trash day, Maple Leaf neighborhood

Please indulge me while I rant:

Anyone who has read my blog for longer than a minute knows that I am a process-oriented artist. I enjoy thinking about and writing about what is going on in my mind as well as on the paper as I draw. More importantly, I learn from that kind of thinking and writing, so my process is both purposeful and motivating. Documenting that process is the primary purpose of this blog.

If you follow a lot of artists on Instagram or other social media, you know that producing “process” videos is a thing. A big thing. Apparently artists are under enormous pressure to post such videos because the almighty algorithm favors them, garnering more followers and likes. 

Call me old-fashioned, but I have an attention span longer than three seconds. Reducing an hour of work to a few seconds of jittery, frenetic, time-lapse travesties, these videos often do not even reward the viewer with a still image of the finished work at the end – it just instantly repeats! That is no way to view art. It is also taking a presumably relaxing, enjoyable, even meditative process and making it look like an epileptic seizure. 

These videos have nothing to do with “process,” since the viewer is not privy to the thinking behind whatever convulsive behavior we are seeing the artists hand and pen or brush doing. We might be able to guess a choice that was made, based on what we saw in a flash now long gone, but we can’t go back to consider it, because on Instagram, you can’t rewind – you can only start over and hope that you pause at the right moment (not that I have ever bothered). When I know a video like that is beginning, I scroll right past. And if an artist posts nothing but videos like that, I stop following.

By contrast, Instead of a “process” video, Matt Gibbons recently posted a still image of a lovely painting. I would have enjoyed simply viewing it at my leisure, but he also gave me three sentences describing his intention, how he tried to execute it, possibly less successfully than he had wanted, and a concluding thought. I’m guessing that writing those three sentences took less time and effort than setting up lights and a phone over a desk to produce a time-lapse video. Understanding his process enhanced my appreciation for his painting tenfold (even if I didn’t agree with his assessment that it wasn’t quite successful), and I also learned from it.

He does occasionally post time-lapse videos, but they are tolerable because they are few and far between his other posts of fresh, delightful sketches (many of which are done on disposable coffee cups!).

I guess it’s not a thing, but I wish more artists would take a moment to write a sentence or two about what they were thinking when they made the work. I will always stop to read and view more closely. And what a bonus if I learn from it!

End of rant. 

Ironically, I have no process thoughts to share about today’s sketch, which was made on trash day. As I sketched, a collection truck came by to pick up these cans, and I saw the pressure the collectors are under to work quickly, a line of cars stacked up behind their truck. My only thoughts were of appreciation for this service that we usually take for granted (until the service isn’t there).


  1. I sometimes enjoy watching the videos, but like you can't stop them and really look at and examine the work. I like to study what the artist did and hopefully gain some insight on how to do something. You don't catch much as they flash past in a video. Reading an artist's thought process is a plus!

    1. If it's a video, I prefer the edited ones that aren't time-lapse, so at least I can really see what the artist was doing.


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