The Creative Process: a Program Presented by Kristen Doty

Friday, April 20, the Colleagues were privileged to take in an inspiring presentation by artist Kristen Doty who was visiting Minneapolis from the Seattle area.

Kristen was in town for her workshop, Drawing for Calligraphers, which was being held at the Edina Art Center.  

After a heartfelt introduction by Jill Gebhardt, our Workshop Director, Kristen began her three-part presentation that was peppered with inspiring quotes.  

Over quiet background instrumental music, Kristen invited us to simply take in the images she shared of a collection of Thomas Edison’s lightbulbs which were labeled in his meticulous handwriting.  As we watched all the varied filaments he had experimented with as well as the changing shapes of the bulbs, the message was already coming across.  Creativity is not a straight path. Ideas emerge from working.

Secondly, Kristen posed a series of questions to us and asked us to answer silently to ourselves.  Kristen’s questions specifically touched on inspiration, planning, working procedures, deviations from plans, adjustments during the creative process as well as outcomes.  Lastly she also included questions about music and its effects on artists.

The last part of Kristen’s presentation was sharing the answers of her questions from her interviews with other artists as well as her own.  We were treated to the responses of several talented calligraphers such as Karen Charatan, Yves Leterme, Jocelyn Curry and Brody Neuenschwander.  Kristen read the varied and insightful answers while sharing slides of their beautiful artwork. The responses varied greatly but there were also commonalities such as influences from nature, decisions about scale and orientation (mostly happening at the beginning of the creative process) as well as an emphasis on the time spent simply thinking.

Kristen shared that for herself, inspirations tend to come from everywhere; objects in her studio, people, landscapes, flowers, light, and traveling, as well as visiting museums and galleries.  Her process normally begins with thumbnail sketches before progressing to decisions about materials and colors although she does not always do things the exact same way.  One trick she shared with us is how she utilizes tracing paper as she works on her compositions.  Each of her elements is sketched onto a separate piece of tracing paper in order to move and rearrange them to her liking.  She generously pointed out that another benefit of tracing paper is that it’s translucent enough that it can be flipped over horizontally in order to see if the mirror image would be a better fit for the layout. 

Kristen took us through step by step of a piece she began that was inspired by orchids and showed us how it evolved.  Although it was calligraphy, she explained that a calligraphy pen was never even utilized.  She carefully explained how what she was sharing was actually drawn calligraphy. The audience was held captive when she admitted that her “work never turns out how you expect.”

Responses about music varied greatly among the artists.  One woman found energy and power through pop and rock music, another artist said that he never listens to music because it’s too much of an emotional experience for him.  Kristen said that because music affects her mood, she feels that it must in turn affect how the work looks in the end.  She shared that if she’s creating text that she does not listen to music with lyrics in it.  

She concluded her lecture by reminding us how helpful it is to learn from one another and that there is always more than one right answer to our questions and challenges.

As a lucky bonus, the Colleagues were also able to watch a short time-lapse video of a watercolor landscape that Kristen had completed of the Grand Canyon.  We were mesmerized watching more than two years of work transform in mere minutes. We can only hope that Kristen visits again soon, but until then we can enjoy her work and be informed of her upcoming events by visiting her website,