Developmental Stages of Art

Five years ago I started drawing and painting on my iPod Touch. At that time I wrote an essay about the stages I went through using this new medium. I recently revisited that essay and discovered that it still rings true. Here it is.

Note: All the illustrations were done on my iPod Touch over the span of one year (from March 2009 to May 2010). Click each one to see a larger version in my Flickr photostream.

Developmental Stages of Art

By Jim Blodget
June 10, 2009

I’m learning a lot about drawing and painting. I’m discovering that there are developmental steps that one goes through when learning a new medium. It takes time and lots of experimentation. I haven’t figured out all the stages yet, but some of them are:

1) Fun. You start by playing – making marks on the page just to see what happens. Everything you create at this stage is exciting.


2) Technique. Your interest is focused on “How do I get this stuff to work”? There’s a lot of frustration at this stage. I think most people quit at this stage or settle in to using a few “tricks” that work for them. It helps to study the work of others and try to duplicate their techniques. Eventually you discover ways to get the medium to do what you want, but it’s a struggle.

Cape Meares Light

3) Possibilities. Everywhere you look you see paintings. Now that you know the basics of how the medium works you can see how to represent the world in this medium. This gives you a deeper understanding and appreciation of the world. You have so many ideas you can’t do them all. This stage is very exciting.

Texture Study 2 - Clouds

4) Construction. You realize that art requires planning. You focus on composition and learning ways to lay the image out and build it up.

Infinite iPod

5) Exploration. You test the limits of the medium to see how far it can go. Along the way you discover new techniques that allow you to do things that you couldn’t easily do before.

Ankeny Boardwalk

6) Subject. You realize that painting takes time and effort and decide that you want to spend your time learning about and working on subjects that matter to you. You think about the people, places, and things that matter in your life or that interest you to the point that you want to explore them further through the analysis and discovery that is painting.

At the Water Park

7) Mood. You move beyond wanting to capture the physicality of your subject to wanting to convey how you feel about the subject.


8) Imagination. You become interested in using art to convey ideas or to construct things that never existed before.

The Orchard

9) Approval. You go through a stage of wanting to gain approval or recognition from people you respect. You are tempted to alter your work (choose subjects or use techniques that you know others will like).

California Gold

10) Voice. You go your own way. You depart from the norm and discover new territory. You tell your own stories in ways that only make sense to you.

Two Forever

As with other forms of development, it’s complicated, messy stuff. Not so much stages or steps, but pools of experience. Creativity requires both analysis and passion.

I realized recently that the first and last pools (Fun and Voice) produce similar kinds of work. It took a long time to cycle back around to the place where I started, doing what I want, just for fun.


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